50: Thanksgiving Parade Mishaps


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  • The ridership on crosstown buses at 14th Street has increased to more than 32,000 daily riders, an increase over last year's 26,000 daily riders, and now the city is looking at increasing service along the route. Now that buses are moving faster thanks to the clear streets and the installation of bus loading platforms, some are beginning to need to hold at bus stops to avoid getting ahead of schedule. The 14th Street buses will also be getting on-board camera systems that photograph any bus lane blockers and send that info to the Department of Transportation. Any scofflaws caught blocking buses by those on-board cameras or street-mounted cameras will be subject to fines. These are the same on-board cameras that made a dramatic debut recently when the Transit Authority posted a video on social media showing the bus camera zapping a delivery truck out of the bus lane. Although there haven't been any reports of disintegrating delivery vans, the cameras have been operating on the M15 and B44 Select Bus routes.

  • Good and bad news for any holiday shoppers hoping for some traffic relief in Midtown this holiday season: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the success of the 14th Street busway should lead the city to expand the program to similar streets like 34th and 42nd, but Mayor de Blasio's view is still that instituting busways on other streets would be a premature move before the 14th street pilot program has completed. The current busway pilot program is scheduled to last 18 months, after which the DOT will examine the results and decide whether the program will continue. Midtown bus riders may still be stuck behind empty Ubers on 34th Street, but visitors to Rockefeller Center will get a bit more breathing room. The city announced on November 22nd that, beginning Friday, November 29th, movable barriers will be installed to close streets around Rockefeller Center and add more pedestrian space during the holiday season. The plan is to completely close 49th and 50th Streets from Fifth to Sixth beginning in the afternoon until midnight, when most shoppers and visitors will be in the area. Along Fifth Avenue from 48th to 52nd, a lane of the road on each side will be reclaimed for pedestrian traffic with movable barriers. On Sixth Avenue, a similar barrier setup will take over one lane of traffic, but only when the NYPD and DOT observers see that crowds are growing and more pedestrian space is needed. According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, the Rockefeller Center area attracts 125 million visitors during the holiday season. When news of the potential street closure plan leaked at the end of October, Mayor de Blasio emphasized that it had not yet been approved by City Hall and that someone at the DOT may have accidentally or intentionally leaked it "trying to further their own agenda". The plan will take effect the day after Thanksgiving. You may notice one problem when you combine the previous two stories: In response to news of the Rockefeller Center street closures, Transit Authority head Andy Byford released a short statement criticizing what he called a unilateral decision by the city that will slow down buses in the Rockefeller Center area since they are not given priority in the current plan. Fifth Avenue is a major north-south route for buses, and it remains to be seen how the four-block narrowing of the street will impact traffic or transit times.

  • This week, the Port Authority announced this week that they hope to use autonomous vehicle technology to more closely space their buses through the Lincoln Tunnel. While they plan realistically wouldn't eliminating drivers, the technology would allow the buses to drive close to each other and maintain a higher speed by closely monitoring the surrounding environment and avoiding collisions with greater accuracy than a human driver.

  • Today's podcast is brought to you by City Survival: The AGBC Holiday Gift Guide — Whether it's a tiny replica of a fire escape to hang on your wall or a gadget that may one day help you escape a stalled subway train, find all your gifts this year through our Gift Guide at agreatbigcity.com/gift-guide and your purchases will financially benefit AGBC.

  • Coming up November 28th, the 93rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving parade will fly 16 giant balloons from 77th Street to 34th Street, with new giant balloons this year of Astronaut Snoopy, Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, a new Spongebob Squarepants design featuring Gary the snail, and the reappearance of Smokey the Bear, but those new balloons will hopefully stop to pay their respects to some of their fallen comrades. Over the 93 years of Macy's parades, there have been three major balloon crashes:

  • 26 years ago in 1993 — The Sonic the Hedgehog balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade knocks down a streetlight in Columbus Circle, injuring a child and an off-duty police officer

  • 22 years ago in 1997 — Four are injured, two seriously, when a Cat in the Hat balloon from the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade knocks down a streetlight on Central Park West — Hear more about the Corey Lidle plane crash on Episode 44 of the podcast

  • 14 years ago in 2005 — Two are injured when an M&M balloon from the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade knocks down a streetlight in Times Square

  • Safety limits are now set on where balloons may only fly if sustained winds are below 23mph and gusts are below 34mph. For this Thanksgiving, the winds are predicted to be in the 20mph range, so it remains to be seen if high winds may ground the balloons this year. No matter what happens to this year's Macy's balloons, it won't be as exciting as the parade's end from 1927 to 1932, when parade balloons were simply launched into the sky after the parade, where the helium-filled balloons would rise into the air and Macy's predicted they would deflate and land, so they attached a note that offered a $100 reward to anyone who returned the balloon's remains. The tradition ended, however, when one of the loose balloons finally ended up getting stuck on the wing of an airplane and sent the plane into a tailspin.

