High above, somewhere behind the black glass facade, President-elect Donald J. Trump was huddled with his inner circle, plotting just how they would “drain the swamp” and remake Washington, perhaps the world. On the street far below, inside a warren of metal fencing surrounded by hefty concrete barriers with “NYPD” emblazoned on them, two middle-aged women were engaged in a signage skirmish. One held aloft a battered poster that read “Love Trumps Hate”; just a few feet away, the other brandished a smaller slice of cardboard that said “Get Over It.”
I was somewhere in between… and the Secret Service seemed a little unnerved.
Trump Tower is many things—the crown-jewel skyscraper in Donald Trump’s real-estate empire, the site of the Trump Organization’s corporate offices, a long-time setting for his reality-television show, The Apprentice, and now, as The New York Times describes it, “a 58-story White House in Midtown Manhattan.” It is also, as noted above its front entrance: “OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 8 AM to 10 PM.”
When planning for the tower began in the late 1970s, Trump—like other developers of the era—struck a deal with the city of New York. In order to add extra floors to the building, he agreed to provide amenities for the public, including access to restrooms, an atrium, and two upper-level gardens.
When I arrived at Trump Tower, less than a week after Election Day, the fourth-floor garden was roped off, so I proceeded up the glass escalator, made a right, and headed through a door into an outdoor pocket park on the fifth-floor terrace. Just as I entered, a group of Japanese tourists was leaving and, suddenly, I was alone, a solitary figure in a secluded urban oasis.
But not for long.
Taking a seat on a silver aluminum chair at a matching table, I listened closely. It had been a zoo down on Fifth Avenue just minutes before: demonstrators chanting “love trumps hate,” Trump supporters shouting back, traffic noise echoing in the urban canyon, the “whooooop” of police sirens, and a bikini-clad woman in body paint singing in front of the main entrance. And yet in this rectangular roof garden, so near to America’s new White House in waiting, all was placid and peaceful. There was no hint of the tourist-powered tumult below or of the potentially world-altering political machinations above, just the unrelenting white-noise hum of the HVAC system.
On His Majesty’s Secret Service
The Stars and Stripes flies above the actual White House in Washington, DC. Inside the Oval Office, it’s joined by another flag—the seal of the president of the United States emblazoned on a dark blue field. Here, however, Old Glory flies side by side with slightly tattered black-and-silver Nike swoosh flags waving lazily above the tony storefronts—Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, Burberry and Chanel—of Manhattan’s 57th Street, and, of course, Trump Tower tenant Niketown.