NEW YORK — The 65th session of the United Nation’s General Assembly opened last Tuesday at 3 p.m., and with it came all the attendant street closures, snarled traffic, dearth of taxis and frayed nerves.
And that was just what motorists and pedestrians experienced. Retailers had their own set of woes, although some stores that were close to delegates’ hotels managed to see an uptick in traffic.
“We have had many out-of-town visitors and the store has been very busy,” said Casey Rodgers, director of special events at Bergdorf Goodman, referring to the general assembly. Traffic was especially snarled on Wednesday when President Obama arrived to speak at a U.N. antipoverty summit, and Thursday, when he addressed the opening session of the general assembly. Completely closed to traffic from Sept. 20 at 2 a.m. to Sept. 24 at 11:59 p.m. were East 49th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue and East 50th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue. In addition, 44th, 45th and 46th Streets were closed from First Avenue to Second Avenue. On 42nd and 57th Streets, one traffic lane was dedicated to emergency vehicles.
“Traffic has been challenging,” said the manager of a Lexington Avenue boutique who declined to give her name. “The general assembly definitely affects our business. People don’t want to be in the area with all this stuff going on. We haven’t seen any delegates. We get a more local business, mostly people that live and work in this area. If they live in another part of town, they know to avoid this. I was expecting to see a few of the delegates come in, but they have so much security. We’re definitely in the center of all of this. Traffic was backed up for most of the week. Nobody could get cabs on Lexington Avenue. I’m hoping for a strong weekend.”
“It affected our business badly,” said the manager of a women’s activewear store on Third Avenue. “Third Avenue and 50th Street were closed. I even noticed less people on the subways. Nothing was running on time, all our employees were late for work and they couldn’t cross the street to get back to the store after their breaks. It wasn’t conducive to businesses.” The Alan Flusser Custom Shop at 3 East 48th Street had no complaints. “We have several diplomats who see us when they come into town,” said designer Alan Flusser. “In our very small universe, the [general assembly] is always helpful. People also come out of curiosity or we get people who have my books. We see a little uptick in traffic. Because we make high-end custom clothes, the diplomats usually tell us when they’re coming into town and we see a bit of a bump as a result. Their time seems very limited and very chaotic, but because it’s custom, they make time.”
Flusser, who dressed Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko character in the original “Wall Street” film, said he’d welcome the opportunity to make the President “even more presidential-looking than he is already.” Asked if he’s contacted the President, Flusser said, “We have people who are working on that for us.”
Kristin Franzese, executive vice president of retail at the Shops at The Plaza, said traffic increased 15 to 20 percent last week compared with weeks prior. “We had delegates staying here,” Franzese said, referring to The Plaza hotel. “It was a nice uptick for us. The Plaza Food Hall was much busier. Our beauty business, The Plaza Beauty, did quite well last week. The delegates were picking up items they might not get abroad. The Plaza Boutique also did well with gift items.”
“It did slow things down for us a bit,” Connie Lopez, manager of The Super Runners Shop on Third Avenue and 50th Street, said, referring to the general assembly. “We got less traffic for those days. Today [Monday], it seems a little busier than usual, even though it’s rainy outside. In terms of overall business, it was a bit slower last week.”
“[The general assembly] always has an effect on our business,” said the manager of Dress Barn at Third Avenue and 46th Street. “It’s always positive. A lot of our customers from out of town come here. They’re repeat customers. When the people come in for the general assembly, they let us know. We do shopping parties for them or offer coupons.” When it comes to purchases, U.N.-related shoppers are serious. “They do more careerwear — suits and suit separates.”