Trump Tower security: US President’s neighbours subjected to ‘living hell’
Wednesday - 03/04/2019 11:17
Trump Tower was once one of the most prestigious pieces of real estate on the planet. But ever since its owner and occupant became US president, life for some residents has become “hell”.
A car breaks down on a busy street corner in New York City and is immediately flanked by police armed with machine guns who order the driver and passenger out of the vehicle.
The two male occupants oblige before they’re patted down and questioned by authorities who want to know why they’ve come to a sudden halt directly opposite Trump Tower.
It’s a seemingly peaceful, spring day in March, but police are taking no chances and thoroughly inspect the car.
One of the officers shines his torch into the dark depths of the engine and leans in close. The other rummages through the boot. The men are soon given the all clear.
But for those who live inside Trump Tower, on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, it’s not an unusual sight because their neighbour is one of the world’s most powerful — and targeted — individuals.
US President Donald Trump’s private residence is a lavish, marbled triplex penthouse situated above apartments and offices over a retail mall that boasts upscale retails stores, including Gucci, and fine dining restaurants.
While Mr Trump and his family are now based at the White House in Washington DC, they often return to the apartment. A lot has changed for the billionaire in recent years, but his status as leader of the free world has also had a significant impact on his neighbours at Trump Tower — located in a city where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won 87 per cent of the vote in 2016.
Inside, there are 263 luxury condominiums on floors 30-68. Residents have their own private entrance on 56th Street where they bypass the vast lobby gleaming with marble and gold and are taken up in elevators by porters who push buttons for them.
But that doesn’t shield them from the chaos outside.
When Mr Trump is in town, snipers position themselves on top of and inside nearby buildings, scanning the masses for any potential threats to the President or Trump Tower.
Concrete and metal barriers are put in place, and police establish vehicle security checkpoints for random safety inspections on cars passing through the vicinity.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has previously stated that it costs $A702,000 ($US500,000) to pay for the nearly 200 police officers in and around Trump Tower for every day the President spends at the address. The NYPD did not respond to questions relating to the matter when contacted by news.com.au this week.
On any ordinary day, a constant stream of tourists flock to see the shiny skyscraper and loiter in large crowds with their cameras. The area is also frequented by protesters and supporters who gather for rallies and repeatedly chant slogans. Armed and bolstered counter-terrorism police are stationed outside building entrances and on block corners and side streets — at least one of which is permanently blocked to traffic with mobile booths planted in the middle of the road. Members of the Secret Service have a constant presence at the tower and can often be seen peering through windows from inside and roaming the area on foot.
When anyone or anything looks suspicious, authorities pounce. In a city still reeling from 9/11, and with a history of presidential assassinations, nothing is taken lightly.
GUESTS SCREENED BY AIRPORT-STYLE SECURITY
Anyone who comes to visit a resident at Trump Tower is subjected to mandatory airport-style screening by security every time they enter the building.
According to one real estate agent, who spoke to news.com.au on the condition of anonymity, it’s become “a living hell” for residents since Mr Trump took office in 2016.
“Although the people living there have gold pouring out of their ears, living in Trump Tower is different for them now,” the source said.
“They have a lot to consider with every step in and out of the building, and that can’t be good when you’re doing it day in and day out.
“You can get caught up there for a long time.”
Corcoran licensed real estate agent Dan Sholomon, who also lived in Trump Tower until recently, said security was only an issue for those entering the building “with a purse or bag”.
“They’ll check any bags you have before you walk past the Secret Service — they’re always there — but they don’t say anything to you,” he told news.com.au.
According to Mr Sholomon, life inside Trump Tower was “much worse” when Mr Trump was first elected as president compared to now.
“The security was a lot more intense and the protesters aren’t as bad anymore because they’ve realised they’re not going to change anything or make people move out,” he said.
According to StreetEasy, there are 14 condominiums listed for sale in Trump Tower. They range in price from $A2.6 million ($US1.9 million) to $A34.4 million ($US24.5 million). The latter is situated directly under Mr Trump’s penthouse and has been on the market for 229 days.
“Encompassing the entire southern face of the building on the 64th and 65th floors with panoramic skyline and cityscape views, this cavernous home features 5+ grand bedroom suites and entertainment rooms framed by floor-to-ceiling windows throughout,” the online listing reads.
Mr Sholomon, who is an agent for one of the properties, told news.com.au the market for properties in Trump Tower had ”definitely gone down because of the name of the brand”.
“It’s also because (residents had issues with) a lot of security around the neighbourhood and everything that was going on,” he said.
“They might not agree with Trump’s politics, but I tell people he’s not going to be president one day and you’ll still have an apartment on Fifth Ave.”
Mr Sholomon said property prices at Trump Tower had dropped by about 20 per cent since Mr Trump was elected three years ago. In January this year, the real estate agent listed one condominium in the complex for $A2.9 million ($US2.1 million) and it sold for $A1.9 million ($US1.4 million). There was another case where an apartment was listed for $A33.7 million ($US24 million) and a “client” offered $A21 million ($US15 million).
“Buyers want to see what they can get away with,” Mr Sholomon said.
Many older luxury buildings on New York’s East Side have lost value after a surge in new developments that tower above them in height and price, Reuters reports. Even so, discounts at Trump Tower, opened in 1983, have been deeper than the market average, according to real estate brokers and market analysts.
“Clearly the Trump candidacy and presidency have had a negative impact on the real estate values” at Trump Tower, said Wendy Maitland, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens who, in 2017, listed a fashion industry client’s three-bedroom $A10.5 million ($US7.5 million) apartment at the tower that failed to sell.
Since 2015, prices at Trump Tower have dropped 30 per cent per square foot compared with an 8 per cent fall in comparable properties on Manhattan’s Midtown East Side, according to New York real estate site CityRealty.com.
By comparison, prices at Olympic Tower, a 1975 Midtown building likened to Trump Tower that is a few blocks south on Fifth Avenue, dropped 21 per cent since 2015. That contrasts with a 29 per cent rise in prices in the area, including new developments, over the same period.
Mr Sholomon said most interest in the tower now comes from international buyers who have businesses in Manhattan.
“I might be biased but it still has the prestige it always has,” he said.
Some of the city’s wealthiest and most high-profile residents have called the building home. Celebrities including Michael Jackson, Johnny Carson, Bruce Willis and Liberace were once among them. It’s also where Trump made his mark in New York and filmed his reality show Celebrity Apprentice.
One resident, Columbia professor Elaine Rigolosi told New York Magazine in 2017 the security “made (her) feel important”.
“There are now Secret Service members all over the building,” Prof Rigolosi said.
“They sit in the stairwell. And now you have to drive to Madison Avenue to have your car sniffed before you can drive it in and drop off any packages.
“There’s a scanner on 56th Street. If you’re walking in there with packages, you have to put them through, like an airport.”
She said the process “may be a little trouble” but that “it sort of becomes fun”.
“I’ve got five people with machine guns on one side of me while the protesters are screaming,” she said.
“It makes me feel very important. I’ve never had that kind of protection in my life.”
The Trump Organisation, which manages Trump Tower, didn’t respond to questions from news.com.au.