They come even in his absence, leaning against the metal barriers that line Fifth Avenue, posing for selfies and group photos or just gazing up at the soaring black tower that is home to Donald J. Trump, the president-elect of the United States.
On a recent evening, with Mr. Trump out of town for a victory lap in Indiana and Ohio, a stream of tourists from around the world paused to take in the Midtown Manhattan building emblazoned with his name. A man hawking political buttons exclaimed, “It’s a feeding frenzy!” Sarah Britcher, a teacher from West Virginia, said she and her friends had been shopping in the area and made a point of stopping by Trump Tower.
“It seems like a more important building than it was before,” Ms. Britcher, 29, said. “We just wanted to make sure we could pass by and see it.” Another passer-by fumed to her companion, “I wish I could throw something at it.”
Mr. Trump has long been an intermittent source of irritation for New Yorkers, from his days as a tabloid exhibitionist to the long months of the 2016 campaign. But that clash has reached a new and potentially explosive phase since Nov. 8, as he has transformed his signature building — home to his penthouse apartment and business headquarters, and previously his campaign office — into a base of operations for his frenzied presidential transition.
By signaling that he plans to keep a presence in New York after taking office in January, Mr. Trump, a Republican, has animated a confrontation unlike any in modern American politics: between a president who clings to his hometown and yearns for its affection, and a city that wishes he would simply disappear.
Already, the measures to protect Mr. Trump when he is in his skyscraper have created friction between the president-elect and New York City, which is projected to spend $35 million on securing Trump Tower before Inauguration Day, according to city officials.
“It’s almost like a pope in residence,” said Michael A.L. Balboni, a Republican who was once a state legislator and served as New York State’s top homeland security official.
Security costs are only the beginning of Mr. Trump’s showdown with the city. Unlike a typical president (or a pope), Mr. Trump is no local hero in the town that made him famous. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, defeated him here by huge margins, winning every borough except Staten Island. His fellow residents of Manhattan rejected him even in the Republican primary, with a plurality in the borough voting instead for Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, an underdog in the race.
Now that Mr. Trump has won, his continuing presence feels to many New Yorkers less like a source of pride than an open wound. While the president-elect has held court in his tower, receiving foreign dignitaries and candidates for his cabinet, New York’s political leaders have raged against him and vowed to obstruct his agenda. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and members of Congress have traveled to the doorstep of Trump Tower to publicly chastise its most famous resident.
In the heat of the presidential race, Democrats in the state and city legislatures sought to remove Mr. Trump’s name from a state park and void his contracts with the city. They failed, but since Election Day, three apartment buildings on the West Side of Manhattan have taken down Mr. Trump’s name from their entrances after hundreds of tenants supported a petition to efface his brand from the developments.
New York has never before given the nation a president so disliked by its own voters. The last New York native to have won the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt, earned a festive serenade from throngs of his neighbors in Hyde Park in 1940 to celebrate his historic re-election to a third term. In contrast, Mr. Trump’s victory touched off days of angry protests in Midtown, where demonstrators chanted, “New York hates Trump.”
There is no direct analogy for the discord between the president-elect and his hometown. For decades, American presidents have been revered in their home states during their terms: President Obama remained popular in Illinois, most of all in Chicago, regardless of his national approval ratings. George W. Bush was warmly welcomed in Texas throughout his turbulent presidency.
Presidents have often established seasonal refuges or favorite vacation destinations: Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex., for example, where he spent summer months, or the California retreats of Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Should Mr. Trump make frequent use of Mar-a-Lago, his estate and private club in Palm Beach, Fla., he might find a kind of precedent in Harry S. Truman’s so-called Little White House in Key West, Fla.
But no president has made a practice of taking long and frequent personal trips from the White House to a major urban area, let alone the country’s largest city. And none has tried the kind of commuter relationship with the Oval Office that Mr. Trump’s critics fear he may pursue.
The only plausible American comparison, historians say, might be the last New York tycoon to hold national office: Nelson A. Rockefeller, who as the appointed vice president under Gerald R. Ford preferred to spend weekends in New York with his wife, Happy, and two young sons.
Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian and Rockefeller biographer, said that unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Rockefeller rarely stayed at his Fifth Avenue penthouse, preferring his Westchester County estate. And Mr. Rockefeller could travel more discreetly in that era, Mr. Smith said, with a far less disruptive security detail than is required of presidents and vice presidents today.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, plainly “doesn’t seem to mind generating chaos or tumult,” Mr. Smith said. The notion of a president opting to avoid the White House, he added, was highly unusual.
“Most of these guys spend their lives turning themselves, and their families and what passes for normal conventional life, inside out in an effort to live in that house,” Mr. Smith said.
Yet Mr. Trump has not the slightest intention of moving out of Trump Tower as president, his associates say, or of shedding his political identity as a New Yorker. Whatever New Yorkers may think of him, his supporters around the country admire his self-developed image as an embodiment of the city’s ambition, wealth and power. No property conveys that impression more forcefully than Trump Tower.
In its insular luxury and regal spectacle, Mr. Trump’s Manhattan residence may function more like the favorite castle of a European monarch than a typical presidential redoubt: at first a private getaway for the king, but eventually a de facto seat of government, like the palace at Versailles. In the absence of any American forebear, the building has also drawn comparisons from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy.
“Tolkien would appreciate the spectacle of a head of state with his own tower named after him,” Dan McLaughlin, a conservative columnist and lawyer based in New York, wrote on Twitter last month, alluding to the fortresses housing sinister wizards in “The Lord of the Rings.”
No final decisions have been made about how Mr. Trump will divide his time after taking office, but he has conferred with friends and advisers about how often he might return to his apartment in Manhattan and visit his other properties, especially Mar-a-Lago and his country club in Bedminster, N.J.
Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, are expected to stay in New York for a time, allowing Mr. Trump’s youngest child to continue in his current school — and most likely intensifying the city’s hold over the new commander in chief.
Moreover, Mr. Trump, who weighed campaigns for mayor and governor long before running for president, still nurtures hopes of winning New York in a future election. Even at his moment of triumph on the night of the election, he expressed disappointment to associates that he did not take New York — he lost the state by 20 percentage points — and he has recently told Republicans that he hopes to win here in 2020.
John Jay LaValle, the chairman of the Republican Party in Suffolk County, posted a video on his Facebook page from Mr. Trump’s victory celebration on Nov. 8 that seemed to capture the president-elect’s fixation on his home state.
As Mr. LaValle calls out to Mr. Trump, addressing him as “Mr. President,” Mr. Trump grins widely — but only briefly. He points at Mr. LaValle and ruefully observes, “We didn’t win New York.”
Mr. LaValle, a frequent defender of Mr. Trump on cable news shows, said Trump allies had every expectation that he would maintain a robust presence in the city. The president-elect’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, who are among his closest advisers, are expected to continue living in New York, and Mr. Trump’s real estate business, from which he has not severed his financial ties, is housed in the same building as his apartment. (His daughter Ivanka may move to Washington or split her time between the cities.)
“He’s going to have a pretty strong presence in New York as well as Washington, D.C.,” Mr. LaValle said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe there’ll be a White House North.”
| Controlled Mayhem Upper Manhattan traffic, it takes smarts |
from all and patience, which in NYC is a rare commodity
To Mr. Trump’s local critics, unreasonable isn’t the half of it. They view the prospect of his frequent visits with undisguised horror, for reasons that run from the symbolic to the logistical and financial. They envision capricious tunnel closings and traffic restrictions to facilitate his movement around town, parade routes sealed off to accommodate the Secret Service and raucous demonstrations rocking Manhattan routinely for four or eight years.
Over the past month, Mr. de Blasio and members of the City Council have complained about the burden of securing Mr. Trump’s residence, and demanded that the federal government reimburse New York for the projected $35 million in costs. (Congressional Republicans have offered a fraction of that, $7 million, to help the city.) The mayor suggested on Monday that it would be better for Mr. Trump to spend time at “that beautiful golf course in New Jersey.”
The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, said that she considered New York to be “in crisis mode” after Mr. Trump’s election, and that she was bracing for a federal assault on the city’s policy priorities, including immigration, criminal justice reform and the environment. “We have to defend everything, on all fronts,” she said.
