TANZANIA – Every September, the New York City police barricades go up around U.N. headquarters in midtown Manhattan, demarcating a temporary multinational fiefdom and inadvertently annexing peripheral businesses and residence towers.
“Oh, it's terrible,” Hillary Lee, the owner of Belleclaire Cleaners, softly moans when asked how business fares during the U.N. General Assembly's high-level meeting.
Her dry-cleaning-and-tailoring shop is tantalizingly close to the outside world, just steps beyond the gates. Despite the proximity, she often finds herself wheeling a laundry-laden cart for blocks to deliver it to customers who aren’t permitted to idle on the pavement on the other side.
“It's their work; it's my work,” says Lee, who has owned the shop for four years and doesn't hold a grudge over the security.
“But the problem is, a lot of my customers, they are really very angry. Very, very angry, they are," she adds, jokingly mimicking their frustrations.
Residents are advised to carry identification cards and bills bearing their name and address to get past the NYPD booths. The friction at the checkpoints tends to ease as the week wears on and officers and denizens alike become familiar to one another.
“It’s a balance we strike each year because our plans are focused on minimizing, as much as possible, the impact all of this will have on New Yorkers,” NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said at a press conference last week.
Lee says she does end up adding a few U.N. visitors to her clientele, but she's not inclined to make money off them. She lets them pay what they want; fixing the hem on a pant leg might normally cost $8-10, but she'll take $5.
The week may be painful, but the visitors are nice, she says: “I try to help.”
Follow Mallika Sen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mallikavsen. For more coverage of the U.N. General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly