For weeks, in tweets and Facebook posts the city publicized the Fourth of July festivities planned for Exchange Place.
The show would feature Flo Rida, Shaquille O’Neal and Funk Flex and culminate with two barges of Grucci Fireworks. “Save that date!” said a tweet on Wednesday.
And many apparently did. Tonight, like a scene from War of the Worlds, traffic came to a standstill Downtown on both larger thoroughfares like Christopher Columbus Drive and Jersey Avenue and smaller streets like Monmouth and Wayne as Fourth of July revelers rushed to make the show.
From his white Volkswagen on Christopher Columbus Drive, a Downtown resident named Vince said it had taken him 30 minutes to move one block from Jersey Avenue to Barrow Street. A woman who stuck on Wayne Street, who declined to give her name, said she had been stuck for an hour.
The city’s messaging may have played a part. Until a tweet at 2 pm this afternoon, when the city asked people to “please avoid driving in. Traffic is already building & road closures r in effect” driving to the waterfront may have seemed like a reasonable option to many. Indeed, at almost the same time as the tweet, the city posted to Facebook that discount parking at Newport Mall was available.
If much of the Downtown became impassible, one neighborhood where barriers had been erected to keep traffic out escaped the traffic chaos. Diane Kaese, president of the the Historic Paulus Hook Association reported quiet streets and empty parking spaces. “It’s the first time since 1985 that Paulus Hook hasn’t been a safety hazard.”