Pope Francis' whirlwind visit to disrupt transportation, business

Josh Einiger Image
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Massive gridlock expected during pope's visit to New York City
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Josh Einiger reports from the Upper East Side.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York is a city with millions of people, and there's a good chance many of them will be impacted by Pope Francis' visit next week.

From the subways to the waterways, to traffic tie-ups and road closures, even businesses could experience a papal boom or bust.

Throughout the city the signs of next week's chaos have already started to appear. Along with the bomb barriers and no parking signs for the millions who live and work around here, there are millions of practical questions.

"Will we have our orders, I'm not sure will our staff get here, probably late," said Tracy Bayne, AG Kitchen.

At AG Kitchen on the Upper West Side, they wonder what will become of their fresh food deliveries when Columbus Avenue becomes a frozen zone next week.

In a town known for clogged streets, experts say the pope's historic visit, and in a town known for clogged streets, experts say expect traffic of biblical proportions.

"It will be a nightmare," said Sam Schwartz, a former DOT commissioner.

Schwartz knows a thing or two about gridlock, and he says next week could be the worst we've ever seen.

When the pope arrives in town, officials will be locking streets around St. Patrick's Cathedral, the UN, the FDR Drive, Ground Zero, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and East Harlem.


And don't forget, it's not just the pope in town; it's also the president and 170 foreign heads of state, here for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Schwartz says it should definitely send you to mass...mass transit.

"If you want to see the pope, come by public transportation. If you don't want to see the pope, take a long weekend," Schwartz said.

But in the heart of Midtown by St. Patrick's where the Secret Service will be building a fence in the middle of Fifth Avenue, residents are concerned.

"There's fear, I'll just leave it at that," said Tish Cash, a resident.

Office workers like Cash say they can't afford to say home. She's hoping for a little divine intervention to help her get to work.

"It's either walking as far north or south as possible and then praying from there to get across town. You're praying. Is that ironic? Very much so," Cash said.

As preparations for the pope continue, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will be in New York City Saturday to review security plans with city, state and federal officials.

At a news conference Johnson said there is no specific threat to the pope.