By Brenda Flanagan
“The priority is to protect and defend the office of the president,” said Retired Secret Service Agent Tom Sloan.
Including the president-elect, says Sloan. So when Donald Trump left his midtown tower for his golf club in Bedminster late Friday afternoon, the Secret Service effectively shut down the Lincoln Tunnel and closed access to Route 78. Before that, he says, agents had worked with state and local police to run the route, “just to make sure there’s no debris or things that can cause the motorcade harm, so certainly the portion of the highway that they’re on at any given time will be not just screened and sanitized, but secure,” he said.
Motorists took phone videos and complained about the resulting Trump traffic gridlock — or “Trumplock” — that pushed Port Authority buses 45 minutes behind schedule and blocked ramps and overpasses along the highway.
Sam Schwartz was New York City’s traffic commissioner.
“Usually 15, 20, maybe even 30 minutes before the president arrives, then all entrances and exits are closed… In a tunnel it gets even more difficult because if it’s bumper to bumper traffic you really have to wait until all traffic out of the tunnel,” he said.
Schwartz says the president generally choppers in and out of the city on Marine One. He says New Jersey will learn to streamline Trump’s travel.
“I think in New Jersey the different jurisdictions need to really organize and do some tests and see how they can re-open as quickly as possible,” he said.
The president-elect stayed 48 hours, interviewing potential cabinet picks at his golf club in remote, rural Bedminster where a no-fly security zone was set over the club, and the town police suddenly found itself on round-the-clock traffic detail outside.
“We didn’t have any traffic complaints, backups,” said Bedminster Police Chief Karl Rock.
It went pretty smooth?
“It went very smooth. Being a smaller police department, and never having been exposed to this before, I think we stepped up huge,” he said.
The Secret Service said Friday, “In every instance possible, the Secret Service attempts to minimize any adverse or unnecessary impact on the community as a result of the security plans.” But this single Trump visit cost Bedminster an estimated $5,000 to provide 90 overtime man hours.
“Everybody’s doing their part, but also it can’t be just simply a budget-buster for Bedminster. And I think that won’t be the case. I think we’re going to figure this out and get good at it as it happens in the future,” said Bedminster Mayor Steve Parker.
After the inauguration, Melania Trump’s expected to remain in midtown Manhattan while the couple’s son, Barron, attends school, and people in the New York/New Jersey metro area should expect continued disruptions, according to Sloan, who’s written a history of the Secret Service. He says there’s a learning curve.
“Over time, people adjust and accommodate, and if it makes sense, it’s going to be baked into the way Secret Service provides security for the president… They’ll do their best to establish a security system and then establish a balance so people can do their jobs,” Sloan said.
The president-elect is very fond of this golf course. It’s one of the few he built from scratch. Odds are, he’ll be back, amidst more Trumplock.