The fancy Midtown block of East 56th Street between Madison and Fifth avenues finally reopened to vehicular traffic after a four-year shutdown — and nobody’s happier than the owners of an office building that isn’t even open yet.
The closure was part of strict security measures around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue at East 56th Street. Auto traffic on the side street had been banned since Donald Trump’s presidential nomination in 2016. Sidewalk strollers faced an intimidating, fortress-like zone of steel and concrete barricades, NYPD and Secret Service sheds, and tank-size security trucks.
The closure snarled car traffic for blocks around. But with Trump out of office, the NYPD reopened the block last week, to the relief of high-end stores Giorgio Armani, Armani Ristorante and Oxxford Clothes, all at 717 Fifth Ave.
“It was miserable,” said an Oxxford manager who didn’t want his name revealed. Employees of the third-floor Armani restaurant told The Post they dubbed Trump Tower across the street the “Black House” over the loss of business.
Armani wouldn’t comment but a source said the elegant eatery lost 50 percent of its business immediately after the 2016 street shutdown.
“Many clients came by car or limousine and they couldn’t get here,” the insider said.
“We struggled after that to bring at least some of our business back.”
The block’s liberation was even more welcome to the owners of 550 Madison Ave. between East 55th and 56th streets, the vacant former Sony headquarters that Olayan America is spending $300 million to redesign.
Olayan has been showing 550 Madison’s 750,000 square feet to prospective tenants prior to completion of the tower’s office floors later this year. But “it changed the dynamic and the vibe to see the whole street on guard,” said Erik Horvat, Olayan Group managing director and head of US real estate.
In addition, the barriers would have blocked new storefront glass windows to be installed soon.
Horvat added, “It’s not a political statement to say that until November, nobody even knew if the street would be closed for four years more.”
Barricades, widespread debris and machine-gun-toting security men were “inconsistent” with the health-conscious image the building wanted to project, Horvat said. Its “wellness” features — prime selling points for the post-COVID-19 era — include 30 percent increased ventilation and a new, greenery-rich public garden with twice the space of the 1984 tower’s original covered arcade. The project is aiming for LEED platinum and Well Building Standard gold status.
The street reopening was 550 Madison’s second stroke of fortune this week. The tower with its famous “Chippendale” top popped up in the background of The Weeknd’s Super Bowl halfime performance on Sunday — oddly, the only recognizable structure among dozens of imaginary ones.
It came as a surprise to Olayan.
“Everybody asked me how much we paid for it, but we didn’t have anything to do with it,” Horvat chuckled.