The Pope in Philly

Roads closed, trains delayed, everyone whines on social media: DC, New York starting Pope Panic now, too

DC and NYC

Some Washington D.C. folks have been accusing Philadelphia of essentially being a cultural backwater because of the security plans for the pope’s visit and the presumed panic among residents about all the security and closures. The Washington Post’s Frances Stead Sellers suggested that Philadelphia risked reinforcing its reputation as a second-rate city with its residents panicking and leaders screwing up while New York and D.C. took their papal visits in stride. The Washingtonian’s Phillip Garrity said D.C. would have all kinds of fun activities going on when the pope visits there next week, like rooftop pools and Swedish heavy metal concerts, because it isn’t Philadelphia.

These passive-aggressive slights toward Philadelphia are funny because, well, D.C. is handling the pope’s visit about exactly the same as our fair city (with, let’s be real here, more people, more things to do and better restaurants):

A large portion of the city is going to be shut down, as well as the city’s workforce. And people are kind of mad/confused about it. 

New York isn’t much different either. Governor Andrew Cuomo has even advised people to not travel into Manhattan during the two business days Francis is visiting, as well as the Saturday when Francis will leave town. Now that’s shutting down a city.

Here’s a quick guide to the similarities of security closures between the three cities, as well as plenty of examples of New Yorkers and Washingtonians freaking out. 

Washington D.C.

D.C. has a traffic box of its own. It’s smaller, sure, but D.C.’s downtown is more or less shut down for a couple of days next week, with more than 100 different roads closed for all or some of the pope’s visit from Sept. 22-24. And like Philadelphia, no one is supposed to drive. Walking and public transit are the preferred methods of transportation.  

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Business is stopping, too, or at least being altered significantly for each day the pope is in D.C. Federal workers were told to treat the three-day pope visit like a three snow days early this month. Sound familiar?

As of this week, it’s not just federal employees either. Leaders have recommended everyone in D.C. telecommute during the pope’s visit. Telecommute sounds productive, but we all know it really means wake up at 10, eat a two Hot Pocket lunch and start a Netflix mini-marathon of “Pretty Little Liars” right after your 90-minute couch nap. And maybe check email.  

This is how residents of Washington D.C. have reacted to having a three-day vacation:

But hey enjoy the rooftop Estonian reggae concert or whatever it is you all plan on doing while the pope’s in town.

New York

Cuomo insists on effectively making Thursday and Friday of next week a wash for Manhattan because of massive road closures. There is no box-esque formation like we’re seeing in Philadelphia and D.C., but about 75 roads will be shut down.

But this is New York, where aspiring calligraphers go to spend $1700 a month to share a Brooklyn studio with two people they met on Craigslist. Commutes suck every day, and everything costs seven times as much as it should. Surely a few “Road Closed” signs won’t phase them, or make them want to leave town for a few days or anything?


And, in case you wanted to double-check, D.C. and New York aren’t even hosting an outdoor mass expected to draw 1.5 million people.


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