BY JACKSON CHEN | The city has reopened 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, following a letter from East Side City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, who urged officials to act promptly to relieve the congestion and hardships local businesses faced due to commotion caused by President-elect Donald Trump’s Midtown residence.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on December 28 that the block west of Trump Tower would be reestablished for eastbound traffic. But once drivers hit the intersection of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue, they will have to make a right to go southbound on Fifth Avenue as East 56th Street is still closed between Fifth and Madison Avenues.
In addition to the reopening, the New York Police Department has also moved its mobile command post from the southwest corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue to the northwest corner. That setup allows a single lane of traffic to flow through the block, but the command post and barricades prevent any parking near the intersection.
“The safety of New Yorkers and of the president-elect are our top concern,” de Blasio said in a press release. “The changes we are implementing will maintain that security, while allowing for more movement in the area and addressing concerns raised by surrounding businesses. We will continue to examine and carefully confront the challenges presented by this unprecedented responsibility.”
The street reopening comes just over a week after the area’s councilmember sent his December 20 request to de Blasio.
“I am very pleased that the de Blasio administration heeded my call to open 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues,” Garodnick said in a statement. “This change will normalize commercial activity on the block and ensure that small businesses on 56th Street will not become a casualty of the Trump presidency.”
In his letter penned to the mayor, Garodnick requested support to restore the block west of Trump Tower, also suggesting that if eastbound traffic on East 56th Street were infeasible, reversing the street’s direction to westbound was a viable option, too.
“Either one is workable from a local business perspective,” Garodnick said. “The option which is not is a four-year street closure where delivery trucks literally need to back down the street.”
In the weeks following Trump’s victory, the closed streets and increased congestion negatively impacted businesses in close proximity to Trump Tower, Garodnick said. The councilmember toured the block with Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop on December 15 and said they saw enduring obstacles hobbling its small businesses. Some storeowners reported difficulties like inability to get deliveries from trucks as well as decreased patronage due to restrictions on foot traffic in the neighborhood, the councilmember noted in his letter.
“Since Election Day, the closed and barricaded street looked and felt like a war zone, and it was directly affecting the bottom line of the hardworking business owners on the block,” he said.
According to Garodnick, Judge Roy Bean, a pub at 38 West 56th Street, reported a 30 percent sales decline during the holidays, when it’s usually serving many tourists.
With the block once again open to traffic, businesses on 56th Street can now accommodate their delivery trucks.
“This development sends a message to all New Yorkers and visitors that 56th Street is open for business,” Garodnick said.
The changes were done in concert with the NYPD, the Department of Small Business Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Secret Service, and followed an evacuation of Trump Tower’s lobby the day before at around 4:30 p.m. due to a suspicious package later found to be a bag filled with toys.
“Protecting the president-elect while minimizing the impact to nearby businesses has required constant dialogue from everyone involved,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. “We welcome the re-opening of 56th Street to increase pedestrian and vehicular movements in the area while still maintaining the security of the next president of the United States.”