And Ms. Mark-Viverito bristled at Mr. Trump’s plans to occupy a stretch of Fifth Avenue while in office. “I find it insulting,” she said, “that this president is going to be treating this job as a part-time situation, that he can come home on weekends.”
As a practical matter, Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president and a Democrat, said it would be best for Mr. Trump to vacate his current residence, calling the disruption “unprecedented.”
“There’s never been a president who lived in a building with a whole lot of other people, in the middle of a city of eight and a half million, on an incredibly busy street,” Ms. Brewer said. “It does seem to me that the family should move to Washington as soon as possible. There are very good private schools there.”
Failing that, she suggested, Mr. Trump might ease the tensions between him and the community by offering a gentler and more considerate public persona, and by acknowledging that he is aware of the extreme inconvenience. “It would be different for him to apologize to New Yorkers, explain why he’s coming back and forth and what the situation is,” she said.
Security experts say, too, that the threat New York must now address extends beyond Mr. Trump’s best-known property to more than a dozen proudly branded structures around the city. Mr. Balboni, the former state homeland security official, cautioned that for homegrown terrorists seeking to attack “something that is near and close by,” Mr. Trump’s less-guarded real estate assets would be inviting targets for violence and mayhem.
Mr. Trump’s other properties lack the overwhelming protective measures of his primary residence. While Fifth Avenue swarmed with armed guards even during Mr. Trump’s trip to the Midwest, there were no police officers, or any other evident security measures, visible at a Trump-connected apartment building a few blocks away on Central Park South. And though he does not actually own all of the properties on which his name appears, Trump-branded buildings dot the city, including an office tower on Wall Street and a hotel in Columbus Circle.
Mr. Trump seems to be aware of the cooperation he will need from at least some city and state officials to function in New York or to govern as president. So he has taken a few fitful steps to improve relations with prominent residents. He has praised Senator Chuck Schumer, the incoming Democratic minority leader, and agreed to reappoint Preet Bharara, a former adviser to Mr. Schumer, as the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Trump has made other sporadic gestures of reconciliation, meeting with Mr. de Blasio (they kept the details of their conversation confidential) and placing an unexpected phone call to the Rev. Al Sharpton, a periodic Trump antagonist for decades. And the president-elect spoke at length with former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a political independent who criticized Mr. Trump sharply during the campaign.
To the extent that Mr. Trump wants to woo New York’s elite to the White House, he will soon have the ceremonial instruments of the presidency at his disposal: invitations to state dinners and holiday parties, embassy postings and appointments to various résumé-enhancing government boards. In early December, he formed an august-sounding advisory panel — the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum — and named Stephen A. Schwarzman, the billionaire New York financier and Republican-leaning political donor, to lead it.
But Mr. Trump has also repeatedly lashed out since the election at New Yorkers who have crossed him, raging on Twitter against protesters in the streets and, more recently, singling out Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on “Saturday Night Live,” which broadcasts a few blocks from his apartment. The president-elect also attacked the cast of “Hamilton” for delivering a statement after a performance to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience.
Edward F. Cox, the chairman of the state Republican Party and a supporter of Mr. Trump, said the president-elect nurtured a deep desire to win New York in an election, though it has not voted Republican in a presidential race since Reagan’s 49-state landslide in 1984. “He was always telling me: ‘We’re going to win New York,’” Mr. Cox said. “He would love to win New York; there’s no doubt about it.”
That appears unlikely, given the furious backlash against Mr. Trump’s election this year. State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, a Democrat who led an effort to remove Mr. Trump’s name from a small state park just outside the city, said he held two town-hall-style meetings in November that were flooded with people asking how to “save the republic” from Mr. Trump.
Still, Mr. Squadron, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, allowed that Mr. Trump, as president-elect, might have a bit of leeway to change people’s minds. For now, Mr. Squadron said he would not reintroduce legislation to rename Donald J. Trump State Park and would “give him the opportunity to govern.”
Mr. Squadron did not rule out reviving the bill, though, depending on how Mr. Trump handled himself in office.
“Simply being a New Yorker and president,” he warned, “does not mean that New York will be proud of you.”