Trump Tower, once a tourist attraction, now restricted from ground to sky

A New York City Police (NYPD) car is parked outside the security perimeter for the Trump Tower following President-elect Donald Trump's election victory, in New York City, US, on Nov 10, 2016.
A New York City Police (NYPD) car is parked outside the security perimeter for the Trump Tower following President-elect Donald Trump's election victory, in New York City, US, on Nov 10, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES)- New York City has gained a native son in the presidency and lost one of its busiest crossroads in the bargain.

Fifth Avenue and 56th Street in Manhattan, the intersection in front of Trump Tower, where President-elect Donald Trump lives, is now restricted by portable roadblocks, concrete barriers, metal barricades and a lot of police officers, some in formidable tactical gear.

Even the skies above Trump Tower are restricted, having been declared "national defense airspace" on Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration. "The United States government may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft, if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent threat," the agency warned in its notice to pilots.

That restriction is to be lifted Jan. 21, the day after Trump moves from 725 Fifth Ave. to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Since the government is just now calibrating its response to the unexpected emergence of a 58-story White House in Midtown Manhattan, there is no way of telling exactly how long the current street-level restrictions will be in place, though it is safe to generalize that even temporary barriers have a way of becoming permanent.

"We're talking about the next few months and then Donald Trump is going to be living in the White House," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. "In the meantime, the NYPD, working with the Secret Service, have created a very strong security plan.

"Yeah, there will be some disruption," he continued, "but look at the bright side: The holidays are coming anyway. Midtown is going to be all messed up anyway."

Asked at a news conference whether anti-Trump demonstrations like the one Wednesday night might be pushed into Central Park, de Blasio, a Democrat, said, "There is a clear tradition in this country that we try to accommodate protests as close to the point that people are protesting."

The mayor added: "When they come to city hall to protest - even though I don't like what they say all the time - we don't say: 'Nope, sorry, you've got to be over by the river.' It's an American tradition. It's a good one."

A protective barrier of Sanitation Department trucks are parked in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue to provide security to US President-elect Donald Trump on Nov 10, 2016. PHOTO: AFP 

On Thursday morning, vehicles flowed down Fifth Avenue (as much as they can ever be said to flow down Fifth Avenue). But the east sidewalk was closed between 56th and 57th Streets. That isolated the main entrance of Tiffany & Co., under the 9-foot Atlas clock.

Tiffany's is open for business and keeping regular hours, a spokesman for the store said. Customers can use the 57th Street entrance. On Thursday, at least, they were also able to exit through the Fifth Avenue doors, though some looked disoriented to find almost no one else on the normally bustling sidewalk outside.

The Atrium at Trump Tower - home of the Trump Bar, the Trump Grill, Trump Cafe, Trump's Ice Cream Parlor, the Trump Store and Trump Events - is also open to the public. But on Thursday, it took some determination even to get there. Obliging police officers let a few pedestrians past the 57th Street checkpoint.

Though the sidewalk on the west side of Fifth Avenue was open, it felt like a cattle chute. An impromptu press pen squeezed passers-by. Construction hoardings worsened the choke point. Even on a beautiful day in late autumn, tempers seemed to be set at mid-August levels, as impatient New Yorkers tried to squeeze past selfie-snapping tourists.

"He's going to make more jobs," one woman exclaimed to a man whose political path she had apparently crossed.

"The economy's going to be flying. You should open up your mind."

Tall black screens - the better to obscure Trump's comings and goings from public view - flanked the residential entrance to Trump Tower on East 56th Street. The entire street, between Fifth and Madison avenues, was closed to pedestrians and vehicles.

That has left Oxxford Clothes landlocked. But Tashae Lodi, a salesman, said the police had been cooperative in allowing Oxxford customers, typically well-dressed men in their 40s and 50s, to pass through the checkpoint.

West 56th Street was blocked to traffic at Fifth Avenue. A mobile police command post blocked some of the windows at Harry Winston.

Ripples from the Trump Tower security measure could be felt on East 55th Street, where concrete barriers now guard the south entrance to the former Sony Plaza arcade, presumably to prevent an explosive-laden vehicle from careering through the arcade toward Trump Tower.

What would happen if Trump decided to forsake the White House and remain ensconced in his much more ornate New York home?

"I think it would be untenable, given modern security realities and the need to govern," de Blasio said. "It's not about how I feel. I just don't think it would be workable."