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Gridlock Alert: United Nations General Assembly Brings Traffic Mess To Manhattan's East Side

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – World leaders from nearly 200 countries are gathering in New York City for the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which got underway today.

While the diplomats talk policy, drivers are stuck dealing with gridlock.

It's the most dreaded time of the year for many drivers in Manhattan.

"It's busy as hell just trying to get to a meeting on Fifth Avenue. Been struck on First Avenue for about 30 minutes, it's crazy," one driver told CBS2's Andrea Grymes.

"38th Street on Third Avenue to 48th Street on 3rd Avenue took you how long?" Grymes asked driver Cenk Kardesoglu.

"About an hour. That's how bad it is," he said.

Traffic is crawling and sometimes it's even at a standstill, all thanks to the U.N. General Assembly.

World leaders and diplomats from nearly 200 countries descend Manhattan's East Side, with motrocades slowing traffic, along with a lot of street closures.

The United Nations General Assembly is back in session, which means drivers are dealing with gridlock in Manhattan. Have you had a hard time getting around today? Read more:

Posted by CBS New York on Monday, September 23, 2019

One driver told Grymes it took more than two hours to get from the West Side to the East Side.

"The traffic is really bad today. I'm just trying to get to work and I've been backed up all the way up from the FDR," one driver told CBS2.

"It's a little bit crazy. Most of the streets are closed between like 42nd to 57th... For like two miles, I spent like 45 minutes," said driver Rechardson Garcia.

"It gets really crowded, and they check your ID to get into this area," resident Susan Park said.

"Makes it very chaotic, but as long as you have patience, it's one week out of the year," said resident Evelyn Kaminsky.

All weekdays through September 30 are considered "gridlock alert days."

"During last year's U.N. General Assembly, average weekday speeds in the Midtown core slowed to four miles an hour," said New York City Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Edward Pincar.

WATCH: NYPD Discusses U.N. General Assembly Security Measures

First Avenue is closed from 42nd Street to 48th Street, along with 44th, 45th and 46th streets from First to Second avenues. Additionally, 42nd Street is closed from the FDR Drive to Second Avenue, along with the 42nd Street entrance and exit ramps on the FDR.

The MTA warns buses will likely be delayed. But in a new addition this year, bike lane access will stay open on First and Second avenues. Cyclists are subject to security checkpoints.

"I think that's wonderful. We like biking on streets without cars, and of course I want to see what's happening over there," said Hell's Kitchen resident Anne Rothwell.

"I take the subway and I walk. You kinda just know by now which routes to take if you are going to jump in a cab," said East Side resident Jessica Petrullo.

World leaders attended a session on climate change Monday. However, President Donald Trump hosted a session on religious persecution instead.

The president is staying at Trump Tower and is expected to deliver a speech Tuesday.

STREET CLOSURES (From Sept. 17 to 30):

  • FDR Drive between Whitehall Street and Willis Avenue Bridge/RFK Bridge
  • Area bounded by
    • 60th Street on the North,
    • 34th Street on the South,
    • 1st Avenue on the East, and
    • 3rd Avenue on the West
    • All Inclusive
  • Area bounded by
    • 54th Street on the North,
    • 48th Street on the South,
    • 1st Avenue East, and
    • Madison Avenue on the West
    • All Inclusive
  • 6th Avenue between 50th Street and 59th Street
  • Grand Army Plaza between 58th Street and 60th Street
  • 5th Avenue between 56th Street and 63rd Street
  • Madison Avenue between 42nd Street and 58th Street
  • 76th Street and 77th Street
  • Park Avenue between 76th Street and 77th Street
  • FDR Drive Service Road between 48th Street and 49th Street
  • 77th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue
  • 76th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue
  • 61st Street between 5th Avenue and Lexington Avenue
  • 59th Street between 7th Avenue and 5th Avenue
  • 58th Street between Broadway and Madison Avenue
  • 57th Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 56th Street between 6th Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 55th Street between 7th Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 54th Street between 7th Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 53rd Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 52nd Street between 7th Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 50th Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 51st Street between 7th Avenue and 1st Avenue
  • 49th Street between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive Service Road
  • 48th Street between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive Service Road
  • 42nd Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 34th Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive


  • Along northbound First Avenue, cyclists will pass a security checkpoint at 39th Street, after which they will be able to travel on the temporary bike lane between East 40th Street to East 49th Street. Cyclists will be directed to use one northbound travel lane through the 1st Avenue tunnel where a temporary bikeway will then transition back to the existing protected bike lane at East 49th Street. Barrels, signage, and tape will delineate the space for the temporary bikeway and direct cyclists where to travel. Cyclists are advised that the temporary bike lane is a tunnel thruway with no turns: ie. No exit is available between East 40th and East 49th Streets.
  • Along southbound Second Avenue, a temporary bike lane will be created between East 57th Street and East 41st Street, adjacent to the existing protected bike lane using both the travel lane and parking lane.  Traffic and signage will delineate and direct cyclists to the temporary bikeway.  As in past years, the existing protected bike lane on the east side of Second Avenue will be kept clear by NYPD, maintained as a travel lane to accommodate emergency vehicles and dignitary motorcades.
  • CitiBike will offer a 50% discount on its 3-day pass from Sept. 23-30. CitiBike riders will be able to access the $12 pass by using the code GRIDLOCK19 on the CitiBike app.

Click here for more information about gridlock alert days, or here for more on the street closures.

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