NYPD Calls Trump Tower Security Situation ‘Unprecedented’—But Won’t Say How They’ll Keep It Up

Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick, chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee, speaks during a hearing on Trump Tower security.

Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick, chairman of of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, speaks during a hearing on Trump Tower security. Madina Toure/Observer

At a City Council hearing on the city’s protection of President-elect Donald Trump and his family, the NYPD declared its operation around Trump Tower is “unprecedented” and reiterated the city deserves a full $35 million reimbursement from the federal government—but refused to part with specifics about how it can maintain it’s current level of deployment around the building.

In early December, the House passed a year-end continuing resolution that reimbursed the city just $7 million in costs associated with protecting Trump and his family at his unofficial transition headquarters on Fifth Avenue. Deputy Chief James Kehoe, executive officer of the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Manhattan South, and Vincent Grippo, NYPD’s deputy commissioner of management and budget, declined to provide specifics on questions such as what the city does when Trump is not at his eponymous skyscraper, the number of officers deployed to safeguard the building and what would occur if the NYPD were to pull its resources from the area in response to nonpayment from D.C.

“As this unique and unprecedented situation continues to evolve, the Police Department, along with our colleagues in government, will continue to conduct outreach to those that have been impacted so that we are informed of any security-related challenges,” Kehoe said.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill has repeatedly stated that his department has pulled personnel and materials from precincts around the city to fortify the perimeter around Trump Tower. But today, Grippo and Kehoe described a question about whether crime will increase as a result as “speculation” and said they cannot comment on it.

Grippo addedd that the cost to New York City when the president comes for a day is “extremely variable.” Still both maintained the city deserves total indemnification from Washington, which de Blasio is pushing for along with the city’s Democratic House delegation, and Republican Congressman Daniel Donovan of Staten Island and GOP Congressman Chris Collins of Western New York.

The city recently reopened 56th Street between 6th and 5th avenues to crosstown traffic and said that the NYPD would relocate their mobile command post from the southwest corner of 56th Street to be the northwest corner of 56th Street.

When Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland inquired whether there is any difference in manpower needed to protect just Trump, just his wife Melania and young son Barron or the entire family, Kehoe said he could not comment for security reasons. Ferreras-Copeland—who chairs the Council’s Committee on Finance—said knowing the cost is crucial because the city is currently spending “with an unlimited credit” and hoping the federal government will pay it back, noting that the city hasn’t been “doing too great with our overtime issues period.”

“We increased the number of officers because you made a call for the need for it and we responded as a Council,” she said. “So you now can’t say, ‘Well we have to protect the president of the United States so therefore.'”

She also said that she believes that the NYPD is expected to provide the service because it is the “best force” and has many personnel. But she argued that it could only keep it up “for a matter of time, because this is not sustainable.” The councilwoman wondered if there is another, non-city entity that could step in.

Grippo said the city is seeking reimbursement under the President-Elect Security Assistance Reimbursement Grant formed in 2009 to compensate state and local agencies for security and other costs associated with shielding the commander-in-chief-to-be during the transition period.

“He has said publicly that he would reside in the city some number of days throughout the year,” he said. “That as far as we can tell is unprecedented and our argument is Secret Service provides a level of protection for the president, that’s if you’re the president in and around the area he is in.”

Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents the brass-and-glass skyscraper and the surrounding area and chairs the Committee on Economic Development, said it has become a “heightened security zone” since November and that some Fifth Avenue businesses have seen “a significant decrease in sales” whenever Trump is in town.

“To the president-elect, we understand that you have a home on Fifth Avenue and we ask that you not treat Trump Tower like a pied-à-terre,” Garodnick said during the three-hour long hearing in the Council’s chambers at City Hall. “We ask that you spend your time over the next four years at the White House. The White House is lovely at any time of the year, and that is a much better place to accommodate these significant security obligations.”

The councilman noted that the incoming commander-in-chief’s team did not respond to requests that they attend today’s hearing.

“We invited the president-elect or a representative to testify today to talk about his plans,” Garodnick said. “I don’t believe we’ve gotten a response and I don’t know if there’s a representative is here.”

Nobody in the Council chambers responded. Other Council members in attendance expressed concerns about the impact of Trump coming into the city during weekends through John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in Queens, and the impact of using NYPD overtime funds to cover Trump Tower security on the extra hours needed at other precincts.

Since the election, travel time has increased by 66 percent on 6th Avenue and by 25 percent heading east on 57th Street, testified Luis Sanchez, the city Department of Transportation’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner.

The city Department of Small Business Services recently canvassed businesses around Trump Tower with the NYPD concerning challenges they faced and SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop and Garodnick met with small business owners within the security perimeter. Bishop said the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit has been in touch with the businesses and that SBS has an emergency response unit in constant communication with them.

The commissioner added that the NYPD is working on a communications plan for planned closures so they can notify small businesses, and that the retailers and small businesses on Fifth Avenue with whom he met understood the importance of security around Trump.

“During the presidential move, I think everyone is sympathetic to the fact that we do have to protect the president-elect and therefore broadcasting where he’s going to move doesn’t seem like, you know, good security,” he said.

NYPD Calls Trump Tower Security Situation ‘Unprecedented’—But Won’t Say How They’ll Keep It Up