The holiday season on Fifth Avenue conjures up images of fantastical window displays, a towering Christmas tree, bright lights and — this time around — very large guns.
That’s not to mention the added “bonus” of large stretches near Trump Tower closed to traffic and security checkpoints promising to make an always-crowded time of year even harder to navigate.
The chaos around the tower, with the street closures and pedestrian checkpoints, the glut of gawking tourists and frequent presence of protesters, has meant that stores adjacent to the building at 56th Street have seen their businesses suffer since President-elect Donald Trump won the office.
“There are some people that won’t even come to the area because they don’t want to get caught up in all of this,” said Tom Cusick, president of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District. “But there are probably more who come because they’re attracted to it.”
The crowds don’t seem to be shopping — Cusick said an “initial assessment” predicts a “potential loss of tens of millions of dollars for the season.”
In fact, Tiffany & Co. reported on Tuesday that the flagship store, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, has experienced a “sales softness” related to “recent election-related activity.” The jewelry company said in a statement detailing their third-quarter results that they cannot be sure that “sales in that store will not be negatively affected by this activity” in the future.
A spokesman for the jeweler said the store is working closely with the NYPD and U.S. Secret Service, and that customers can enter on 57th Street.
“Our iconic Fifth Avenue flagship store windows, which feature sparkling vignettes of New York City at the holidays, are now on display for all to see,” the spokesman said in an email. “Our façade has also been illuminated as planned.”
The same goes for Bergdorf Goodman, whose flagship store sits across the street.
“We are hopeful that a solution can be found to address the security concerns while allowing for New York residents and visitors to continue enjoying 5th Avenue, the country’s pre-eminent shopping district,” a spokeswoman for the store said in an email. “We were pleased to unveil our holiday windows without any issues, and we have not modified our hours of operation or our entrances.”
But Greenwich Village resident Gregg Dixon, 45, who was walking by Fifth Avenue one recent afternoon, said he will likely avoid the area in the future.
“I understand you have to protect the president, but this is pretty crazy,” Dixon said. “The area is a mess. It is pretty frustrating. I probably won’t shop here that often.”
The same goes for Diana Marini, 56, a financial adviser who lives in midtown.
“It is pretty hectic around here to begin with. Trump Tower makes things a lot harder,” she said. “I hope that it isn’t like this for the next four years. If I don’t need to be in the area, I won’t be coming around here.”
Upper West Side resident Christina Carter, 37, said she’s worried the holidays will make the area “ten times worse” than it already is.
“Fifth Avenue is usually a little congested around this time of year, but this is ridiculous. All of the cops, media and protesters make it hard to get around,” said Carter, who works as a paralegal. “I may need to shop somewhere else for the time being because this is too much.”
But several tourists shopping along Fifth Avenue weren’t bothered by the security, and some even said it made them feel safer.
Earlene Templeman, 78, was visiting the city from Virginia for three days and took the time to browse Tiffany & Co.
“It was more than we expected,” she said of the volume of officers around the area. “But it didn’t deter us at all. Nothing would keep us from coming.”
Kaisa Vuoria, 61, was visiting from Finland and went shopping at Tiffany with her daughter.
“It was a surprise, but understandable,” she said about the street closures. “It was not that big a deal.”
For Shira Shuster, 40, who was visiting from Israel, the added security blended into the background.
“I noticed a lot of cops but I didn’t know why,” said Shuster, who was shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch Co., before glancing across the street to Trump Tower. “I’m from Israel — security, you don’t see it. It’s like breathing air.”
On Wednesday, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will be lit, promising even more crowds will stop by to see the towering and iconic symbol of the season just a handful of blocks south of Trump Tower.
Starting at about 3 p.m., 48th, 49th, 50th and 51st streets, between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue, will be closed until the tree ceremony concludes, according to the NYPD.
A few blocks north, two of five lanes on Fifth Avenue are closed to traffic, as is East 56th Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues, police said. Trucks are diverted from Fifth Avenue, between West 60th and West 55th streets.
Foot traffic is largely diverted from Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower to across the street. Customers who wish to go into the tower or to nearby stores, like Gucci (which sits next door), are subject to being searched at the corner of East 56th Street.
Residents of the 263 apartments in Trump Tower enter the building on East 56th Street.
Armed police stood in front of the gold-hued entrance to Trump Tower one recent day as media lined up with cameras across the street. Several protesters marched around the sidewalk chanting “not my president,” with several people stopping to take photos of either the building itself or its next-door neighbor, Tiffany & Co. Several more police officers are stationed at each corner of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets.
Since the election, an additional 50 traffic agents and police officers have been positioned at Trump Tower, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Cusick said that traffic flowed relatively better over Thanksgiving when Trump decamped to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, but it’s too soon to predict how the next four years will go.
“It was almost normal,” he said about Trump’s absence from the city. “But in between there have been ups and downs. It’s hard to summarize it, we’re only two weeks into this.
“This is a week-to-week reality of how things unfold,” he added.
(With Nicole Brown, Nicholas Morales, Bazona Bado and Ivan Pereira)