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Obama, Rock Center tree lighting to cause traffic nightmare

Rockefeller Center tree

Rockefeller Center tree Credit: Last year's Christmas tree (Getty Images)

Wednesday will be a nightmare before Christmas for Gotham motorists.

A visit by President Barack Obama Wednesday night and the annual Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony are expected to snarl traffic from 3-11 p.m., especially in midtown, as thousands of New Yorkers and tourists pack into Rockefeller Center to catch a glimpse of the ceremony and several musical performances.

And to compound the mayhem caused by the massive holiday crowds, Obama will be hopping around the city for fundraisers near Washington Square Park, midtown and the Upper East Side just as New Yorkers begin commuting home from work. His motorcade will cause intermittent shutdowns of the FDR drive and several city blocks during the events.

Former traffic commissioner “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz suggested people travel by subway and to avoid cars and buses at all costs, adding that midtown will become “almost immobile at times.”

“Anybody that travels into midtown Manhattan with a car [Wednesday] should have their head examined,” Schwartz said. “You will see major gridlock like you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Millions of people will watch live performances in person and on television at Rockefeller Center by Cee Lo Green, Michael Buble, Carole King and the Rockettes, among others, starting at 7 p.m. on NBC.

Contrary to media reports and Justin Bieber’s own online tour calendar, the teen heartthrob will not be performing in person at the show, but has recorded a few songs with Usher, Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey to be broadcast for the show.

“He won’t physically be there, no,” a rep for Bieber told amNewYork Tuesday. “It was a pre-taped segment.” He could not explain why Bieber’s website indicated he would be performing live.

The show will wrap up when Mayor Michael Bloomberg helps flip a switch at 8:55 p.m.to turn on the 30,000 lights that adorn the 74-foot-tall Norway Spruce tree.

Expected traffic problems for Wednesday:

- Vehicular traffic will be shut down between 3 and 9 p.m. from 48th to 52nd Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting.

- The FDR drive will be closed down for periods of time during rush hour and throughout the evening for President Barack Obama’s motorcade.

- Buses that run through midtown will be detoured to snake around closed streets during the Christmas tree lighting, and to avoid Obama’s motorcade.

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