by Steve Dunlop
Given its status as the world’s richest city, it’s little wonder that politicians from all over the country flock to New York to raise money. ‘Twas ever thus, you might say.
The problem is that in 2012, to run a credible campaign, politicians need more of that money than ever. Exponentially more. And those of us who actually live and work here are not removed from the hook by simply saying we “gave at the office.” Politicians of high stature will make you pay, especially in a city where it is especially true that time is money.
The point was driven home on Monday, as President Obama made his most recent campaign jaunt to Gotham: three stops in a single day, capped by a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria featuring Bill Clinton and Jon Bon Jovi.
Obama and Clinton focused their remarks on economic opportunity. They should know. This single presidential trip to Manhattan raised a reported $3.6 million. Where can I invest in that hedge fund?
The NYPD dutifully cleared the way, with the usual escort convoys and pop-up frozen zones. Sure, the President of the United States deserves all the security the Big Apple can muster. But getting caught up in campaign gridlock can make even Wall Street’s masters of the universe feel like a humble speck in their own hometown.
I was one such speck on Monday... caught unexpectedly behind a police line outside the Waldorf. I was on my way there, not to cover the President, but to another event one floor below the Obamagala.
Aware that the chief executive was in town, I tried to time my arrival to avoid getting trapped. LIke most of the people around me, I miscalculated.
“You can’t get down there,” an officer on scene bellowed to no one in particular, as I stood at the head of a crowd on the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 49th Street. Impatient executives in wingtips and high heels tapped on their iPhones. A few took pictures of the southbound street in front of the Waldorf, eerily devoid of traffic.
I asked the officer if the Park Avenue entrance to the hotel was open. “You can try,” he shrugged. But like Lexington Avenue, 49th Street was closed off, to both traffic and pedestrians. The quickest way to the Park Avenue side of the hotel was to go down to 48th Street, then walk over and up a block. A few of my fellow trappees were debating doing that. Then, in that half-despondent tone that muttering people often adopt in crowds, I heard someone say, “Don’t bother... that entrance is closed off too.”
It wasn’t long before a phalanx of Sanitation Department dump trucks, filled with sand, moved into place in front of the hotel. My cell phone rang. It was my photographer. “I can’t get anywhere near you,” he reported. “Everything’s closed off. Are you inside yet?”
Mobile phones do have a way of distracting you from the task at hand. When I ended the call and looked up again, the dump trucks were gone. I didn’t think dump trucks just suddenly disappeared, like the characters in Swept Away. Especially in gridlock. But these, somehow, seemed to.
The bottleneck of humanity was starting slowly to loosen. I joined the throng headed up Lexington Avenue, and finally made my way into the Waldorf. Once inside, there was no sign whatsoever of the President of the United States. And that, of course, was the plan.
Of the 100 or so fundraisers the president has appeared at in this election cycle, 21 have been in New York City. And this one won’t be the last. In fact, Sarah Jessica Parker is hosting a blowout for her favorite president here in town next week.
Just remember, it’s silly season. It can get hot in mid-June, of course, but be prepared to be frozen.