On Black Friday, Tight Security on Fifth Avenue Frustrates Shoppers

Crowds at Trump Tower cause gridlock on Fifth Avenue. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)
Crowds lingered in front of Trump Tower on Black Friday. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)

Retailers and residents always brace for Black Friday chaos, but this year New York City shoppers were met with a different type of pandemonium on one of the most fashion-focused blocks in the borough. Welcome to post-election Fifth Avenue: beefed-up security, rows of barricades, protesters and high-end stores that are open for business, but hard to access.

Since the election, tightened security around Trump Tower, located in midtown between 56th and 57th Streets, has created a challenge for retailers in the area, like Gucci, Armani and Tiffany & Co. The New York Police Department has constricted pedestrian access along the block, and shoppers could not cross Fifth Avenue at all via the corner of 56th Street on Friday. No signs offered information about the blocked streets. Instead, NYPD officers shouted directions.

Angie Smith, 44, was frustrated by the crowds and confusion as she was trying to shop.

“Everything is blocked off,” she said. “I was trying to go to the Gucci store and I had to walk around four times.”

Shoppers on Fifth Avenue face long waits to cross the street. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)
Pedestrians on Fifth Avenue waited to cross the street. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)

Police had routed all shoppers for Gucci and other stores to a makeshift bag check at the corner of  56th Street and Fifth Avenue. Since shoppers were carrying more bags than usual on Black Friday, there was a logjam.

Smith, who lives in Brooklyn, said she was annoyed but determined to stick it out with the hope of getting a discount on high-priced items on Black Friday.

NYPD officers check bags on Fifth Avenue. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)
NYPD officers checked bags on Fifth Avenue. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)

Some shoppers didn’t mind the commotion.

“There’s so much more to be upset about,” said Scott Heitner, 54, who was visiting from South Carolina. “This is the most awesome part about the Christmas experience.”

While funneling pedestrians through the narrow barricades caused delays, crowds stopping in front of Trump Tower for pictures also contributed to traffic on the sidewalk.

Mya Haomes, 24, said she was expecting delays in the area but was surprised by just how difficult it was to navigate the avenue.

“They have to do something about this,” she said. Haomes, who lives in Manhattan, said she had to cut her shopping short, so she wouldn’t be late to work at Macy’s in Herald Square.

Three protesters, however, were taking advantage of the slowdown in the area.

Pierre Winter, owner of StudioFTB, a real estate and architectural shop, organized a rally to raise awareness about Nike’s flagship Niketown store located on 57th Street, which is connected to Trump Tower. With signs that read “Nike divorce Trump” and “Grab Trump by the A$$et$,” they chanted as shoppers walked in and out of the sports apparel store.

Protesters to Nike: Dump Trump Now. (The Ink/Courtenay Brown)
Protesters rallied outside Nike’s  flagship store. (The Ink/ Courtenay Brown)

Winter said stores located inside Trump Tower, like Nike and Gucci, should sever ties with Trump by moving out of the space when their leases expire.

“What Trump stands for is so in conflict with what Nike brands itself to be about, like diversity and inclusion,” Winter, 47, said. “This is nothing short of an endorsement for Nike to stay here.”

Winter said that while he had hoped for more protesters, Black Friday was a great opportunity to tell both tourists and New York natives to boycott the company.

“This is probably one of Nike’s busiest days,” Winter said.

A Nike spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Scott Cocker, a New York City resident who made his way through Nike’s fast-moving revolving doors, said Trump’s ties to the company would not affect his shopping habits.

“I don’t think Trump’s political views should matter in this kind of business arrangement,” said Cocker, 60, with a Nike bag in hand.