NEW YORK â€” President Donald Trump is coming home.
The native New Yorker, whose image for decades was interwoven with his brash hometown, is making his first trip back to Manhattan since taking office, returning to New York City on Thursday to mark the anniversary of an important World War II battle by making a speech on a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River.
But Trump is unlikely to get a friendly reception. Several protests are planned across the city, including near the USS Intrepid and his home at Trump Tower, threatening to snarl Manhattan’s streets and produce images of a city rejecting its most famous native son.
“Thousands of people are ready to protest Donald Trump,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition which is co-organizing one of the large-scale protests. “On the president’s first trip back to New York City, the world will see us rise up and oppose him again.”
The New York Police Department is gearing up for the visit with an eye toward those anti-Trump demonstrations. The turnout is uncertain, but activists are using Facebook and other social media to call on protesters to gather at several locations throughout the city to voice opposition to his immigration, health care and other policies.
Hundreds of police officers will be assigned to secure Trump’s Intrepid appearance, with more on standby on surrounding blocks if needed to make arrests. A show of force is already a fixture at Trump Tower, where the Secret Service and heavily armed NYPD officers have used barricades, checkpoints and street closings to secure the iconic skyscraper where the president has a penthouse apartment.
The president is not expected to spend a night at Trump Tower but may make a stop there before spending the weekend at his golf club an hour away in Bedminister, New Jersey. His homecoming is to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a major World War II naval conflict in which American and Australian forces halted a strategic advance by the Japanese military.
Trump will deliver a speech on the U.S.S. Intrepid, a World War II-era aircraft carrier and hold meetings with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. The meeting will be Trump’s first meeting with Turnbull since they held a contentious phone call in February.
Manhattan was the imposing backdrop as Trump transformed himself from local real-estate developer to celebrity businessman â€” skyscrapers and gossip pages featured his name â€” and during last year’s presidential campaign he’d fly thousands of miles to sleep in his own bed at Trump Tower.
But Trump was last in New York on Jan. 19, the day before he took office, when he left the skyscraper he called home for more than 30 years and flew to Washington. His wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, who attends a private Manhattan school, have remained behind, as have Trump’s two adult sons who are now tasked with running their father’s sprawling business interests.
During the presidential transition, speculation swirled that Trump, a famed homebody and creature of habit, would return to Manhattan frequently. But the president said last week that he has so far stayed away because his trips are “too expensive” and inconvenient.
“I hate to see the New Yorkers with streets closed,” Trump told Fox News, saying that it was easier and cheaper for the Secret Service to safeguard his clubs in Florida and New Jersey.
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“Despite political differences from a lot of New York residents, they should appreciate that the president is a born-and-bred New Yorker,” said Joe Borelli, a city councilman and co-chair of Trump’s campaign in New York state.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat and fierce Trump critic, said he has not been invited to participate in the Intrepid event and criticized the president for turning his back on his hometown.
“I had hoped the divisive rhetoric would end. It has not ended,” de Blasio said at a town hall on Monday. “And what he attempted to do was extreme in attempting to undo Obamacare, and attacking this city directly and our interests. It does not suggest common ground.”
Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, also drew the ire of the NYPD when his Justice Department suggested last month that the city was “soft on crime” despite record-low crime rates in the nation’s largest city. Additionally, city officials have portrayed the cost of the security at Trump Tower as a financial burden. According to police officials, the department spends up to $146,000 a day to protect the First Lady and their son while he’s away, and anticipate the cost to jump to more than $300,000 when he’s there.
New Yorkers have certainly protested previous presidents, notably George W. Bush during the 2004 Republican National Convention. But this moment will feel “unique because it’s rare to see a president so unpopular in his own city,” said George Arzt, press secretary to former Mayor Ed Koch who frequently butted heads with Trump in the 1980s.
“This city is the bluest of the blue. That’s why he is holding rallies in other places,” said Arzt. “He’s trying to build an image where all reports of his unpopularity are fake news and it’s hard to do that when there are thousands of people in the streets yelling epithets at him.”
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed reporting.
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Jonathan Lemire And Tom Hays, The Associated Press