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Trump Tower becomes hot New York tourist magnet
[NEW YORK] New York is packed with some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world but there's a hot new ticket in town: Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.
Americans from out of state, Israeli teenagers, a tourist group from China and Europeans - all have been seen stopping off at the place that is the nerve center of Donald Trump's maverick campaign to win the White House.
The presumptive Republican nominee and real estate tycoon lives in a marble triplex at the top of the 68-story glass tower, ensconced in a mini-Versailles of gold leaf, columns, moldings and crystal chandeliers with wife Melania.
The rest of the building is home, not just to his campaign for the presidency, but also his Trump Organisation business empire, shops and apartments.
It was here that the billionaire announced his candidacy in a scene straight out of Hollywood by sailing down the escalator with Melania on June 16, back when no one took him seriously.
Thanks to an agreement that allowed Mr Trump to build 20 stories higher, its massive marble atrium with a huge waterfall wall and dotted with mirrors is a public private space as stipulated by city hall like 500 others in New York.
As a result, passers-by are free to wander in until 10 pm most days - unless extra security is on hand because of events or high-profile visitors.
It is a temple to its creator.
There is a Trump bar, Trump cafe, Trump restaurant and counters just inside the door selling Trump souvenirs - shirts, ties, cufflinks, scent and his business books. Another boutique sells items from daughter Ivanka's jewelry line.
Air hostess Carmen Smith, originally from Colombia, was one of those who crossed the threshold, becoming at her 13-year-old son's request, a "Trump fan."
A young couple from Michigan popped in especially to buy two trucker hats emblazed with Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." "There is no perfect candidate but for the situation we are currently in I do think he is the premier choice right now," said firefighter Steve Dela. "I think Mr Trump is an amazing guy, he is a very intelligent man."
Domenico Monteleone, an Italian fresh from a family weekend in Massachusetts, had only one day in New York but chose to swing by the Trump Tower, hoping to catch a glimpse of its celebrity occupant.
"I am a fan of Berlusconi and I think Donald Trump is the American Berlusconi," he told AFP. "If America wants to change, Donald Trump must be the next president of the United States because with Hillary Clinton nothing changes." He visited the afternoon that access to the next story up was restricted. Security guards wearing Trump buttons watched the crowd in the atrium like hawks as people got excited that the hold-up might mean Trump was coming.
But it was Ivanka who swept past, before quickly disappearing into the Trump Bar.
Then a man stepped into the elevator. "It's Trump's son," murmured some.
"You are wasting your time, you will not see Mr Trump," said one of the guards.
Outside, tourists posed in front of the Trump Tower sign on the facade in huge gold capital letters or next to a liveried doorman.
"I always thought it was a joke that he was running for president, then it started to pick up speed, and I now I am just generally worried how much momentum he gained," said Ray Fatto, raising his middle finger as he took a selfie.
The building's residents, some of them famous themselves, are protected from the crowd and have their own entrance around the corner on 56th Street.
Among them is Jose Maria Marin, the former Brazilian Football Confederation president under house arrest as part of the Fifa corruption scandal. Accused of taking bribes worth millions of dollars, he has pleaded not guilty.