Prince William and Kate: Buzz in the city for royal New York visit

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NEW YORK — Prince William and Kate started their whirlwind tour of New York City on Monday, attracting crowds of well-wishers and heavy security.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived Sunday for a three-day trip, their first to the Big Apple, which could include mingling with the American version of royals.

Excited royal watchers gathered outside their hotel hours before their arrival, braving the nighttime winter chill. The Empire State Building also got in on the action, changing its world-famous lights to red, white and blue — the colors of the Great Britian’s Union Jack.

Reporting from New York, CNN royal correspondent Max Foster said the couple’s visit was causing commotion in the city.

Screams greeted the Duchess of Cambridge when she arrived at a children’s craft group in Harlem, greeted by the first lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, amid tight security.

“They were very excited even to see the motorcade, and there is a real buzz around the city today,” Foster said.

“I think that association with Diana (Prince William’s late mother), who used to come to New York a lot — the biggest star in the world — and Kate seems to be the closest replacement they have to Diana in this day and age.”

The Cambridges’ flurry of activities includes a conservation reception with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, and Prince William split for a while Monday for a trip to Washington, where he met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

William’s visit underscored “the special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom, the White House said.

After meeting with Obama, Prince William spoke at a session of the World Bank about the need for an international effort to stop illegal wildlife trading.

“Cooperation is our greatest weapon against the poachers and traffickers who rely on evading individual national initiatives,” he said. “Our collective goal must be to reduce the wildlife trade by making it harder: denying traffickers access to transportation, putting up barriers to their illegal activities and holding people accountable for their actions.”

William returned to New York City, where the couple attended an NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

William and Kate also got a look at American-style protest as demonstrators marched outside the arena to show their anger over the lack of an indictment in the Eric Garner chokehold death.

During the evening game, the couple will get a chance to watch an American basketball royal in action, LeBron James, who is also called King James.

At the game in Brooklyn, the couple are likely to rub shoulders with Beyonce — Queen Bey to her fans — and her husband, Jay-Z. The celebrity couple used to be part owners of the Brooklyn basketball team.

The couple’s plans Tuesday include a moment of reflection at the 9/11 memorial and a glittering charity dinner for their alma mater, St. Andrews University, at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

Kate, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, has battled acute morning sickness in recent months, and has had to cancel some events.

Their chubby-cheeked toddler, Prince George, did not accompany them on the trip.

CNN’s Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

By Faith Karimi and Ralph Ellis