|Type||Retail, office, and residential|
|Location||721 Fifth Avenue|
Manhattan, New York
|Current tenants||The Trump Organization|
|Named for||Donald Trump|
|Inaugurated||November 30, 1983|
|Owner||GMAC Commercial Mortgage|
|Architectural||664 ft (202 m)|
|Design and construction|
|Architecture firm||Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell|
|Structural engineer||Irwin Cantor|
|Number of units||232|
|Number of restaurants||3|
|Number of bars||1|
Trump Tower is a 58-floor, 664-foot-tall (202 m) mixed-use skyscraper at 721–725 Fifth Avenue in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City, between 56th and 57th Streets. It serves as the headquarters for the Trump Organization. Additionally, it houses the penthouse condominium residence of businessman, real estate developer, and former U.S. president Donald Trump, who developed the building and named it after himself. Several members of the Trump family also live, or have resided, in the building. The tower stands on a plot where the flagship store of department-store chain Bonwit Teller was formerly located.
Der Scutt of Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell designed Trump Tower, and Trump and the Equitable Life Assurance Company (now the AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company) developed it. Although it is in one of Midtown Manhattan's special zoning districts, the tower was approved because it was to be built as a mixed-use development. Trump was permitted to add more stories to the tower because of the atrium on the ground floor. There were controversies during construction, including the destruction of historically important sculptures from the Bonwit Teller store; Trump's alleged underpaying of contractors; and a lawsuit that Trump filed because the tower was not tax-exempt.
Construction on the building began in 1979. The atrium, apartments, offices, and stores opened on a staggered schedule from February to November 1983. At first, there were few tenants willing to move into the commercial and retail spaces; the residential units were sold out within months of opening. After Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent election, the tower saw large increases in visitation, though security concerns required the area around the tower to be patrolled for several years.
Trump Tower is at 721–725 Fifth Avenue in north Midtown, on the east side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. It is adjacent to the Tiffany & Co. flagship store to the north and 590 Madison Avenue to the east. Other nearby buildings include the LVMH Tower and Fuller Building to the northeast; the L. P. Hollander & Company Building to the north; the Bergdorf Goodman Building and Solow Building to the northwest; the Crown Building to the west; 712 Fifth Avenue and the townhouses at 10 and 12 West 56th Street to the southwest; and 550 Madison Avenue to the southeast.
The building's main entrance is on Fifth Avenue, with a side entrance on 56th Street only for residents. On the sidewalk opposite the main entrance, there is a four-sided brown-and-beige clock, which was created by the Electric Time Company and is nearly 16 feet (4.9 m) tall. Retail outlets include Gucci's flagship store at ground floor retail.
The 58-story Trump Tower was designed by Der Scutt for developer Donald Trump. It is 664 feet (202 m) high, making it the 64th tallest building in New York City. The top story is marked as "68" because, according to Trump, the five-story-tall public atrium occupied the height of ten ordinary stories. However, several Bloomberg L.P. writers later determined that Trump's calculations did not account for the fact the ceiling heights in Trump Tower were much taller than in comparable buildings, and the tower did not have any floors numbered 6–13. According to one author, the building may have as few as 48 usable stories. As of 2021[update], the building's official owner is GMAC Commercial Mortgage, according to the New York City Department of City Planning.
Facade and form
The 28-sided structure, with a stepped facade, was intended to give the tower more window exposure. Above the main entrance is a logo with 34-inch-high (86 cm) brass capital letters in Stymie Extra Bold font, which reads "Trump Tower". A concrete hat-truss at the top of the building, similar to one used in the Trump World Tower, ties exterior columns with the concrete core. This hat-truss increases the effective dimensions of the core to that of the building allowing the building to resist the overturning of lateral forces such as those caused by wind, minor earthquakes, and other impacts perpendicular to the building's height.
