NEW YORK – The tight security around Trump Tower has eased up since Melania and Barron Trump left for the White House, and some area merchants are breathing a sigh of relief now that their customers don't have to go through a series of checkpoints.
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"Crossing Fifth Avenue initially when all this started was a bit of a hassle," Jonathan Colon, a salesman at the luxury shoe store Crockett & Jones, a block from Trump Tower, said Tuesday. "So now that the police presence has calmed down a bit it's just much easier to get around the whole area."
After Trump was elected president on Nov. 8, security around his namesake tower on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue ramped up dramatically, even including a fleet of heavy sanitation department trucks filled with sand to wall off the front of the building. The trucks were gone after only a couple days, but what remained was a maze of barricades and checkpoints, manned by scores of uniformed police officer under the supervision of a mobile command center.
Tom Cusick, the president of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, a merchants' group, said the situation improved after Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration and improved further after Trump's wife and their young son moved out of the 58-story building this month.
"We used to have a much heavier contingent of police officers and Secret Service," Cusick said.
Trump, a Republican, has not returned to Trump Tower since the inauguration, but the police estimated in February that they were spending more than $100,000 a day to protect Melania and Barron Trump.
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Now that the president's wife and youngest son have left, police spokesman J. Peter Donald said that some officers who were needed "to move members of the immediate first family around town are no longer required." But he added that "certain layers to protect the building and the people who live and work there as a potential target will remain in place and will be adjusted based on intelligence, events and visits by the first family."
Visible security measures at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Trump Tower on Tuesday included metal and concrete barricades and two New York Police Department officers armed with machine guns, but tourists moved freely in and out of the building.
"It doesn't look like much to me," said Michael Murph, of Shreveport, Louisiana. "There's just a couple of cops with guns."
Olatounde Gbamassi, who delivers groceries to Trump Tower and nearby buildings, said the improved access has made his life easier.
"It used to be hard," he said. "They had to check everything. Check you first and check the package you have. Now it's better."
Trump Tower resident Susetta Mion, who lives on the 32nd floor with her Maltese, Bella, also welcomed the dialing down of security.
"There's less people, less police," she said. "It's easier now."
Mion said she believes Trump hasn't set foot in the building since taking office "because he didn't want to give residents here more aggravation. I respect that."
Even with the scaled back security, she added, "There's no place that's more safe in the city."
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Tom Hays contributed to this story.