By Gus Saltonstall
An older man sidled up to the barricades on West 77th Street and Riverside Drive on Wednesday afternoon and got the attention of a secret service agent wearing a bulletproof vest. President Joe Biden was set to arrive in the next 10 minutes and a small crowd of neighbors had gathered on the corner to watch the events unfold.
“What about alternate side parking?” the man asked loudly.
The secret service agent gave him a look and slowly walked away.
President Biden visited a townhouse on Riverside Drive Wednesday afternoon for a fundraising event, which prompted a huge security presence that included police on the street, police in cars, police on motorcycles, police on bikes, and a large number of secret service members.
A near 10-block stretch of Riverside Drive, West End Avenue, and Broadway were all closed down between West 72nd and 80th streets going west to east, and multiple nearby exits on the West Side Highway were also blocked off in the 20-or-so minutes before Biden arrived at about 2:10 p.m.
Among the group of nearby residents that gathered on the corner of West 77th Street and Riverside Drive, there was a mixture of excitement and general disgruntlement about the “circus” that was created in the lead up to the president’s arrival.
“Think about how much this must cost,” one person said to loud agreement.
“Will he be arriving on Citi Bike?” another person joked.
Some were more positive, “You don’t get many chances to see the president,” an onlooker remarked.
Others commented that they had noticed the barricades starting to go up in the past few days.
There was also general speculation about who Biden was visiting, with some suggesting the name Larry Linden, which was later confirmed by the White House Press Office.
“He used to live in our building, he was a nice man, I think we liked him, but I have to check with my husband,” a woman said.
After close to an hour of anticipation, there were cheers when an initial motorcade drove past with a police escort. It turned out to be a decoy, though, as two minutes later a second motorcade that included the president’s Cadillac, known as “The Beast,” drove off the West Side Highway exit at West 79th Street, down Riverside Drive to West 77th Street, and then up West End Avenue and back down to Riverside Drive on West 76th Street.
And the presidential motorcade pic.twitter.com/laJUckPb9l
— Gus Saltonstall (@GusSaltonstall) February 7, 2024
As the president exited the car, a white tent was quickly put up that fully blocked any views of him.
The press office’s pool report included a collection of details about the visit.
“POTUS spoke at the residence of Larry Linden on the Upper West side in a well-appointed, wood-paneled sitting room,” the report reads. “It was furnished with a Steinway piano and several couches.”
The topics of Donald Trump, the GOP House, Biden’s childhood in Delaware, and climate causes all came up in discussion during the event that included 17 people, according to the pool report.
The crowd dispersed pretty quickly after the president’s arrival, but the surrounding avenues were almost at a standstill.
With the crosswalks blocked off, people were stuck on various corners in the neighborhood, many of whom expressed their confusion over the cause.
“Biden’s in the neighborhood,” one person yelled back without breaking stride.
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