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Vice President Out My Window

By Brian | April 22, 2010 | Share on Facebook

Vice-President Joe Biden just left 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. Since 30 Rock is visible outside my office window, I can provide you a blow-by-blow account of what it takes for this man to actually leave a building:

1:15pm – Three limousines, two black Suburban SUV’s, and a few NYPD police cars come down 50th Street and park in front of the Observation Deck entrance to 30 Rock. All three limousines have American flags on their right fender, and another flag I didn’t recognize (the State of New York flag, perhaps?) on their left fender. The second and third limousines have the Seal of the Vice President on the doors.

1:16pm – The NYPD sets up metal barricades along 50th Street from 6th Avenue down to Rockefeller Plaza (the length of the building).

1:17pm – 1:30pm – People walking along (or across) 50th Street, as well as people coming out of 30 Rock, are slowly but surely corralled behind the metal barricades. A crowd begins to form behind the barricades, all of whom seem to have cameras, most of whom are carrying signs of obvious tourism – NBC Studio Store bags, I Love NY T-Shirts, and the like.

1:30pm – With the street completely clear of cars and people, about half a dozen NYPD motorcycles appear from inside the parking garage in 50 Rock (right across the street from 30 Rock, and the building my office is in).

1:30pm – 1:45pm – The police motorcycles, along with secret service agents and on-foot NYPD officers fan out – standing roughly 10-15 feet apart along the entire length of 50th Street. Their main function seems to be to direct startled tourists who walk out of a building or try to walk across the street, unaware of what’s been going on for the last half hour, to stand behind the barricades and gawk with everyone else. Various men & women in suits mill about in front of 30 Rock, shaking hands with each other and smiling. One gentleman takes out a soft brush and begins dusting the third limousine. After he’s gone all around it, he puts the brush away and takes out a soft cloth, and then wipes the car down again. This is one clean car!

1:45pm – Joe Biden, along with about a dozen other people (including a small child dressed in a jacket and tie, who I assume was his grandson?) emerge from 30 Rock. There is a brief cheer from the crowd, stifled immediately by the concentration they require to take pictures. Biden briefly uses the interior car floor as a step-ladder, lifting himself up a foot or so, and waves in both directions. Secret Service then grab him from both sides, push his head down so as to avoid him banging it on the car roof, and begin putting him in the car.


(Click to slightly enlarge – this was a cellphone camera, after all…)

1:46pm – Vice President Biden stops the secret service, re-emerges from the car, greets a blonde woman standing in front of 30 Rock and poses for a picture with her in front of his limousine (one of the people that came out of the building with him appeared to be an official photographer).


(Click to slightly enlarge – as above…)

1:47pm – Vice President Biden gets back in the car (this time under his own power), and all the cars pull away, heading east down 50th Street.

1:48pm – The police remove the metal barricades, people begin walking down/across the street, and everything looks as though nothing ever happened.

I’d guess it took about fifty people just over a half-hour to prepare for and execute the procedure, “Joe Biden leaves a building.” And we wonder why it takes so long to get things done…

Topics: New York, New York | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Vice President Out My Window”

  1. Ilya says at April 23rd, 2010 at 1:29 pm :
    This reminds me of a joke making rounds on Russian internet circles these days. President Medvedev went to Buenos Aires; when meeting his Argentine counterpart, he complained: You have so much traffic here; I am driven around Moscow all the time and I never see any jams…

    Yeah, when they stop all traffic half an hour in advance and keep streets completely clear, it kinda follows.

  2. Jeff Porten says at June 24th, 2010 at 9:01 pm :
    A friend of mine worked on the Clinton advance team. Typically, it took two months of work for a one-day trip, precisely to deal with all of these issues. She was usually onsite for her planning work two weeks in advance of any trip — and when he went more places, then there were multiple people leading up each team. This is not substantially different from what happens with any cabinet-level officer; dunno if Congresscritters need as much advance work.

    I’m pretty sure the other flag is the Seal of the Vice President. Their limos have those flags, which are removed in high-security environments. (In those cases, the limos are usually replaced with more discreet cars.)

    It’s fascinating what goes on with the Secret Service — they do that whole head-ducking thing *every time*, and it’s *not* necessarily for security. It’s to enculturate the person they’re protecting to *get used* to being manhandled like that. This has two benefits: 1) it gets them to constantly expect security to be put in place, so if Biden doesn’t have reason to stop, he doesn’t protest, and 2) when the shit goes down, it makes it *far safer* for Biden because he’s going to be in the habit of letting the professionals do their jobs.

    Guys like Obama and Biden are used to getting their way, and *not* being touched. Secret Service policies unconsciously *train* them to assist in security protocols when they’re needed. In all cases, though, if the person being protected decides to do something, the Secret Service *must* go along with it. The most they’re allowed to do, when it’s appropriate, is for the lead of the team to tell him when it’s decidedly not a good idea.

    For those times where Obama and Biden spontaneously go out for burgers and fries, sometimes it *is* spontaneous, but in most cases, the Secret Service has vetted various locations in advance, and there’s a secret list of places where Obama can spontaneously decide to go.

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