The tower is a reinforced concrete shear wall core structure. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest structure of its type in the world. Trump Tower used 45,000 cubic yards (34,000 m3) of concrete and 3,800 tons of steelwork. The use of a concrete superstructure was in contrast to many other skyscrapers, which were built on steel frames. Scutt said a concrete frame was easier to build and was more rigid than a steel frame was. More specifically, it employed a concrete tube structure, which had been pioneered by Bangladeshi-American structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan in the 1960s.
Trump Tower has been described as one of the city's least energy-efficient buildings per square foot. In 2017, Trump Tower's Energy Star score was 44 out of 100, below the city's overall median Energy Star score and lower than the 48 out of 100 score recorded in 2015. In May 2019 it was reported that eight of Trump's buildings in New York City, including Trump Tower, failed to meet the city's 2030 carbon emission standards, which were implemented as part of the city's "Green New Deal". The city threatened to fine Trump Organization for each year the infractions went unfixed.
The tower's public spaces are clad in 240 tons of Breccia Pernice, a pink white-veined marble. The lobby is off Fifth Avenue, and the five-level atrium, which features a 60-foot-high (18 m) internal waterfall along the eastern wall that is spanned by a suspended walkway, shops, and cafes. Four gold-painted elevators transport visitors from the lobby to higher floors; a dedicated elevator leads directly to the penthouse where the Trump family lives.
Originally, Trump only wanted to build an office building on the site, but the plot was in the Fifth Avenue special zoning district, which allowed more floor area for mixed-use towers with public space. The Trump Organization built a five-story, 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) atrium, which was legally designated a "public space" according to city code, in exchange for permission to add twenty stories to the planned tower. The atrium, legally a privately operated public space (POPS), is bedecked in marble, which has been described as "rosy and yellow," and is crowned with a skylight. The atrium was originally supposed to be furnished with multiple 40-foot (12 m), 3,000-pound (1,400 kg) trees, which were transported at a cost of $75,000, but Trump, who supposedly did not like how the trees looked, personally cut them down after impatiently waiting for contractors to painstakingly remove them via a tunnel. It is connected to 590 Madison Avenue's atrium to the east. When the tower opened, the Fifth Avenue Association awarded the first-prize "mixed use building" award to the atrium, marking the association's first award in five years.
The Trump Organization also constructed terraces on the building's setbacks in exchange for extra floor area. These were included as part of Trump's agreement with the city during construction. There is a terrace on the fifth floor on the northern (57th Street) side of the building, with a smaller fourth-floor terrace on the southern (56th Street) side. The fifth-floor north-side terrace had several trees and a fountain, while the fourth-floor south-side terrace has little more than a few granite benches. There is also a passageway to a glass-roofed POPS at 590 Madison Avenue.
Trump Grill was generally panned as gaudy-looking and the food bland-tasting. Vanity Fair called it a contender for "the worst restaurant in America," with different menus for different customers and "steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients." Eater rated the food as "totally unadventuresome and predictable, though competently prepared, like food you might find in a country club." New York magazine wrote that "despite what the sign reads, countless restaurants trump this spot." In December 2016, Yelp reviews of Trump Grill averaged two-and-a-half out of five stars, while Google reviews averaged three of five stars. Health inspections in 2018 reported "evidence of mice or live mice" in and around the kitchen, according to records obtained by the New York Daily News, in violations the inspectors called "critical".
Eater reviewed the three other establishments as well, finding them to be commonplace compared to Trump Tower's stature. The ice cream was described as "almost too soft to be scooped," and the cafe contained food such as a "rubbery and overcooked" hamburger patty and some "inedible" steak fries. The reviewers at Eater also wrote that the bar offered a small, overpriced drink menu and snacks that "do little to affirm the luxury that the place aspires to." Vice magazine also reviewed the bar and found it to be overpriced, with "a strong pour of watered-down vodka and a few Manzanilla olives" costing twenty dollars. New York magazine, reviewing the cafe, found the food to be "safe classics" that contrasted with the cafe's grandeur.
