Outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan on a recent weekday, two police officers peered over a pink iPhone, laughing at whatever was on the screen. Beside a golden revolving door, a counterterrorism officer sipped a smoothie in front of the Fifth Avenue home of the president of the United States. In the thin crowd outside, a pair of tourists stopped to take a selfie with the building’s golden lettering behind them, mugging with faces of pantomimed horror.
In the early days of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, throngs of people descended on the building, gawking, protesting or selling buttons and books. But these days, in the tranquillity outside the 58-story tower where his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, live, tumbleweeds may as well roll.
Despite his frequent excursions from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Mr. Trump has not returned as president to his hometown, where for weeks after his election protests erupted, sometimes several a day. Without his presence as a fulcrum for the city’s ire, the response to his presidency has been reshaped, taking on a new dimension and renewed earnestness, activists say.
“Today, it’s not like we’re just yelling at a tower where he may or may not emerge,” said Alex Kramer, 26, an actor from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who runs Action Party, an organization working to mobilize voters around opposing Trump policies. “It has caused us to be more creative, and ultimately more effective, in strategizing how to reach him, because we can’t just show up and make noise. People are having to think now: ‘What specific targeted actions can we take that are actually going to get under his skin?’”
He added: “Showing up at Trump Tower, that was the predominant form of protest for so long, but maybe it’s not the answer anymore.”
People like Kevin Hertzog, 52, a prop stylist from Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, have found answers in twice-a-month meetings of the group he helped found, Gays Against Guns, in the West Village. The group has moved on from street protests to politicized street theater in which participants enact situations like a love affair between an actor depicting Mr. Trump wearing a wig made of Cheetos and a performer representing the National Rifle Association.
“I never expected the panic level to stay high,” Mr. Hertzog said, discussing how his activism has evolved from passionate marches to phone calls and letters to elected officials and performance art. “As human beings, the physical body is conditioned to accept whatever situation it finds itself in. Biologically we are all back to functioning normally, but in our brains everything is as dastardly as always.”
Even without Mr. Trump here, and with fewer protesters to corral, it costs the New York City Police Department $127,000 to $146,000 per day to protect his home and family, according to police officials. The price is expected to more than double to $308,000 whenever the president returns.
In a city that repudiated Mr. Trump — he won about 18 percent of the vote — those who support him, like Bradley Maurer, are not surprised that he has not ventured back, instead spending seven weekends of his young presidency at his resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
“If you were queen of England, would you want to come to New York City, or would you want to come to Mar-a-Lago, where it’s warm and nice?” asked Mr. Maurer 55, a college administrator from Astoria, Queens, who has organized pro-Trump meet-ups. “I didn’t elect him to hang out with me. I elected him to take care of his business.”
Though Mrs. Trump has remained in the family’s triplex apartment in Manhattan so Barron can complete the school year at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side, her public appearances have been rare. Still, the Trump presence is ubiquitous — the president’s name blares from a sign along the Henry Hudson Parkway as a sponsor of the road’s beautification and is emblazoned on nine properties in New York City.
“We are constantly surrounded by reminders of him,” said Tanya Selvaratnam, 46, a filmmaker who works with Art Not War, an activist public relations and media company. “And yet he is not here, so that does give us the space to speak out against him.”
Some have found their opposition taking new paths. Make the Road New York, a Latino advocacy group, has begun a boycott and consumer awareness campaign targeting businesses and others in the city that it believes are profiting from Mr. Trump’s policies, such as private prisons and companies that invest in them.
Mr. Trump’s absence “has allowed us to be thinking about who are the other enablers of the Trump administration?” said Javier Valdés, the group’s co-executive director. “He might not be here physically, but the people who are doing business with him are here, and this is just as concerning to us.”
Liat Olenick, 30, an elementary public-school teacher from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, engages in some kind of activism — a round of calls to her elected officials, a conference call to plan a rally, a poster-making session — almost every day.
“What he is doing has such a tremendous impact on us in New York, regardless of where he is,” said Ms. Olenick, a founder of Indivisible Nation BK, an anti-extremism group.
She believes that as a city of immigrants lying along the Atlantic Ocean, New York is in the cross hairs of both Mr. Trump’s immigration and environmental policies, a dynamic that should keep the drumbeat of opposition going.
“There are so many things that are at stake for New Yorkers regardless of where Trump is,” Ms. Olenick said.
Still, as the weather warms to South Florida levels, many are preparing for Mr. Trump’s eventual return. Mr. Hertzog keeps a pile of protest posters, including one that says, “NY doesn’t love you,” which he plans to rush to Trump Tower the instant he learns the president is back.
“They are all sitting in my apartment,” Mr. Hertzog said. “Ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
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