Protests, Gridlock as UN General Assembly Gets Underway

Gridlock and protests are always hallmarks of the UN General Assembly which got underway on Sept. 18. Thousands marched near the United Nations on Sept. 17 pushing to End Fossil Fuels. The MTA said it is stepping up rush hour subway service and The DOT said bike lanes will largely remain open. Here’s what you need to know this week to avoid gridlock.

| 19 Sep 2023 | 06:07

Protests and traffic gridlock marked the kickoff of the UN General Assembly on September 18 as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenski and President Joe Biden both were expected to address the assembly.

End Fossil Fuel protestors kicked off the protest season on Sept. 17 with a protest near the UN and then followed that up with downtown civil disobedience protests in which over 100 were arrested for blocking access to the Federal Reserve Bank on Sept 18. Biden arrived Sunday evening dined in the Village and was scheduled to attend several campaign fundraisers before addressing the assembly on Sept. 19.

The protest drew tens of thousands of people and many directed their ire at Biden. “Biden, you should be scared of us,” 17 year old Emma Buretta told the New York Times.

The protests had people on foot but also in electric stage coaches, rickshaws, parents pushing kids in baby strollers and protestors in wheel chairs. “The president is in a unique position to end the fossil fuel movement globally,” Daphne Frias told the Times. “It’s time for the United States but particularly the global north to step up and say that we are taking responsibility for the way way that we have harmed and polluted.”

More protests are being planned throughout the week, which is expected to further snarl vehicular traffic in Manhattan, especially on the East Side near the United Nations. Exits from the FDR in mid-town are closed while the UN is in sessions. A Coast Guard cutter was anchored in the East River near the UN and NYPD police boats capable of detecting nuclear material plied the East River. The NYPD said it is stepping up security across the city and has a fleet of over 350 vehicles to move world leaders safely and swiftly through the city.

The movement of world leaders with police escorts will only snarl traffic further. The MTA is urging everyone to use mass transit to avoid gridlock. The Department of Transportation says the UN related gridlock alert days will extend to the end of the week.

”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,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “The UN General Assembly is a great event each year the city is proud to host, but New Yorkers should do their part in minimizing congestion and seeking alternative modes of transportation.”

Traveling via bicycle may be one option for getting around. The DOT said that protected bicycle lanes in East Midtown along First and Second Avenues, which have over 7,000 daily riders, would remain open and operational during U.N. General Assembly week which ends on September 22.

Cyclists along First Avenue will have to go underground for part of their journey and use the First Avenue Tunnel between East 40th and East 49th Streets on the portion of the roadway which passes the UN. The restriction will remain in effect 24 hours a day until the end of the week.

Along Second Avenue, a temporary bike lane will be in effect between East 47th and East 42nd Streets each day until 9 p.m. Cyclists on both avenues could be subject to random security checkpoints and occasional, unannounced traffic freezes, the DOT said.

The MTA said its trains will be running more frequently during the gridlock alert days but many bus routes are likely to be a mess throughout the week.

“The fastest and safest way to get around the East Side of Manhattan during the United Nations General Assembly is by taking one of the numerous subway lines that provide round the clock service,” said New York City Transit President Richard Davey.

The MTA warns passengers traveling in the area via bus that they should allow for additional travel time to get to and from their destinations and check the MYmta app for the latest service updates.

Along the East Side of Manhattan, the MTA said trains on the 4 and 5 lines will run every two and a half to three minutes during rush hours and take 15 minutes to travel between 59th Street and Wall Street

While trains on the 7 line heading out to Citifield and Flatbush Ave. have been largely without express service for months, the MTA points out that the structural repairs in Queens have not effected the routes once the line reaches Manhattan. Trains run every two to two and a half minutes during rush hours and every four to five and a half minutes during the day, the MTA said. And the subway is almost always faster than walking or biking. The MTA claims it takes just nine minutes to travel between Times Square and Long Island City’s Vernon-Jackson Station.

Due to repairs, the The F trains in mid-town are generally not running along their their usual route along Sixth Avenue, forcing commuters to hike two blocks west to Eighth Ave to pick up the F and lines in Manhattan. Along 53rd Street, trains on the E and F lines run combined every three to four and a half minutes during the day and every two and a half to three minutes during rush hour and take just 18 minutes to travel between Forest Hills and Lexington Avenue, the MTA said. The MTA is reminding F train customers that service is still rerouted along the line between 5 Av/53 St in Manhattan and Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Av in Queens to accommodate critical track replacement work.

Trains on the N and Q lines combined run every three and a half to four and a half minutes during rush hour and every four minutes during the day. The MTA claims it takes just eight minutes to travel between the Herald Square and Canal Street stations via subway.

There are several ways to check the MTA schedules. Customers can find current statuses on and upcoming planned service changes using the lookup tool at

Customers who use the comprehensive MYmta smartphone app will see real-time train and bus arrival times and other travel information for all MTA services. The app is available in the Apple Store and in Google Play Store.

The MTA said customers can also sign up for email and SMS alerts tailored to their specific commutes and travel times. They can also sign up for MTA newsletters like The Weekender, a weekly newsletter that covers major weekend planned service changes. Riders can also chat with NYC Transit via WhatsApp for 24/7 customer assistance. With the help of Google Translate, NYC Transit staff offer real-time customer support in up to 108 languages.

For those who prefer to contact the MTA by telephone, information is available by dialing 511. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can use their preferred service provider for the free 711 relay to reach the MTA at 511.

“The fastest and safest way to get around the East Side of Manhattan during the United Nations General Assembly is by taking one of the numerous subway lines that provide round the clock service,” New York City Transit President Richard Davey.