The security lockdown is taking its toll.
New York City wants $35 million from the federal government to cover security costs for President-elect Donald Trump, but it’s not just the city that’s found itself strapped for cash.
Since the election, businesses on the tony blocks around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue have found foot and car traffic either completely blocked or severely restricted by security cordons. And some of them would like to get reimbursed, too.
“A part of that money should come to me and all affected local business in the area,” says Willie Degel, the owner of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse. The restaurant is about half a block from Trump Tower, on 56th Street.
Between the protesters and the 24-hour-a-day security operation, sales have nosedived by 25%, Degel says. And that’s not the only problem: deliveries are routinely delayed, garbage pickups have been scuttled, and the extra security has caused significant hold ups for the restaurant’s 50 employees when they try to get to work.
“This is like a natural disaster,” says Degel, who pays $35,000 a month in rent and recently spent $2 million on renovations.
He’s not the only one who’s grousing. Tiffany & Co., one of the many luxury retailers that line Fifth Avenue, said last week that protesters and the area’s beefed-up security measures since the election have led to softer sales at its flagship store in the third quarter. That store provides 8% of the company’s total annual revenue.
Foot traffic to these stores is critical, particularly during the holiday season. With rents averaging $3,000 per square foot a year, retailers in the area near Trump Tower pay more than they do anywhere else in the world, according to real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
In recent weeks, business owners in the area have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns about the impact of the blockade on business. David Chang, the co-founder of the Momofuku chain of restaurants, whose bistro Ma Peche is not far from Trump Tower, had this to say:
Contemporary art gallery Tibor de Nagy, which is directly across the street from the Trump’s residence, took a softer approach, reminding people that it’s still open:
Yet Degel says if things continue the way they have, the city may need to take aggressive action to help the neighborhood’s small businesses survive.
“If this continues, will they give a tax abatement to the buildings on the block, or will they maybe help me get a rent deduction?” he asks. “What are we going to do, given that the White House is now down the block?”
A spokesman from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said the New York Police Department would work to accommodate the needs of area businesses to the best of its abilities.
“Balancing the needs of the local business community and keeping the president-elect and his family safe will be an ongoing challenge,” the spokesman said in an email.