NEW YORK, May 21 – For a man of expensive tastes, Dominique Strauss-Kahn must have felt right back at home on transferring out of prison to an elegant building in the heart of Manhattan. At least unless he tried taking a stroll.
Moved on bail from Rikers Island jail where he\’d been held four nights on sex assault charges, the former International Monetary Fund chief found himself late on Friday in the surreal conditions of luxury house arrest.
His golden cage is at 71 Broadway, an apartment building right between the epic New York landmarks of Ground Zero and Wall Street. The historic Trinity church is next door and the bargain fashion store Century 21 just up the road.
But Strauss-Kahn, arrested May 14 on charges of trying to rape a Manhattan hotel maid, cannot go a step beyond his door.
Even if he could, he probably wouldn\’t dare.
Hordes of journalists besieged the entrance flanked by four marble columns and sculptured eagles. Satellite TV trucks lined up in a high-tech traffic jam along the sidewalk.
And residents, who enjoy apartments with high ceilings, a rooftop terrace for barbecues and a private gym, were hardly welcoming their notorious new neighbour.
"I\’m a little shocked," a well-dressed man said as he took in the news and the media circus outside. "This is surreal."
Although police threw up metal barricades to keep sidewalks clear, reporters rushed at dazed residents entering or leaving.
Gemma Harding, a glamorous looking young woman who emerged dressed up for a night out in white dress and white fake fur, tried to run in her high heels from the blinding camera lights. Relentlessly, the media cornered her.
"I don\’t like it, I find it a little bit scary," she said, dazzled.
Nicole Mitrovic, a 23-year-old working in insurance and just coming back from a yoga session when she heard the news, was appalled.
Like most New Yorkers she had followed the wall-to-wall coverage of Strauss-Kahn\’s humiliating downfall.
"I don\’t feel too great about this. Is he under watch? As a female I feel a bit worried for my well being," Mitrovic said. "I\’ll keep my eyes open."
There is little chance that Mitrovic or any of her co-residents will bump into Strauss-Kahn, who denies all charges against him but was only granted bail on the most stringent conditions.
If he tries to leave his apartment, he\’ll immediately find his way blocked by an armed guard.
He\’ll also be caught on video camera – and that\’s before the GPS unit attached to him alerts more security guards that he is attempting to leave.
Things will actually get better for Strauss-Kahn in a few days when he is moved to another, more permanent lodging to wait out what\’s expected to be a trial process of many months.
Right now he is allowed out only for medical reasons.
But at the new location, which has not yet been determined, he will be let out for religious services, legal and court visits.
However, all the other restrictions, plus the hefty $1 million bail and $5 million bond, will still apply.
After the isolation wing at Rikers, Strauss-Kahn must be relishing a change in food and a real bed. Lower Manhattan is not renowned for night life, but close by are everything from Chinese to sushi and Middle Eastern restaurants.
Since Strauss-Kahn is unable to dine out, he\’s lucky that everywhere in New York delivers.
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