Tiffany Pennamon @tiffanypennamon
Midtown traffic has become a nightmare since the election and one city council member is calling on President-elect Donald Trump to move his transition headquarters out of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.
Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the city council’s transportation committee, held a press conference Monday to urge Trump to “be a good New Yorker and good neighbor” and get out of the city. “We’re calling for Donald Trump to move his meetings and his transition headquarters out of the most populated island in America, New York City,” Rodriguez said, standing in the bus lane in front of Trump Tower. “Instead of New York City, I hear that Florida is a great way to escape the cold weather heading our way.”
Rodriguez said he was responding to complaints from drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Even buses face barricades, lane closures and detours as a result of security measures implemented last month for Trump.
Rodriguez also said that he hoped Trump would help invest in the city’s infrastructure by supporting administrative plans for “mass transit upgrades,” including new Port Authority buses, protected bike and pedestrian lanes, and additional funding for possible water transportation methods. The added emphasis on infrastructure would prepare New York “for the next 50 years,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, improving the city’s transportation system is only possible if the federal government reimburses the city for the nearly $30 million already spent hosting Trump, his family, and his transition headquarters. “We did not have it in our budget for 2017,” Rodriguez said.
When asked how Trump’s presence has affected police coverage of the area, Rodriguez said that the city spends a million dollars a day protecting him.
While Rodriguez spoke, four police officers in long coats stood guard in front of Trump Tower. “Take your photos, but you gotta keep moving,” one police officer said to pedestrians passing the press conference.
As the transportation chair continued his press conference, taxis, buses, and police cars drove by in the background. Steel barricades line the sidewalks for several blocks north and south of the building on Fifth Avenue while security officers directed traffic.
Taxi and bus drivers in the area say they are used to bad traffic but Trump’s presence brings it to a new level of nuisance. “All of the operators are complaining about traffic, and passengers are complaining to them,” said Jim Gannon, director of communications for the Transportation Worker’s Union Local 100. “MTA is considering re-routing those routes.”
A taxi driver who did not want to give his name agreed with Rodriguez. “It’s a nightmare,” he said. “It’s not just Trump. The area around this time of year is always heavy with Christmas and tourists. The sooner he gets out of the city, the better.”
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, Rodriguez said that retailers and business owners are frustrated by Trump’s decision to stay in town. “The impact of this means longer commutes, delayed deliveries and more crowded sidewalks in an area with thousands of offices and places of business, resulting in lost revenue,” Rodriguez said in a press release.
And it is not only the top tier stores on Fifth Avenue that are affected. One street vendor who did not want to give his full name said that the increased presence of security officers has limited the traffic on the street of his winter clothing stand at West 58th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Ordinary New Yorkers have also protested the use of their tax dollars for security. After Trump announced that his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, would stay in New York after the inauguration, almost 105,000 residents called for them to leave New York in a petition created on Change.org. The petition, which is addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio states: “This is what tax dollars should be used for, improvements for the city and all the people of the city, not just one.”
At the end of his press conference, Rodriguez called on Trump to think about the values most important to New Yorkers and to be “a part of the solution” for the city’s infrastructure needs. “That’s what a good president can do for New York City,” Rodriguez said.