Prince William's visit to New York City was short and sweet, but it ended on a high note for the Prince of Wales as he met a crowd of well wishers gathered downtown hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal on his visit to FDNY Ten House.
The mass of people this afternoon offered a marked difference from William's first day in the city.
Yesterday, when he waded into the Hudson River with Billion Oyster Project, onlookers included almost exclusively security, students, and press. One man, walking his dog, stopped to watch for a moment. Was he a royal fan, Town & Country asked, or just curious? A bit of both, he replied. As Prince William cleaned oysters with Harbor School middle schoolers, a woman jogged by, not even slowing down to take in the scene.
Today was different: Prince William was greeted by hundreds of curious New Yorkers; most gathered had no prior knowledge that he was coming, but stopped to wait once they heard a royal was visiting the local fire station.
Dora Berksteiner, who lives in Staten Island and works across the street from Ten House, was one of the first people waiting at the barricades set up. "I just want to see Prince William in the flesh!" she told Town & Country before he arrived. She doesn't typically follow royal news, but didn't want to miss out on the possibility of meeting a member of the British royal family. "I've never been to London, England, so I probably wouldn't get another opportunity to see him—even from afar, if he didn't come here," she said.
When Prince William exited the station, he made a beeline to where Berksteiner was standing—in fact, she was one the first people he spoke to. "I couldn't believe it was him!" she told T&C afterwards, unable to wipe the smile off her face. "It caught off guard! I was super psyched. The royals are not my thing, but it was just nice—to be that close." As a typical New Yorker, she typically doesn't interact with celebrities, abiding by the philosophy of: "leave them alone, they're just people." But the fact he wanted to come and say hello? "That was so nice," she says.
"I thought it was nice that people stopped to just pay some attention to someone who's come from so far to say hello to us. People were cheering and I'm glad that he got that type of reception, because you want to feel like the trip was worth it, you know?"
Standing right next to her was Alyssa Budihas, another native New Yorker—but unlike Berksteiner, she was well aware Prince William was going to be in town. In fact, Budihas, who lives in Greenwich Village but works two blocks away, is a royal super fan. "I'm a very big royal fan—as long as I can remember. I grew up watching Princess Diana with my mom, just following all the history of it. Now, of course, it's really fun to see them in their modern era," she tells Town & Country. She's traveled to London for Trooping the Colour a few times, and attended Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee. For William's visit today, she was even wearing a beige Reiss blazer that she had seen Kate Middleton wear in the past. Of being a lifelong New Yorker and a lifelong royal fan, "those two don't often go hand in hand, but for me, they very much do."
Budihas had stopped into the souvenir shop next to the fire station to buy a gift for William, and she gave him three "I ❤️ New York" t-shirts for his three kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, along with two keepsake mini New York license plates that read "William" and "Catherine." She was one of the few in the crowd who got to meet him, had the opportunity to hand him gifts. After, she was visibly emotional and teary, telling T&C she felt "very overwhelmed, very happy, very grateful that he was as kind and gracious as that I had always imagined he would be."
Standing on the other side of Budihas was Anna Christos, who lives in Tribeca and was out doing her grocery shopping. She has also lived in New York her entire life, and never plans to leave: "I'm still alive because I'm in New York! I walk and talk to people." Today, one of those people was none other than Prince William, who shook her hand. "It was exciting! He was gorgeous in person. He was so handsome," Christos, who is a fan of Princess Diana, gushed.
In Town & Country's video, below, watch all three women meet the Prince: Berksteiner, in a dark denim jacket and a bright pink shirt, Budihas, handing him the t-shirts, and Christos, in a denim jacket and sunglasses:
A Kensington Palace spokesperson said yesterday that the Prince was "looking forward to meeting as many New Yorkers as possible." Thankfully, the weather cleared up today for him to do just that.
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