It took cab driver Ali Zech longer than 10 minutes to reach 32nd Street from 34th Street on Third Avenue Monday morning, a distance of only 0.1 miles.
“It’s rush hour so the traffic is never really good, but today it’s very bad and it’s going to get worse as the week goes by,” said Zech, who has been a taxi driver in New York City for 24 years.
The city closed Broadway between 34th and 47th streets to car traffic Monday morning, to transform the area into Super Bowl Boulevard. It will remain closed all week through Sunday, the 2nd of February, the day the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos face off.
All week long, football fans and visitors will be able to enjoy free live concerts, get autographs from some NFL players, pose next to the Vince Lombardi Trophy and get many free giveaways along the 13-block stretch of Broadway.
Early Monday, the area filled with police officers, construction workers and staff crews as installations, such as a 60-foot toboggan ride between 40th and 41st streets, were just getting underway. All the way from 34th street to 47th street, hundreds of construction workers assembled pipes, plugged in wires and moved large pieces of metal while dozens of street cleaners swept the area. Some people stopped to take photos of the set-ups or to ask what was happening. In many ways, it was like the calm before the storm, as most activities will be launched on Wednesday.
About 1 million visitors are expected to come by the Super Bowl Boulevard according to a press release issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office last Friday.
But for cab drivers, like Zech, the spike in visitors won’t necessarily mean more business.
“People don’t take cabs if the traffic is too bad, they walk,” said taxi driver Abul Hussan, 37, adding he would avoid working in the area this week because he did not want to spend hours waiting in traffic jams.
“Seventh Avenue is going to be a nightmare,” predicted 46-year-old Snegasis Dutta who has been driving a yellow cab for longer than six years. “I don’t expect it to be a good week.”
Even though all crossroads except 41st Street will remain open, many taxi drivers working in midtown Monday morning expected traffic jams by Wednesday, the launch date for the Super Bowl Boulevard attractions that also happens to correspond with one of the busiest days of the nearby theatre district.
“When you take tourists who go see a play, they want to be dropped off right in front of the theater, because they don’t understand they can walk one or two blocks, so we get stuck in traffic,” said Pedro Genao, who has been driving a yellow cab since 1995. /p>
“I like the Super Bowl atmosphere,” Genao said, “but this week is going to be hell for us.”