By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — Times Square business leaders say a decision to move the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade away from Times Square after more than 80 years will be a disaster for holiday tourism in the city.
"We are baffled," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which represents businesses in the area. "After two successful years on Seventh Avenue, we have yet to hear a sound reason from Macy's on why a world famous parade should go through a corridor of empty office buildings on Sixth Avenue rather than Times Square, a globally recognized symbol of New York's dynamism and energy, where thousands more people can enjoy it both on the ground and from their hotel rooms."
As DNAinfo first reported, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is set to be re-routed yet again in 2012 from its current route down Seventh Avenue to a route along Sixth.
"Macy's officials feel that 6th Avenue is quite simply, the safest route for the world-famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras said in a statement explaining the move.
Veras descibed Sixth Avenue as "a passage that's both wide and straight, with none of the pinch-points, obstructions or sharp turns that complicate 7th Avenue" and said that spectators willl be able "to see the parade as it's meant to be seen — up close and personal."
The current parade route sends floats down Seventh Avenue between Central Park South to Times Square. From there, balloons turn onto West 42nd Street and head toward Sixth Avenue, where they turn again before reaching Herald Square.
Macy's declined to comment further on why it lobbied to change the route. But the department store has been strongly pushing for several years to move the parade to Sixth Avenue, sources involved in the negotiations said.
Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor, said the reason for the move to Sixth Avenue is upcoming construction on the bow-tie area of Times Square and that the route will again be reevaluated after 2013.
"We appreciate that on Thanksgiving day 2012 there will be impacts to businesses on 7th Avenue, just as there will be benefits to businesses on 6th Avenue," he said.
But Mike Stengel, the area vice president for Marriott hotels, who oversees the Marriott Marquis and sits on the team overseeing the construction, said that the work could be done without rerouting the parade.
"That is absolute malarkey," said Stengel, who accused Macy's of "holding the city hostage" in order to make sure that the exterior of Macy's Herald Square was the only iconic image associated with the parade.
"They just rammed this thing through," he said.
Stengel said that he and other Times Square business leaders only agreed to support the city's plan to build the plazas in the first place on the condition that the parade route not be changed.
He warned that the city stands to lose tens of millions of dollars because of the move, which he said will be a blow to the 200 retailers along the stretch and nearly 7,000 hotel rooms in the area where revelers have traditionally gathered to watch the parade.
Even more, he said the parade serves as the kick-off to the holiday tourism season and that seeing the iconic images of Times Square on television is the trigger for many tourists to book trips to New York.
"This is going to cause an economic downturn, not only during Thanksgiving, but the whole holiday season," he said.
Tim Zagat, co-founder of the Zagat Survey and the former chair of NYC & Company, the city's official marketing and tourism organization, agreed that the move was a "mistake."
He said the iconic image of Times Square was an integral element of the parade, which served as a giant commercial for New York.
"I think it will have a negative impact on the parade itself as well as on the city," he said.