The building has thirteen office floors on levels 14 to 26, then another 39 condominium floors containing 263 condominiums on levels 30–68. Trump later said he had placed the first residential floor on the level numbered 30 as part of a marketing strategy for all his towers, and that he "did not see why he should be forced to call the first residential floor something mundane like the second floor, or even the 20th floor." Trump may also have numbered the residential floors because he disliked the fact that the nearby General Motors Building was 41 feet (12 m) taller. Many of the apartments are furnished, but some of the upper-floor commercial spaces come unfurnished. In the apartments, mirrors and brass are used throughout, and the kitchens are outfitted with "standard suburban" cabinets.
The NBC television show The Apprentice was filmed in Trump Tower, on the fifth floor, in a fully functional television studio. The set of The Apprentice included the famous boardroom, which was prominently featured in the television show, where at least one person was fired at the end of each episode. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., founded in 2015 to manage Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, headquartered within part of the space where The Apprentice was filmed; unlike the former boardroom, the headquarters is unfurnished, with some offices containing "only drywall and no door". After Trump's successful election, the campaign was moved out of the tower and instead into office space in Arlington, Virginia, where his unsuccessful 2020 re-election campaign was headquartered. 
Donald Trump had envisioned building a tower at 56th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan since childhood, but formulated plans to develop the site only in the mid-1970s, when he was in his thirties. At the time, the flagship store of Bonwit Teller, an architecturally renowned building built in 1929, occupied the lot. The site was next to Tiffany & Co.'s flagship building, which Trump considered the city's best real-estate property. Approximately twice every year, Trump contacted Bonwit Teller's parent company, Genesco, to ask whether they were willing to sell Bonwit Teller's flagship store. Trump said the first time he contacted Genesco, "they literally laughed at me." Genesco continued to decline his offers and, according to Trump, "they thought I was kidding."
In 1977, John Hanigan became the new chairman of Genesco. He looked to sell off some assets to pay debts, and Trump approached him with an offer to buy the Bonwit Teller building. In February 1979, Genesco sold off many of the Bonwit Teller locations to Allied Stores, and sold the brand's flagship building to the Trump Organization. At the time, the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States owned the land, while Genesco had a long-term lease on the land, with 29 years remaining. If Trump were to buy the building, his tower's ownership could be transferred to Equitable in 2008, once the lease expired. Equitable initially refused to sell the land to Trump, but the Trump Organization bought the lease instead, and Equitable exchanged the land in return for a 50% stake in the construction project itself. This was more profitable for Equitable, since they were getting only $100,000 per year from Genesco for the use of the land, while a single condominium in the tower could be sold for millions of dollars. In a deal negotiated by his father, Trump also bought the air rights around Tiffany's flagship store to prevent another developer from tearing down the store and building a taller building.
Trump then needed to convince the New York City Department of City Planning, Manhattan Community Board 5, and the New York City Board of Estimate to rezone the area for his planned tower. In 1979, the New York Committee for a Balanced Building Boom had opposed the planned rezoning over fears Fifth Avenue's character would be changed by the construction of skyscrapers. Trump later said a positive review of the building by the famed architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable had played a part in securing the support of some of the more skeptical members on each committee. The deal attracted some criticism from the media. A writer for New York magazine said the approval of Trump Tower has "legitimized a pushy kid nobody took seriously," while The Wall Street Journal wrote that Trump combined "a huckster's flair for hyperbole with a shrewd business and political sense," and The Village Voice said Trump "turn[s] political connections into private profits at public expense."
The Trump Organization closed Bonwit Teller's flagship store in May 1979, and the store was demolished by 1980. Trump hired Der Scutt, the architect of Trump Tower, in July 1978, a year before the Bonwit Teller site was purchased. Scutt had collaborated with Trump before to develop Grand Hyatt New York and several other projects. The architect initially proposed a design similar to Boston's John Hancock Tower, but Trump objected strongly. He preferred a building that was both expensive and very tall, with a design critics and potential tenants would approve of. The real-estate mogul later stated that "the marble in Trump Tower would cost more than the entire rent from one of my buildings in Brooklyn."
