Between the snarled traffic, suspicious packages, stranded designer stores, tens of millions of dollars in security costs, and all of the associated resentments, Trump Tower is well settled into its role as a shiny target for middle fingers. But while transit experts and City Council members predict there's no relief in sight, Mayor de Blasio is attempting to alleviate a bit of pressure this week with some street closure adjustments.
As of this morning, 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues will partially reopen to crosstown traffic. The NYPD has moved its post from the southwest corner of 56th Street and 5th Avenue to the northwest corner, opening the south side of 56th Street to one lane of eastbound traffic on that block.
Following the election in November, police and Secret Service agents barricaded 56th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison—a blockade against any explosive-laden vehicles. Those barricades remain in place. Pedestrians have been able to pass along 56th Street between 5th and Madison for weeks, though not before submitting to a bag screening.
The new arrangement, the Mayor's Office said, will also allow for easier delivery access for businesses in the shadow of Trump Tower.
"I've met with some of these business owners, and they've told me that since their street was dead-ended, deliveries have become nearly impossible and customers have stayed away, costing them anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of their business," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in a statement. "I'm delighted that the Secret Service and NYPD have found a way to get West 56th Street at least partially moving again as a through street."
From now until the inauguration, at least, Secret Service and NYPD activity will span from 53rd Street to 57th Street between Madison Avenue and Sixth Avenue.
At a November press conference, Mayor de Blasio deflected a steady stream of questions about how much time Trump will spend in his gilded Fifth Avenue suites post-election. "I think that's something that remains to be seen," he said at the time. "And I don't think we should pre-judge that."
On Wednesday, Mayoral Spokesman Raul Contrares did not explicitly confirm whether the new security setup will extend past January 21st. "This is the game plan starting now," he said. "We'll always be working on the ground to figure out how we can best improve traffic flow. For now this is going to be the way traffic flow is going to work."
Sam "Gridlock" Schwartz, who served as the Department of Transportation's Chief Engineer in the 1990s, recently pointed out that 56th is one of several access roads to the Queensboro Bridge.
"56th, 57th, 58th and 59th Streets are all access roads to the Queensboro bridge, so you can see how overloaded the streets will get [as a result of these security measures]," he said. "And that means more people will use the Queens Midtown Tunnel. All of the streets are now overloaded, so they'll be jammed even further."
A preliminary Department of Transportation study found that traffic times increased 20 percent on West 57th Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenues as a result of the closure of 56th Street. Winning is so tiring.
[Update 3:45 p.m.]: Gothamist photographer Scott Heins visited the newly-open lane of traffic on 56th Street this afternoon, and said cars were moving slowly, bumper to bumper. "Suuuuper slow going," he wrote. Cops are directing traffic at the corner of Fifth Avenue, and there are still "loads of barricades" in the area. We'll update with any additional information.