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Friday’s Headlines: The City’s Annual Gridlock ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Gridlock alert days are back and the same as ever. Plus more news.

12:03 AM EDT on September 15, 2023

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Every year, we await the annual United Nations General Assembly press release from the Department of Transportation with hot anticipation. "Maybe this year," one of the younger, still-unjaded wags in our newsroom will say, "the DOT will actually take concrete measures to actually reduce the number of commuters who drive into the city rather than just strongly encourage them to use public transit."

Well, as we say in Brooklyn, wait 'til next year!

On Thursday, we received the annual press release and were underwhelmed.

"Drivers should expect extensive street closures and delays across Manhattan for the duration of next week," the release stated, referring to the General Assembly period from Monday, Sept. 18 through Friday, Sept. 22. "NYC DOT strongly encourages drivers to use alternative modes of transportation."

And the strong encouragement was emphasized in a quote from DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez: "We strongly encourage New Yorkers and those in the region to travel by transit every day of the year — but it’s especially important during Gridlock Alert days."

On the plus side, DOT will keep East Side bike lanes open for use and will allow cyclists to use the tunnel between East 40th and East 49th streets 24 hours a day next week — a policy that fixed an old de Blasio-era mistake of blocking cyclists from passing near the United Nations even as cars were waved right on through.

But once again, despite years and years of activists' urging, the city is not doing anything to solve the upstream problem of gridlock in the first place: too many car drivers entering Manhattan (a few years ago, the agency at least spent $500,000 on ads to warn drivers how awful the traffic will be). In years past, we have advocated for mandatory carpool lanes on at least the free bridges (which the city controls) or doing more than just blocking a street for a few minutes so the Brazilian ambassador to the U.N. need not have to suffer the indignity of walking a block from his consulate to the Secretariat building.

Cartoon: Bill Roundy

We asked DOT why its efforts never seem to go beyond the bike improvements and the strong encouragement, and was not directly answered. Spokesman Scott Gastel said simply, "We hope that you will amplify both the bike notification and the public transit messaging."

So, yes, consider those things amplified. And consider everything else stifled. (The Daily News also covered gridlock alert month.)

In other news:

  • In other gridlock-related news, The Post made the case for congestion pricing in its oddly pro-car (and woefully underreported) story about all the traffic these days: "There’s no point in driving."
  • "Auditing error" has added to commercial waste zone reform delays. (Gothamist)
  • So much for the city's climate goals under Mayor Adams. (Hell Gate)
  • MSG officially won its five-year permit renewal from the City Council. (NY Post, Daily News, Crain's)
  • The Times, amNY and Daily News joined Streetsblog and other outlets in covering the Council's passage of the city's first-ever e-bike battery buy-back program.
  • And, finally — the bike lane on Johnson Street in downtown Brooklyn is nearly always blocked, so it's time for a new "bike lane challenge":

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