De Blasio Says Garner Protests Have Had ‘Minimal’ Impact on Traffic and Commerce

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the Eric Garner decision last week. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the Eric Garner decision last week. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

After protesters this morning blocked the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge—following days of protests that at times shut down major roads, bridges, tunnels throughout the city—Mayor Bill de Blasio said the demonstrations have had a “minimal” impact on traffic and commerce here.

“I think the impact has been minimal,” Mr. de Blasio said today when asked about gridlock encountered by New Yorkers whose commutes have been disrupted by those who have taken to the streets to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

In addition to blocking roads and bridges, protesters have also marched inside stores like the Apple Store and Macy’s to stage die-ins, briefly disrupting sales. The demonstrators have offered a refrain referencing their attempts at gridlock: “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down.”

“I think in terms of our economic dynamics, we have plenty of reports from all over the city that our economy is doing very nicely right now, our tourism levels are high, people are coming into the city to shop. Everything is moving as normal,” Mr. de Blasio said.

But anyway stuck in traffic when masses of protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel last week might disagree—as would furious Staten Islanders who lashed out on Staten Island Advance‘s website and Facebook page, slamming the small group of demonstrators who walked onto the busy Staten Island Expressway to halt traffic heading over the bridge to Brooklyn.

But the mayor said the NYPD has done a “brilliant” job managing the protests. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has previously said police are giving protesters “breathing room” before moving in for arrests, much to the consternation of some stranded motorists.

“I think this is a moment New Yorkers should be very proud of, that police handled the situation effectively, fluidly, intelligently, and people have had their chance to speak—and again, disruptions have been kept to a minimum,” Mr. de Blasio said.

State Senator Diane Savino, a Democrat representing Staten Island’s North Shore and part of Brooklyn, had a different opinion on her Facebook page this morning.

“Protest is fine and dandy until someone gets killed! This is absolute nonsense and the definition of reckless endangerment. walking onto an expressway not only endangers your own hide, but the potential for a multi-vehicle pile up, jackknifed tractor trailers, or the death of DOT, TBTA and Highway cops is extraordinary. Each one of these idiots should be arrested,” Ms. Savino wrote.

De Blasio Says Garner Protests Have Had ‘Minimal’ Impact on Traffic and Commerce