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Midtown a ghost town before Rockefeller Center tree lighting

Midtown a ghost town before Rockefeller Center tree lighting

The Ghosts of Christmas Present were about the only ones in in Rockefeller Center ahead of the annual Christmas tree lighting Wednesday night — thanks to COVID restrictions that all but emptied the plaza of its people and its cheer.

Last year, the city had to shut down adjacent streets to accommodate the throngs of looky-loos hoping to catch a glimpse of the tree’s first lighting.

Now, the barricades remain, but the streets are tumbleweeds with just a handful of hangers-on hoping to catch glimpse of the festivities in the flesh.

“This year has been a downer. It would have been amazing and nice if the tree lighting was more festive,” said Abel Fernandez, who was one of the few that trekked to Midtown regardless.

The 43-year-old worked at a Manhattan hotel for 14 years before being laid off as the outbreak battered the industry.

“We need some type of normal to lift up our sprits…,” he said. “We were hoping for a celebration or tree lighting.”

The usually-packed 30 Rock plaza — where the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce will light up at 9:45 p.m. — looked more like a holiday-theme department store window, decorated with massive ornaments and gold present boxes, but devoid of any happy faces.

By comparison, last year’s tree lighting saw hundreds of people jammed on the plaza’s ice rink in front of a stage filled with performers.

Authorities had to start cordoning off the area around 3 p.m. that year, while in 2020, officers were still putting up barriers at around 5 p.m., as around 20 people milled about checking out the towering tree.

People take selfies near Rockefeller Center before the tree lighting ceremony tonight.
People take selfies near Rockefeller Center before the tree lighting ceremony tonight.
Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

By around 6:30 p.m. a few dozen spirited folks had still flocked to Midtown to catch a glimpse of the festivities — but they had to stand more than 50 yards away, near Saks Fifth Avenue, jammed close together in front of a metal barricade.

“Why can’t we group by the tree?,” gripped Jennifer Goetz, a 45-year-old from Florida who works in the medical field and said it was her first time in the Big Apple.

“We were looking forward to seeing the tree light up and watching all the performers,” Goetz said. “We always watched on TV and now we can’t even get remotely close to the tree.”

Another tourist, 21-year-old student Angel Caceres of Uruguay said he was going to leave New York on Thursday “depressed.”

“I came here for the Christmas tree lighting and to adopt a dog. I’ve never seen the tree lighting and it’s emblematic,” he said.

“I wish the city organized this better, I’m standing in the middle of a mob, why can’t I be close to the tree?”

A 33-year-old Manhattanite, who gave her name as Charlotte S., wondered why other outdoor events were allowed but not the tree lighting tradition, as she noted that the crowd was gathering by Saks regardless.

“They could have done this better,” she said.

New Yorker Diana Ramkissoon, of Queens, was also nostalgic for pre-coronavirus days.

“This is all new to me — the mask,” she said. “I have my childhood memories coming to the tree lighting with my parents, grandparents. Now I’m here with my grandson and son.

“It would have been nice to see the performers and tree lighting,” the 59-year-old added.

“We have to cooperate but it’s a bummer.”

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James Thompson

James Thompson has worked in various news organizations and now aims to make Report Door one of the best and fastest growing news websites in the U.S. He contributes to the US and World sections.

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