As the world waits to see whether a grand jury in lower Manhattan indicts former President Donald Trump, neighborhood resident Barbara Malmet decided to give up her front-row seat.
While police erected barricades around the courthouse where any criminal case would be brought, the retired New York University professor packed a bag and prepared to leave town.
Malmet, 70, lives a few blocks from the city’s civic center and said she is concerned about “a smaller repeat of Jan. 6” if Trump incites “his cult followers into violence.” She wants ”a little more peace of mind not being within walking distance of the courthouse.”
So far, Trump's call for protests has not resulted in any lawlessness, and life has generally gone on as usual in the neighborhood of government buildings and office towers on the edge of Chinatown.
TV camera tripods and lights have sprouted on the sidewalks. Metal barricades are in place to keep people out of the streets. Small groups of demonstrators — some supporting Trump, some opposing him — have come and gone.
On Wednesday, some television drama overlapped with the real-life drama as scenes from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” were filmed in the area. More filming was planned for the weekend, with notices announcing that a feature film titled “Juliet” would be shooting nearby.
Every block in New York City “has its own universe,” said Alli Coates, 35, while kicking a small ball for Trinity, an English springer spaniel, on Tuesday in a park behind the courthouse. “There’s always so much happening that the fact that there’s 50,000 reporters a block away, I don’t even know that.”
Plenty of others were out enjoying the sunshine as news crews waited for word on whether Trump will be charged in an investigation of payments to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump.
A trickle of activists visited the courthouse for demonstrations that were partly performance art. One person tried to enter the building carrying a large cross, like Jesus.
Another man sat on the ground wearing a Trump flag as a cape and a hat with antlers. A demonstrator on a nearby bench held a placard saying “Trump is over."
Philippe Lejeune, 38, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, walked up and down the street carrying a handmade sign chastising Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
"There’s some people here for the cameras," he acknowledged, but said it was too important to let the moment pass without speaking out. “You want to skate by in a pink flamingo costume? You can do that."
Brinley Cobden and Moustafa Ibrahim have followed the grand jury developments, but the couple had an entirely different reason to keep an eye on the media.
They were concerned that the crowds could make them late to an important appointment at the city’s marriage bureau, which is in the same building where the grand jury has been meeting.
They received their marriage license the day before and needed to tie the knot Tuesday, according to the rules.
They had no trouble getting in. Asked on her way out of the clerk's office what she would remember about the day, Cobden said simply, “We got married.”