'The French guy' becomes New York tourist magnet

21st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fallen IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Saturday became New York's newest tourist attraction as he started house arrest with an armed guard in a historic Broadway building.

Strauss-Kahn arrived at the Empire Building at 71 Broadway late Friday. A television cameraman who said he was the only one at the scene at the time said a security guard pushed his camera out of the way so that no shots were taken of the French politician accused of sex crimes.

But the neo-classical building, finished in 1898 and for many years New York's tallest skyscraper, quickly took on a new notoriety. Tour groups soon found out where Strauss-Kahn was hiding away under house arrest.

"On your right is the building where the French guy accused of attempted rape is staying," said one tour guide in a double deck bus into his microphone in a commentary blared up Broadway.

Soon after came another bus and a group of Asian tourists waved at the building when they were told who the notorious new resident was.

A single uniformed policeman and a plain clothes officer stood at the entrance to the Empire Building, sometimes posing for photographs. Opposite a fleet of television satellite antenna trucks and scores of photographers and journalists dug in for a stakeout.

Saturday tourists attracted by the nearby Ground Zero building site of the September 11, 2001 attacks and Wall Street quickly latched onto the new attraction.

"Oh the French guy," became a common refrain as they asked media what the fuss was about. School groups snapped group photos in front of the building.

Residents are not happy. One man stood with a placard proclaiming "D.S.K. Not In My Backyard" in the hours after Strauss-Kahn arrived.

But the former International Monetary Fund managing director, accused of trying to rape a chambermaid in a New York hotel one week ago, is likely to be only a temporary diversion on Broadway.

Judge Michael Obus has said he could only stay at the residence for three or four days until a security company hired by Strauss-Kahn can find a more permanent house arrest address.

Strauss-Kahn paid one million dollars in bail money, deposited a five million dollar insurance bond and will have to wear an electronic bracelet. The company was also ordered to put an armed guard with Strauss-Kahn at all times.

© 2011 AFP

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