Like many people who live in New York City, I've gone out of my way to avoid Trump Tower for the last year. But on one recent afternoon afternoon not even a small army of police officers could stop me from standing on the corner of 5th Avenue and 56th Street in the shadow of the president's landmark skyscraper. I was there to fight and catch a rare Pokémon, and that's exactly what I did.
Why was I so determined to play Pokémon Go at Trump Tower?
The idea came to me a few weeks earlier after reading a thread posted to Pokémon Go NYC, a secret Facebook group with over 12,000 members. One player from upstate New York posted about visiting the big city, asking for place suggestions where there would be a guaranteed groups of players for a raid, a mode where trainers work together to defeat a rare and powerful Pokémon. One suggestion stood out: Trump Tower.
Politics aside, Trump Tower is a pretty good place for a raid. It's packed with potential players (tourists cruising 5th Avenue's fancy stores), and it's just a few blocks from Central Park, which any decent trainer knows is the best place in the city to catch Pokémon. So I decided to head to Trump Tower, catch some Pokémon, and maybe talk to a few players about politics too.
Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned.
I organized a Trump Tower meetup with a few other Pokémon Go NYC members, and when the big day finally arrived I posted an update to the thread. Then, in true Pokémon fashion, I hopped on my bike and made my way from Brooklyn into the heart of Manhattan.
But once I got within a few blocks of Trump Tower my plan quickly fell apart. The area was swarming with cops and Secret Service. Entire streets were blocked off. When I asked one police officer how to get to 5th Avenue he explained that I'd have to walk three blocks out of the way first.
Worse, the actual block where Trump Tower is located was completely off limits, with cop cars and garbage trucks doubling as barricades and lining the street as far as the eye could see. In my excitement, I had forgotten that Trump was still in town after addressing the UN earlier that week.
I locked up my bike, sent an update warning anyone trying to meet me that the entire area was a clusterfuck, and soldiered on. It felt like I was in one of the original Pokémon games, slowly making my way through a difficult level where any wrong turn could send me all the way back to the start. After walking in circles for about 30 minutes and not making any progress I was getting desperate. There was an active Pokémon raid at Trump Tower and I was running out of time.
In a last ditch effort, I ducked into the Tiffany's jewelry store around the corner from the tower and uncovered a secret shortcut. Customers were exiting directly onto 5th Avenue, just steps from Trump Tower's front door.
I walked past the main entrance, pausing for a second to photograph a group of armed police officers before finally arriving at the planned meetup destination. Surrounded by a handful of cops on an otherwise abandoned street corner, I booted up Pokémon Go, initiated the raid, and began frantically tapping on my phone as the battle got underway.
As my solo raid heated up, a police officer walked over to me. I panicked, thinking he would force me to leave—or worse. Instead, he asked, "Are you lost?"
"No," I said, showing him my iPhone screen. "I'm just playing Pokémon Go."
He looked confused for a second and then laughed. I took another step back, still in range of the Trump Tower gym, and kept fighting. Finally, I managed to beat and capture the raid boss, Croconaw, an evolved starter from the Gold and Silver Pokémon games.
I took a look around, plotted my escape from the maze of police barriers, and headed home to plan my next adventure.
Would I go back to Trump Tower for another raid? Sure, though you'll probably have more fun in Central Park just a few blocks away. But if you see a rare Pokémon pop-up at the infamous skyscraper don't hesitate to join the battle—just make sure the president is out of town before you do.