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Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Will Go Car-Free in Effort to Boost Holiday Retail Foot Traffic

Manhattan’s renowned Fifth Avenue strip that draws holiday shoppers worldwide will be closed to vehicle traffic on three December Sundays to boost retail business and foot traffic. The stretch from 48th to 57th Street will go car-free on December 4th, 11th, and 18th, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to a statement from NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ office.

Mayor Adams’ office said the closings are intended to “cement Midtown Manhattan as the premier international holiday destination.” The 11 city blocks open for pedestrians in December is New York City’s biggest-ever holiday season “open street” and the first time that the stretch of Fifth Avenue will go car-free in half a century. Cushman & Wakefield reports that the portion of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 60th streets is Manhattan’s most expensive retail corridor, which welcomes more than 10 million people during the holiday season.

Closing streets to car traffic could be a compelling way to boost retail business, and some recent research has proved its effectiveness. A study from the New York City Department of Transportation found that hospitality businesses on NYC streets closed to cars performed better than those on nearby streets open to vehicle traffic during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

Many other cities worldwide have experimented with closing streets to cars in recent years to benefit businesses, create more open public spaces, lower air pollution, and reduce traffic congestion and accidents. Closing Fifth Avenue during the holiday season is just one of many examples of the push for more car-free urban corridors we’ll likely see more of in the near future.

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