  • 13 years ago on November 25, 2006 — Sean Bell is shot and killed by police in a controversial shooting that raised protests over how police handled the encounter and whether anyone in Bell's bachelor party was actually armedSean Bell is shot and killed by police in a controversial shooting that raised protests over how police handled the encounter and whether anyone in Bell's bachelor party was actually armed. Upon leaving the bachelor party at a strip club, undercover police testified that they heard one of Bell's friends say he was going to get a gun, so police, who were outside the club investigating possible prostitution at the location, drew their guns and fired on the group, killing Bell and severely injuring two others. The NYPD response hinged on whether a gun was mentioned or displayed, with witnesses saying no one in the bachelor party mentioned a gun and none being found at the scene. Mayor Bloomberg called the shooting unacceptable and said it looked like a case of excessive force, with five officers firing a total of 50 shots, hitting Bell four times, Trent Benefield three times, and Joseph Guzman 19 times. Protests took place comparing Bell's death to similar police shootings of unarmed men and protesters called for the officers to be held accountable. Three of the five officers involved in the shooting were indicted and went before a judge in a bench trial where all charges were dropped on April 25, 2008. Despite their acquittal, all officers and their commanding officer were fired or forced to resign by 2012. Liverpool Street from 94th to 101st Ave in Jamaica, Queens was named in honor of Sean Bell on what would have been his 27th birthday.

  • 109 years ago on November 27, 1910 — The original Penn Station opens to the public, with an estimated 100,000 visitors on the first dayThe original Penn Station opens to the public, with an estimated 100,000 visitors on the first day The city operated a bit differently in those days, with the New York Times noting the increase in pedestrians on a Sunday in the "usually very quiet" area in Midtown between Penn Station and Times Square, and that the crowds were "impressed with the lack of confusion" at Penn Station on opening day. One aspect of the opening day report did seem all too familiar: The new station caused a notable increase in subway passengers at both the Times Square and 33rd Street stations, causing passengers to question why there had not been extra capacity added to the Seventh Avenue cross-town trolley. The increase in train traffic also relocated a large number of support personnel to the city, with many settling in southeast Queens near the newly-constructed Sunnyside train yards. This increased the population of Long Island City by at least 2,000. The original above-ground structure of Penn Station would remain until 1963, when it had fallen into disrepair and was torn down and replaced with Madison Square Garden. The loss of what was once an architectural wonder led to the formation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission that would save Grand Central Terminal from a similar fate just two years later. Today, the Moynihan Train Hall near Penn Station is being renovated into a modern version of what Penn Station once was. The new train station will service Amtrak and LIRR customers and feature a soaring glass atrium ceiling about the size of Grand Central's main hall.

A Great Big City has been running a 24-hour newsfeed since 2010, but the AGBC News podcast is just getting started, and we need your support. A Great Big City is built on a dedication to explaining what is happening and how it fits into the larger history of New York, which means thoroughly researching every topic and avoiding clickbait headlines to provide a straightforward, honest, and factual explanation of the news. Individuals can make a monthly or one-time contribution at agreatbigcity.com/support and local businesses can have a lasting impact by supporting local news while promoting products or services directly to interested customers listening to this podcast. Visit agreatbigcity.com/advertising to learn more.

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Park of the day

  • Bergen Triangle — E. 181 St., Anthony Ave., Grand Concourse, the Bronx — Named for William Bergen, one of the largest developers in the Bronx, who spotted vacant lots and bought them, constructing over two hundred homes on his land. One of Bergen's most notable achievements as a developer was the construction of the Bergen Building, built in 1915 at the intersection of Tremont and Arthur Avenues, about one mile southeast from Bergen Triangle Park.

Parks Events

  • The city will be hosting Black Friday Hikes on November 29, 2019 as a way to clear your mind from any holiday stress and avoid any ravenous shopping crowds. There will be one official hike in each borough, but you're encouraged to visit any park and take your own hiking adventure.

Concert Calendar

Here's the AGBC Concert Calendar for the upcoming week:

Find more fun things to do at agreatbigcity.com/events.

Today's fact about New York

Here's something you may not have known about New York:


The extreme highs and lows for this week in weather history:
Record High: 77°F on November 20, 1985
Record Low: 13°F on November 22, 1880

Weather for the week ahead:
Light rain this weekend, with a chance of wind on Wednesday and Thursday

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Intro and outro music: 'Start the Day' by Lee Rosevere — Concert Calendar music from Jukedeck.com

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