LOWER MANHATTAN — President Barack Obama's whirlwind trip to Manhattan on Thursday — which will include a visit to One World Trade Center and fundraisers hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker and Mariah Carey — will snarl traffic and disrupt public transportation, officials said Wednesday.
The NYPD will freeze traffic in large swaths of Lower Manhattan and Midtown starting mid-afternoon on Thursday, to give the president a clear ride from the World Trade Center to fundraisers at Parker's West Village townhouse and The Plaza Hotel on Central Park South, according to traffic expert Sam "Gridlock" Schwartz.
For security reasons, the Port Authority also plans to shut down the World Trade Center PATH station between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for an undetermined amount of time, a spokesman said. The agency will add extra trains from 33rd Street to Hoboken and Journal Square, and stranded PATH customers will also be able to ride free on New Jersey Transit trains leaving from Penn Station, the Port Authority said.
The traffic changes will also force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to divert buses, likely including the M5, M8, M9, M14A, M14D, M15, M15SBS, M20, M21, M22, M23, M34, M34A and M42, an MTA spokesman said.
Obama will touch down at JFK Airport mid-afternoon on Thursday and will hop on a helicopter to the Wall Street Heliport, Schwartz said on Twitter. The presidential motorcade will then likely swing onto FDR Drive, freezing the highway south of 14th Street, Schwartz said.
Obama could get to the World Trade Center by taking the Battery Underpass beneath Lower Manhattan's tip, but the president has avoided tunnels in the past, so he may decide to cut straight across Chambers Street instead, Schwartz said. Police will likely freeze the blocks around the World Trade Center, an area bounded by Barclay, Liberty, West and Church streets, Schwartz said.
At One World Trade Center, Obama will get a tour of the rising skyscraper with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to celebrate the soon-to-top-out 1,776-foot office tower. He will also greet construction workers and sign a steel beam that will be installed on the skyscraper.
Next Obama will head up to Parker's home in the West Village, where the "Sex and the City" star will host the president and the First Lady for a $40,000-per-person dinner, with 50 guests, including Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The motorcade will shut down Greenwich, Hudson and Charles streets, Schwartz said.
Afterward, Obama will travel to The Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, for a 250-person fundraising dinner featuring a performance by singer Mariah Carey, according to a campaign official. Tickets cost $10,000 per person.
Schwartz expects the NYPD to shut down either 34th Street or 42nd Street for the presidential motorcade to speed across town to The Plaza, so he advises drivers to stick to smaller side streets instead. Fifth Avenue will likely be shut down between 60th and 57th Street while the Obamas are inside, Schwartz said.
Obama is scheduled to leave Manhattan via the Wall Street Heliport by late Thursday evening.