Harsh winter puts chill on some NYC tourism

Empty chairs in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan

Empty chairs in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan on Feb. 7, 2014. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

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Frigid temperatures, snowstorm after snowstorm, and harsh travel conditions are keeping New Yorkers and tourists away from many of the city's top attractions.

From museums and parks to restaurants and entertainment locales, some operators say they've seen fewer visitors at their venues lately.

One is Manhattan's Bryant Park.

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"New Yorkers are hardy, but this winter has been too cold for them," Dan Biederman, president of Bryant Park Management Corp., said. "We've reached that point where people are fed up."

The Rockefeller Center ice rink also has had fewer skaters this year.

"Attendance is down, primarily due to the extreme cold. The cold definitely affects our attendance," said Carol Olsen, a spokeswoman for the rink.

"A lot of the tri-state area people won't be coming in because they have their own shoveling and whatnot to take care of," she said.

Typically, January and February are the slowest months for the National September 11 Memorial.

Last Wednesday, when the ice storm hit, the memorial had 2,200 visitors. That was down from 4,000 the week before, on a day that saw less precipitation and 20-degree temperatures.

"It certainly is the offseason with visitors," said Anthony Guido, a spokesman.

Double-decker tour bus promoters, who work on commission, said last week that fewer tourists are braving the cold.

The walking tours of Grand Central Terminal, brought out 300 fewer people last week, compared with the same period a year earlier, an MTA spokeswoman said.

When it comes to eateries, results are mixed. Andrew Moesel, a representative of the New York Restaurant Association, said that proximity to public transportation is a big factor during this rough winter. "I have spoken with some restaurants that are way down, but others that are doing well," he said.

The Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park had a roughly 20 percent decrease in student visits because school trips were canceled during the various snowstorms.

"The attendance for people who are coming from further away, let's say coming on the subway, are down," said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the museum. However, the number of tour groups visiting overall "hasn't been affected at all. It's kind of amazing."

Broadway, partly thanks to special deals planned in advance for its slow season, has overcome the harsh weather.

Overall attendance so far this year was up by 44,000 compared with a year earlier. The shows grossed $11 million more over the same period last year, according to trade association The Broadway League.

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