Stroll car-free down Fifth Avenue

MANHATTAN. For three Sunday afternoons in December, you’ll be able to walk down a 12-block stretch of Fifth Avenue without the intrusion of cars, thanks to an expanded holiday season Open Street.

| 25 Nov 2023 | 05:29

On three Sunday afternoons next month - Dec. 3, 10 and 17 - a 12-block stretch of Fifth Avenue leading up to Central Park will be closed to vehicles, temporarily converting the exhaust-riddled street into public space for pedestrians.

Non-pedestrian traffic will be blocked from 48th Street to 59th Street between noon and 6 p.m. Food and drink vendors, festive performance stages, and seating will be set up throughout the area, providing for holiday shoppers and idle amblers alike.

To accommodate visitors to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, motor traffic around that area will also be blocked off during peak pedestrian hours, starting from Nov. 29 through January. On West 49th and West 50th streets, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, barriers will keep vehicles out from 11 a.m. until midnight.

This year’s holiday Open Street is the return of an initiative launched last year, when a section of Fifth Avenue was made car-free for three Sunday afternoons in December - for the first time since the summer of 1970. The Fifth Avenue Open Street will be two blocks longer this year, stretching to 59th Street, the southernmost tip of Central Park. Last year, it ended at 57th Street.

“I felt the energy walking down the middle of Fifth Avenue last year - it was electric,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a press release.

The pedestrianization of Fifth Avenue is projected to boost holiday revenues, says the mayor’s office, citing a Mastercard study that found that businesses along last year’s Open Street gained an additional $3 million in consumer spending.

The Adams administration also has been planning a more permanent transformation of Fifth Avenue between Bryant Park and Central Park through the “Future of Fifth” public-private partnership, which seeks to make the corridor more pedestrian-centered with widened sidewalks, better lighting and more greenery.

Officials are gathering public input on the project now, in a survey that will remain open until February.

Until then, get a taste of what that pedestrian-centric future could look like on December’s Open Streets.

2023 Holiday Open Streets
Where: Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 59th Street
When: Sunday, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from noon to 6 p.m.