New York City says no permanent ban on traffic near Trump Tower

By Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has no plans to close the Manhattan streets surrounding Trump Tower on a permanent basis even though President-elect Donald Trump is expected to spend much of his time there ahead of his inauguration, officials said on Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters the city aimed to provide proper security around the 58-story skyscraper while allowing commuters to move safely through the area. Even so, he urged people to avoid the area if possible.

The president-elect has spent most of his time since his Nov. 8 election in the tower. For years, he has used the building as his main residence and headquarters for his business empire.

"The details of his future plans are unknown but we certainly know that for the next 65 days he will be here regularly," de Blasio said.

Since Trump's election last week, heightened security at the Fifth Avenue tower has caused massive traffic jams in midtown Manhattan, frustrating commuters, shoppers, residents and workers in the area. The building sits in the heart of one of New York's busiest retail stretches.

Police have closed some of the streets in the area on a temporary basis, mostly in response to roving protest marches that began immediately after Trump's victory.

With Trump and his advisors stationed inside the tower to plan the presidential transition, the New York Police Department and the Secret Service have set up metal and concrete barricades in front of the building.

Nearly 50 officers equipped with heavy weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs have been assigned to work daily shifts at the tower, providing security and managing the flow of traffic, police officials said. If needed, authorities said they would add more officers to the details.

"We look to strike a proper balance," Carlos Gomez, NYPD's Chief of Department, said, "providing as much security as possible around the president-elect ... while at the same time not having an adverse impact on ... the lives of other New Yorkers."

Small businesses in the area have complained about periodic street closures and high level of security in the area.

Dominic Amato, general manager of Obica, a cafe located in the atrium behind Trump Tower, said his business began losing customers the day after the election.

"With all the security that's been beefed up, a lot of people are staying away," he said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by David Gregorio)