Trump and the UN: Gridlock
It is impossible to get within a block of Trump Tower. Pedestrians are not permitted to walk on either side of 5th Avenue between 57th and 56th streets.
The same holds true for the United Nations--no pedestrian traffic on 1st Avenue between 42nd and 48th streets. Today kicks off the start of the annual United Nations General Assembly week. Trump delivers his highly anticipated speak tomorrow, with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani giving a major address on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, the barricades started to appear. Today, seven or eight blocks of 2nd Avenue are lined with metal barricades. The cross street entrances are filled with gigantic white cement blocks and other barriers designed to foil attempts by speeding suicide bombers. NYPD officers, Secret Service agents, and other security personnel are on every corner in mid-town. Traffic is moving, but just barely. Signs of gridlock are evident, particularly as the day progresses.
Cars and buses can still drive down the 5th Avenue in front of Trump Tower, but the absence of the normally heavy traffic volume is an indication that motorists are avoiding potential headaches. White dump trucks line 5th Avenue between 57th and 55th streets. Police dogs inspect any vehicle that attempts to turn left onto 56th street from Madison Avenue. It is here that Trump apparently departs his lair. A white tent provides cover at the south entrance of Trump Tower. There is a portable police station on 56th street at its intersection with Madison Avenue, with a metal barrier gate that has "STOP" painted across its front.
Over the course of the day, I see no signs of Trump. Nor, much to my surprise, do I see any demonstrators, with the exception of about 20 or so Iranian dissidents posted on a street corner close to the UN. They are protesting Iranian oppression. I also see the remnants of a Chinese protest group.
There must have been a weekend sale on black Chevy Suburbans, which is clearly the vehicle of choice. The Cadillac Escalade may be more upscale, but the Suburban apparently is more secure. There must be hundreds of them in mid-town, many parked in front of hotels and expensive eateries. Standing outside waiting for the diplomats are short-necked men in light gray suits, often with ear pieces.
By mid-afternoon, I am on 6th Avenue at 55th street, which is lined with metal barricades for what seem like blocks. Pedestrians are not permitted to cross 55th street, with metal barricades and police officers enforcing the mandate handed down from high. A rumor circulates that Trump's motorcade will be passing by. I change lenses (wider), put a fresh battery in the camera, check the capacity of my SD card, and take a few test shots for exposure. I will get three or four attempts at a photograph before Trump is out of sight. I wait for 20 minutes. All of a sudden, the barriers are removed, and pedestrian traffic begins to flow across 55th street. Was this location a decoy, or was there a change of plans? I will never know.
General Assembly Week may have once been a week of celebration. Not anymore. Gloom and doom hang in the air, particularly with the grey skies overhead and the threat of showers. This is not a happy time.
Post Script (September 20, 2017). I learn later that there was an anti-Trump protest in Times Square. According to newspaper reports, it was uneventful. On Wednesday, three members of Congress were arrested outside Trump Tower when they sat down to block traffic as part of a DACA protest. I was already back in Chicago. Too bad.
The stench of sulfur and the clouds of smoke fill the air (at least in my mind), as I approach the 9th ring of Dante's Inferno (Trump Tower).
New York City dump trumps line 5th Avenue between 57th and 55th streets, a strip that includes Trump Tower. Given that Trump has spent the last eight months taking a dump on the world, dump trucks are an appropriate security barrier.
Police vans line the west side of 5th Avenue. A black police car rolls down the largely empty street, as several blue-slickered police offices cross 5th Avenue to join their compatriots in front of Trump Tower. At each corner, police are posted to stop pedestrians from accessing the block in front of Trump Tower. The only people in sight are to my left, out of the camera's view: The television press pool has cameras posted across from the 5th Avenue entrance to Trump Tower.
The corner of Madison Avenue and 56th street. This apparently appears to be the route that Trump takes in and out of Trump Tower. Presumably he enters the limousine through the white tent that would block onlookers from seeing Trump and his entourage. Out of the camera's view is the holding pen for vehicles that are given access to Trump Tower. Several security officials wait, with a bomb stiffing dog ready to do its duty.
Before proceeding, vehicles turning left from Madison Avenue to 56th street must undergo a search. A bomb sniffing dog is part of the search team.
With all the police surrounding the entrance to Trump Tower, it is impossible to tell whether this glamouous woman was coming from Trump Tower. She wasn't coming from Tiffany, which is just north of Trump Tower. Access to Tiffany is through the 57th street entrance. It is also unlikely that she had just had a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on the second floor of Trump Tower. She might live in one of the condominiums in Trump Tower.
Trump was probably in the United Nations when I took this photograph. This was about as close as I could get to the UN. I actually made it to the corner, but this location provided a better vantage point. I wanted to take the stairs to my right up to Tudor City, but they were closed.
A group of NYPD officers assemble on 2nd Avenue. Today, if you are mugged in Greenwich Village or Harlem, you are on your own. Mid-town is filled with thousands of police officers.