NEW YORK – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may be promising rapid economic growth, but there’s one place where business has come to a near standstill – the area around Trump Tower in Manhattan, one of the priciest pieces of real estate in the world.
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Since his election, the streets around the edifice have been blocked off, while car and foot traffic has been either restricted or banned altogether.
Meanwhile, crowds of onlookers, protesters and journalists from around the world have been gathering; the cliché is true: The place where Trump has his $90-million penthouse has taken on a circus atmosphere. If you want your five seconds of fame, just come on down to Trump Tower and you’ll find a television crew that wants to interview you.
Before last week anyway, this area boasted some of the world’s most expensive real estate. A few deals this year bear this out: The luxury jewelry company Bulgari paid a world-record $16 million for its store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street – about $5,500 per square foot.
But with the post-election chaos in the area, a number of luxury businesses have been hard hit. Worst off are Gucci and Tiffany’s, the two stores whose entrances abut Trump Tower’s entrance.
Other brands have also paid huge sums to sell their products here. Microsoft paid $17 million (around $3,400 per square foot) for the building that houses its flagship store. Victoria’s Secret paid $34 million for a big store nearby – a bargain at $3,600 per square foot.
The street leading to Trump Tower’s residential section has been closed to cars and pedestrians; only guests and residents of the building or adjacent buildings may enter.
But if you feel you simply must get in – provided you’re not afraid of the counterterrorism cops and their dogs – all you need to do is say you’ve come to do some shopping at Tiffany’s or Gucci. The tough guys will grudgingly let you in.
That’s how I got into Tiffany’s. The store was practically deserted and the employees said they didn’t know what was going to happen – the Christmas shopping season has begun and normally the place would be bustling.
At the public-commercial part of Trump Tower, the magic word with the counterterrorism cops is “Starbucks.” But even Starbucks is much emptier than usual.
Yes, it’s pretty sad these days inside Trump Tower. You’ll see television crews that obtained special permission to aim their cameras at the elevators should the president-elect emerge, but few other souls. I have no desire to return there anytime soon.
I didn’t even try to get into the flagship Gucci store. Finding yourself in a sterile, or somewhat sterile, zone doesn’t exactly put you in a buying mood.
Salespeople at Prada across the street say customers aren’t coming. Lots of folks are crowding Fifth Avenue for a glimpse of the tower and the action, but these aren’t the 1 percent who’d normally show up to buy a sweater.
None of this is going to help the value of the apartments in the building, which currently range from $5 million to 10 million. The average monthly rent there is $10,000 to $15,000, but who wants to live in a potential terrorist target where you have to endure constant security checks?
Rumor has it that someone bought an apartment in Trump Tower for $12 million just a few days before the election. Makes you wonder who that person voted for.
The president-elect reportedly plans to spend weekends at the fortress rather than at the White House, so expect more chaos in mid-Manhattan over the next four years.