On this morning, the performer known as the Naked Cowboy has wandered over from Times Square to perform for the people gathered at the front door of Trump Tower. He is wearing the usual — cowboy hat, boots and briefs. Nothing else.
The cowboy and everyone else occupying this prime piece of Fifth Avenue sidewalk got here by passing through a security post manned by police and Secret Service agents. That includes shoppers at two of the city’s poshest stores, Tiffany & Co. and Gucci.
In the blocks surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s home, security is everywhere — uniformed officers, lines of patrol cars, a mobile police headquarters, concrete blast barriers. On both sides of Fifth Avenue, 56th Street is closed to vehicle traffic.
Businesses in this midtown neighborhood complain that the resulting scrum of traffic and rubberneckers is bad for business. “The block is now unwelcoming and looks like a war zone,” a city councilman complained to the New York Times. City officials estimate the cost of security will reach $35 million even before Trump takes office.
Down on the street, people are looking up and snapping photos, if only to prove they were here. Way up there — 58 floors in the sky — is the penthouse apartment of the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States.
Ironically, the source of all this curiosity isn’t at home today. Trump is in Florida.
If all this seems surreal — the billionaire tycoon atop his black-glass skyscraper, the circus atmosphere below — well, why not? It seems a fitting end to a year like no other and a fitting beginning to a year that is sure to provide its own bumpy ride. Trump dominated the news in 2016, and there is every reason to believe he will dominate the news in 2017 as well.
New York has always seemed a strange home base for Trump, the champion of voters in mid-sized towns and rural America.
Fewer than one in five New York city residents voted for him — fewer than one in 10 voters in the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. Walk down the street here and you encounter people from all over the world — different languages, skin colors, ways of dress, accents. New York is home to more than three million foreign-born residents. The borough of Queens, where Trump grew up, is said to be the most ethnically diverse community on the planet.
And here, right in the middle of it all, resides the candidate who promises to deport millions of undocumented residents and keep a registry of people of the Muslim faith. (Estimates place the number of Muslims in New York City between 600,000 and 1 million).
In 2016, Trump broke all the rules of politics and made it work for him.
In 2017, we wait to see what other political norms he is prepared to shatter. Some Americans are excited by the prospects; others are terrified.
In New York and California, officials have pledged to push back against efforts to round-up more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. Now we wait to learn what President Trump will do about immigration — and what he will do if officials in places like New York and California push back.