How do you protect the president’s home when it has a Gucci store on the ground floor?
Donald Trump’s elite address, 721 Fifth Avenue, also known as Trump Tower, sits smack in the middle of one of New York’s busiest shopping and tourism districts. Trump’s preference for the familiar is threatening to plunge this already gridlock-prone area into chaos as the holiday season gets underway.
Trump has made the black-glass skyscraper his headquarters, meeting there with his inner circle and beyond. For example, Trump had met with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower yesterday. While Trump prepares for the presidency up in his three-story apartment, complete with marble columns and views of Central Park, everyone else is struggling to deal with the reality of a man that lives in the center of Manhattan as the president of the United States.
Security barricades and checkpoints are already snarling pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Demonstrators have marched to the tower in the days following the election to protest Donald Trump’s policies, though that has died down. Residents of Trump Tower and shoppers have complained about checkpoints on the street where bodyguards, Secret Service, and police officers have been stationed.
One New Jersey woman trying to buy a purse at Gucci, which is inside Trump Tower and not far away from jeweler Tiffany, told the New York Times (paywall) that she “had to be questioned by three different police officers just to get into this store.” Some tourists tried to take selfies in front of the building. “I won’t tell you Gucci and Tiffany are my central concerns in life,” said New York mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference Nov. 16 after meeting with Trump,”but I will say the traffic situation is a very real problem and it is magnified of course, because we’re going into the holidays.”
New Yorkers are no stranger to gridlock caused by presidential visits. The annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly is no driver’s favorite. But Trump’s home sits on a main thoroughfare that could be even more disruptive. And it might only get worse.
Even as Trump prepares to move into a building without his name spelled out in gold letters over the door, the White House, he may end up spending a significant amount of time in his native New York City, a preference that would demand a heavy police and Secret Service presence in the already traffic-choked city.
While on the campaign trail, Trump eschewed unfamiliar hotels in small cities and towns to fly one of his planes home to sleep in his own bed in Trump Tower, according to several news reports. Sources told The New York Times (paywall) that Trump is discussing with his advisors how much time he will spend in Washington DC and how often he can come back to New York.
“Trump is a man who likes to be on the couch with a good cheeseburger and likes to watch TV—he’s a homebody,” his friend Roger Stone, a pro-Trump Super-PAC founder, once said.
But the road closures that are coming because of that habit couldn’t occur at a worse time of year; traffic is already expected to be at unbearable levels. Five million visitors swarm New York City between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, clogging Midtown near Trump Tower to take in tourist attractions that are holiday season favorites like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.
Pedestrian traffic at almost any time of year is heaviest in Midtown, with many of the tourists seemingly first-time walkers. One afternoon in May, from 4-7pm, 23,382 pedestrians choked the streets of Fifth Avenue in just one city block between 50th and 51st street, according to New York City government data. That’s a lot of people.
And Thanksgiving is still six days away.