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Gridlock alert: NYPD urges visitors to take mass transit in for parade festivities

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade returns to full

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade returns to full swing in Manhattan on Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. Credit: Charles Eckert

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is back in full swing this year, and that means a gridlock alert for anyone considering driving into Manhattan, officials said.

There was no public street viewing and trimmed-down festivities amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but with 90% of people in the state over age 18 fully immunized, one of the city’s most iconic traditions resumes this week with throngs of spectators.

The New York City Police Department issued a traffic alert this week and is also urging people to take mass transit. For Long Islanders, that means the Long Island Rail Road, which is offering off-peak fares for the remainder of the year and adding extra trains to accommodate travelers this week.

Expect lots of street closures — with some Manhattan streets blocked as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday for the balloon event — and other streets closed to traffic as parade preparations get underway.

Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner, warned that the heaviest traffic will begin on Wednesday afternoon, with rush-hour jams expected in both directions on all major roads and bridges.

"If you are going to come see the parade, then definitely take the subway," Schwartz said. "From Central Park West down to 34th Street, you’ll have a wall you can’t cross because of the parade."

The parade officially starts at 9 a.m. Thursday at 77th Street and Central Park West, and will stretch 2.5 miles downtown, weaving through Columbus Circle, turning onto Central Park South and strutting down Sixth Avenue before wrapping up in front of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street. The procession will feature 15 character balloons, 28 floats, 10 marching bands and 800 clowns.

There are no immunization requirements to view the 95th annual spectacle.

By 7 a.m. Wednesday, West 81st and West 77th streets from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue will be closed to traffic. By noon Wednesday, Central Park West will be closed from 73rd to 85th streets, and more blockages will run from 74th to 85th streets, between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. After 10 p.m. Wednesday, Central Park West, spanning 59th to 86th streets, will be closed to traffic.

Revelers can watch the colossal balloons rise outside the American Museum of Natural History from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The entrance will be on 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, and those over age 12 must show proof of vaccination. Children under 12 aren’t required to be vaccinated, but must be accompanied by an immunized adult.

Motorists on Thursday will not be allowed to drive on Sixth Avenue between 33rd and 59th streets from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. West 59th westbound, between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, also will be closed to traffic, along with other streets.

On Thanksgiving Eve, there will be 12 extra LIRR trains from 12:45 to 4:15 p.m. The service includes four extra trains on the Babylon Branch, three on the Port Jefferson/Huntington Branch, two on the Ronkonkoma Branch, and one each on the Far Rockaway, Montauk and Port Washington branches.

On Thanksgiving Day, the LIRR will operate on a weekend/holiday schedule, with 17 additional trains scheduled before and after the parade. There will be six extra westbound trains originating on Long Island between 6 and 7:45 a.m. That includes two trains on both the Babylon and Ronkonkoma branches and one each on both the Montauk and Port Jefferson lines.

Eleven extra eastbound trains will depart Penn Station between 11 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. on Thursday. That includes four on each of the Babylon and Ronkonkoma branches, two on the Port Jefferson/Huntington Branch and one on the Montauk Branch.

The LIRR will have a regular weekday schedule on Black Friday and a regular weekend schedule on Nov. 27 and 28.

What to know

The New York City Police Department issued a traffic advisory for Wednesday and Thursday in Manhattan, and advises parade watchers to use mass transit.

Expect lots of Manhattan street closures this week, with some streets blocked off as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday.

The LIRR is adding 12 extra train on Wednesday and 17 extra trains on Thanksgiving Day.

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