You would hardly notice the two marchers taking a quiet walk up and down Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower carrying paper signs like “A Travel Ban Isn’t Going to Keep You Safe.”
It was part of a thrice-weekly “#lunchtime_resistance” that the two have been carrying out for months to protest President Donald Trump, said Veronica, 56, who declined to give her last name due to her job in nearby corporate America. But these days there is “less activity” at the tower than at the beginning of the administration, she said.
Now, the protest presence was typically down to them and an anti-Trump button salesman on the west side of the street.
Trump Tower was a media zoo between election and inauguration, when Trump and his bona fide family were still living there and prospective advisers were cattle-prodded in and out of the golden elevators. Protesters chanted and held signs while reporters waited for glimpses of the next cabinet secretaries or Kanye West in the atrium. The property was heavily guarded during that period by a reported high of 200 NYPD officers, whose police protection cost some $24 million, which New York City is hoping will be reimbursed from approved federal funding.
But the chaos has changed. The police presence has shrunk and summer — or maybe a sense of protest fatigue — means Trump Tower is a quieter but still peculiar scene of pilgrimage for tourists from the right and left alike.
Settling into a routine
After the election there were some back-of-mind worries around New York that the state of chaos around the tower’s Fifth Avenue perch would become permanent, particularly if Trump returned frequently to his old digs.
But that didn’t end up being the case. Many of the street closure barriers have been removed and the first family’s June departure has led to a smaller police detail on hand.
On a visit last week, two NYPD officers stood outside the tower with heavy weaponry but pedestrians were able to pass by or into the building mostly unimpeded.
“It’s all gold and bling,” marveled Robert Lodewijks, 49, visiting from the Netherlands. “Nothing presidential.” He snapped a picture to show his young son back home.
Across Fifth Avenue, Michael Foti, 37, had set up a cardboard sign referring to his life on the street: “I must be invisible.” Foti said he had been homeless for over a year and used to sit asking for change in front of Bergdorf Goodman a few blocks north. He changed locations after the election after noticing the better traffic in front of the Tower.
When the skyscraper still housed Trump, TV cameras lined the west side of the street and cops would move Foti along after half an hour or so. Now, he is largely left alone. He occupies prime real estate to take pictures of the Trump Tower sign, so all day long amateur photographers physically lean over him for the snap. Some drop a dollar in his cup.
These days, Foti says, the Trump Tower crowds seem more composed of tourists “in awe” at the sight as opposed to angry. “Now they stop and look at it like it’s the Statue of Liberty,” he said.
Though the free Trump Tower bathrooms are good, Foti says he has never entered, opting to walk a few blocks away to a nearby Morton Williams supermarket where the staff gives him cups of coffee. No side-eye about the bookbag and his appearance.
Visit public space or the gift shop
At the height of the security lockdown, it was hard to remember that Trump Tower’s atrium is supposed to be open to the public. Even earlier, Trump had been fined by the city for removing a bench that was part of the building’s public space, a requirement that allowed Trump to build higher than zoning allowed.
Yet with fewer high-profile visitors, the area around the elevators is no longer cordoned off, and there appear to be fewer law enforcement officials posted watchfully along the atrium walls now that the president’s wife and son aren’t living above.
Their departure didn’t entirely empty the skyscraper of notables, however. The Thomas family, for example, explained that they had snapped pictures with Donald Trump Jr. at the Trump Grill that afternoon.
Kimberly Thomas, 49, said they had come from Florida to visit her mother-in-law Ginnie in New Jersey. Ginnie announced an unspecified destination for lunch. It turned out to be Trump Tower, a happy visit for Kimberly and her husband who had thought Trump would win before the “fake news liberal media” paid attention to him. She put on a nice necklace and by the end of the afternoon, had a “Trump Store” sticker to pair it with, just one of the takeaways available for visitors to the Fifth Avenue destination.