The trump tower tangle

| 30 Nov 2016 | 12:51

The city and its inhabitants have changed in innumerable ways since overnight on Nov. 9.

Politically and psychically, certainly. But also materially.

Nowhere is this more apparent than along Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets, the home and now transition headquarters of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

And, in about eight weeks, following Inauguration Day, a good portion of the 58-story glass tower with a jagged façade could be serving as a de facto White House for significant portions of the year.

For now, the busy boulevard, as well as 57th Street, in the vicinity of the tower will stay open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, city Police Commissioner Jim O’Neill said. But that could all change, he said.

For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who met with Trump on Nov. 16, said he discussed with the president-elect the multitude of concerns residents have expressed at protests, rallies, online and with each other since Election Day. Hate crimes, the Affordable Care Act and financial insecurity were just a few of the issues the mayor said he touched on. But the core of his exchange, de Blasio said, was New York City itself.

“My essential message to him was to remember where you come from,” the mayor said. “I hope he remembers every day what he saw over all those years in the city and doesn’t lose track of the very things that allowed him and countless others an opportunity — this place that is open to all, that believes in opportunity for all.”

WHITE HOUSE NORTHSince the election, Trump Tower and Fifth Avenue have become synonymous with metal grates, scores of police and Secret Service personnel, and protests. Security around Trump Tower encompasses at least two blocks in each direction on 57th Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue. The precautions have gridlocked the area.

“It’s a nightmare,” said a manager of a nearby residential complex, who declined to give his name. “It takes an average of 30 minutes to get from here [54th Street] to the corner [53rd Street]. Driving here has become impossible.”

Metal barriers close off the sidewalk in front of the building between 56th and 57th Streets completely. Pedestrians must request access through an NYPD officer in order to enter stores such as Gucci and Tiffany & Co. that are within the immediate vicinity of the President-elect’s 68-story home tower. Stationed in front of the building are two groups of three or more police officers on either entrance, a couple of whom carry machine guns.

Inside, visitors are required to place any bags or personal items through one of two metal detector belts, akin to airport TSA security. Past the checkpoints, guests are free to wander and shop around the marble atrium and multiple floors, each with roaming NYPD officers and Trump Tower employees wearing pins that say “Trump.”

The extensive security measures have caused concerns over how to keep pedestrian and vehicle traffic moving. Officers are stationed on each street corner to hurry along the gawkers and shoppers taking photos of the congested area. Inside Trump Tower, vendors at Starbucks and Trump Ice Cream Parlor said they were instructed not to comment on how the barricades have affected their business.

Additional traffic will likely come soon with the holiday season, other employees of neighborhood apartment buildings said, noting the Rockefeller Christmas tree and Radio City Music Hall shows.

“It’s not a residential neighborhood anymore. It’s a commercial neighborhood,” said a doorman on 54th Street, who did not want not to be identified. “It’s just way too much traffic. Totally different than when we got here 20 years ago.”

FIFTH AVENUE PHALANXTrump Tower saw protesters, signs and rallies every single week since Election Day, and the momentum from activists continues, with demonstrations likely to keep developing well into Trump’s administration.

Since Nov. 9, some groups have marched right up to the Fifth Avenue building while other scheduled demonstrators met to protest there. For now, those gatherings will be allowed to continue.

“Protesting is a Constitutional right that is afforded to all Americans,” the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information said in an email in response to a request for comment on the police’s perspective on protesters.

But that could change, with the security cordon possibly extending away from the building.

Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel said that people have a right to protest on sidewalks — which are considered public spaces — as long as they take up less than 50 percent of the walkway and that they do not block the entrance of where they protested.

“Police do have the discretion to determine for security reasons — in this case, probably national security reasons since he’s the president-elect — they might say that you can’t protest on the public sidewalk adjacent to Trump Tower,” Siegel said. “Generally what they do with a president in a hotel is that they put their demonstrators across the street. You can’t be on 57th and 56th on the sidewalk of the east side, but you can be on the west side.”

He said that this partitioned area is called a reasonable alternative and that the new protesting parameters at Trump Tower align with the requirement that any new location must be within sight and sound of what people are protesting.

When Queens Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer lead a march across the Queensboro Bridge to Trump Tower on Nov. 19, the group was put into this location, and Arielle Swernoff, the councilman’s communication director, said that the team notified the NYPD of their planned trek.

“We marched from Queens to Trump Tower on sidewalks and on pedestrian walkways,” Swernoff said. “The NYPD was able to escort the march for part of the way and for crowd control purposes.”

Human Rights Campaign field operations member Jemima McEvoy attended multiple rallies at Trump Tower — one before and one after Election Day — and said that the crowd control at the two events contrasted greatly.

“During the first protest, they had designated areas where the NYPD was trying to get the protestors to stand, and they were trying to keep the sidewalks open for pedestrians,” McEvoy said. “At the second one, things got so out of control that the NYPD no longer had the authority to tell people to get off the roads and sidewalks — it was just anarchy outside the Trump Tower.”

McEvoy, who campaigns against police brutality, said that the recent law enforcement increase at Trump Tower makes her nervous to protest there.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATIONWill the location of Trump’s residence at Trump Tower affect real estate values and sales in the area?

Broker Ellen Sykes of Corcoran on the East Side says it’s too early to speculate. “The selling season doesn’t really start until January and February. We have no way of knowing until the next couple of months. He’s not even inaugurated yet.”

But as far as getting around the increasingly congested area and police barriers, Sykes says, “I know I’ll be taking the subway.”

Rick Wohlforth of Wohfarth & Associates, a boutique real estate brokerage firm, says Trump’s “second White House area” will lead some prospective buyers to second-guess the market, but he believes values won’t be affected very much.

But even before the election, Wohlforth notes, there was “tremendous softening in the upper end in the marketplace … for apartments in the three million range and above.” This past year, he says, these apartments have been sitting longer than usual on the market, and this will “add softness in that area.”

Klara Madlin, of Klara Madlin Real Estate, says for those living right in Trump Tower, with the traffic, the cops and security, “it’ll be terrible.” Her office is a block away, so she knows.

Trump Tower is “a big building and there are always a lot of those apartments on the market,” Madlin says. “But one can’t even get close to view it, and the thought of going into that building for the next four years is daunting in the least. People are staying away from Trump Tower.”

As for other buildings, Madlin says, unless they’re “right close by,” they won’t be affected. “New York, it’s all local. Go a couple of blocks away, if you’re thinking of purchasing a property in the area, it’s not going to affect the market very much.”

Madeleine Thompson contributed to this story.