After Pope Francis finishes evening prayers at St. Patrick’s tonight, he’ll probably be eager to head straight to bed given his jam-packed day on Friday — especially since the past few days haven’t been very restful either.
And where exactly will that be? Luckily for him, he’s bunking with Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, who lives in a five-story townhouse at 20 East 72nd Street on the Upper East Side. It looks just like all of the surrounding swanky buildings — except for the Secret Service agents milling about, the mirrored windows, and the Vatican flag hanging above the doors, which are decorated with the Holy See coat of arms. Inside the house, which was originally owned by Hugh Grant — New York’s youngest mayor, not the British rom-com veteran — is a chapel designed by the same guy who did St. Patrick’s. Outside is Central Park … and a Ralph Lauren. The emir of Qatar has a mansion across the street.
According to DNAinfo, the property is worth about $20 million.
Pope Francis isn’t the first pontiff to stay at the townhouse; Pope John Paul II stayed there twice. When he was there in 1995, an unplanned detour through the Lincoln Tunnel caused the types of unholy traffic jams that the NYPD is worried could happen tomorrow. Shortly before Pope Benedict XVI arrived in 2008, the New York Observer talked to a driver who worked on the Upper East Side about the 1995 security madness: “Last time they had barricades at Fifth and Madison, the manhole covers and mail boxes were sealed, they had checkpoints to inspect packages before they could be delivered.” In 2008, there was a big reception for the cardinals at the Vatican residence, according to the New York Times, and “vegetable risotto prepared by cooks from the restaurants Del Posto, Becco and Felidia” was served to 52 guests. Pope Francis is planning no big parties — “The pope himself has requested only still water and bananas in his room.”
Although the house may be relatively quiet on the inside, the traffic and security hoopla, if anything, is going to be more insane this time around. One law-enforcement official told the New York Post, “I don’t know if he’s going to be able to sleep, there will be so many cops outside.”
The residents who live nearby might be even more annoyed by all the noise — especially since they’ll have to deal with the new security protocol, too.
[C]oncrete barriers and sand-filled trucks will block East 72nd Street between Fifth and Madison avenues from Thursday to Saturday to protect against potential car or truck bombs. Bomb-sniffing dogs will be in place, the streets cleared of cars and buildings will be scoured. Residents will be screened, have their bags searched and be required to show ID before they can get into their own buildings. Authorities will also build an above-ground, bulletproof passageway so the pope can safely walk from the house to a waiting vehicle.