Tonight, President Obama heads to Gotham Bar and Grill on 12th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place for a fundraising dinner with 45 supporters who contributed $35,800 apiece for the honor, including Caroline Kennedy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Susan Sarandon. They'll dine on Satur Farms beet salad, 28-day dry-aged prime Niman Ranch steak with marrow mustard custard, Paffenroth baby carrots, Vidalia onion rings and Bordelaise sauce, Migliorelli Farm Honeycrisp apple strudel, and chocolate pecan pie with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. I definitely wouldn't turn that meal down, though I'd want to pay less for it.
Right now, the area surrounding the restaurant is cordoned off with metal barricades along that block of 12th Street, and along Fifth and University from 11th Street to 13th Street. Many officers at every intersection. We've had this President in this neighborhood a few times before and it's never been like this. Understand, these barricades don't do anything other than making it harder to park along any of those streets, and people are doing that anyway. It's still possible to walk right past the Gotham Bar and Grill and people are still doing that too. It's not for reasons of security. It's about security theater. The NYPD wants to make sure we see those barricades there so that we'll know they're in charge of the situation. I assume they anticipate some kind of Occupy-themed protest and are sending a message of authority and control. No hijinx will be tolerated. It was exactly the same in lower Manhattan on November 17th in the midst of the protest march; everything was running smoothly and traffic and pedestrians were going about their business normally that evening, except for the massive police presence making sure you knew they were there and slowing everything down long after the march had gone past.
Still, it's an interesting location Obama's fundraisers have chosen. The intersection of 12th Street and University Place became notorious a couple of months ago. That's because the Gotham Bar and Grill is right across the street from this spot:
This has been a very strange year for my neighborhood. Just in the past four months we've had an earthquake, a flood, and a police riot, not to mention multiple protest marches and acts of civil disobedience. Part of me hopes it will be a bit quieter next year, but another part of me is glad I don't have to feel like I'm missing out on any of the excitement.
Update: photos from today here.