Two major factors affected Trump Tower's construction. One was the decision to use a concrete superstructure. The other was the decision to design Trump Tower as a mixed-use building as part of the Fifth Avenue special zoning district. As originally planned, the tower was to have 60 stories consisting of 13 office floors, 40 condominium floors, and two floors for mechanical uses, but this was later amended. The base was to be made of limestone, while the building's elevators were to be in a separate glass structure outside the main tower. The final plan called for the building to contain 58 stories. The lowest six floors were to be occupied by the atrium, followed by 13 office floors above it, and 39 condominium floors above the office floors.
While creating the final design for Trump Tower, Scutt studied the designs of other skyscrapers, almost all having a similar architectural form. To make Trump Tower stand out from the "boxy" International Style buildings being erected at the time, Scutt designed the tower as a 28-faced edifice with an "inverted pyramid of cubes" at the base. This design received mixed reviews from critics: although it was widely praised as creative, many reviewers also believed the tower could be covered in masonry to blend in with neighboring buildings, or that its height should be reduced for the same reason. The city ultimately accepted this design.
HRH Construction was hired as the contractor on Trump Tower. The company would go on to build many of Trump's other real-estate developments. HRH hired several dozen subcontractors to work on different aspects of the building. Barbara Res, who had worked on some of Trump's other projects, was hired as the construction executive in October 1980. She had previously worked for HRH Construction during the building of the Citigroup Center and the Grand Hyatt. Res was the first woman assigned to oversee a major New York City construction site. She was often ignored by subcontractors and suppliers who were new to the project, as they thought the person in charge of construction was a man.
The head superintendent of the project was Anthony "Tony Raf" Rafaniello, who worked for HRH Construction. He was in charge of coordinating construction based on the site's blueprints. Rafaniello was supported by five assistant superintendents, including Jeff Doynow, who was one of the first "concrete supervisors" to be hired for the construction of a skyscraper. After Rafaniello was hired for the Trump Tower project in September 1980, he spent a week planning a three-phase construction schedule. Once the subcontractors were hired, Rafaniello made sure they met once a week to ensure they were working on the same phase.
Trump Tower's proposed mixed-use status posed obstacles during construction since there were different regulations for residential, commercial, and retail spaces. Several prospective commercial and residential tenants requested custom-made features, including the installation of a swimming pool for one unit, and the removal of a wall with utilities inside it for another. Trump's then-wife, Ivana Trump, was involved in selecting some of the tower's minor details. Donald Trump and Res agreed to fulfill many of these requests, but they did not always agree on matters of design. In one case, Trump so hated the marble slabs at some of the tower's corners that he demanded they be removed completely, even at great cost; he eventually decided bronze panels should be placed over the marble, but Res later said she refused to buy them.
Trump Tower was one of the first skyscrapers with a concrete frame, along with Chicago's One Magnificent Mile engineered by Fazlur Rahman Khan in 1983. The contractors had to complete a floor before they started erecting the floor above it. Concrete was more expensive in New York City than anywhere else in the United States, which raised the construction costs. All the floors above the 20th used a roughly similar design, and each of these floors could be completed within two days. However, the floors below the 20th floor were all different, so each took several weeks to erect. Trump Tower had a low number of worker fatalities during construction. One worker died during the tower's excavation after a neighboring sidewalk collapsed. Another incident occurred when the tower's 25th through 27th floors accidentally caught fire, slightly damaging a construction crane and delaying construction for two months. In May 1983, a glass windowpane fell from a crane installing windows on the tower, hitting two pedestrians, one of whom later died from a skull fracture.
Trump Tower was topped out by July 1982, two-and-a-half years after the start of construction. Originally, it was estimated the tower would cost $100 million to build. The total cost ended up being approximately twice that; this included $125 million in actual construction costs and $75 million for other expenditures such as insurance.
Opening and later years
Trump bought full-page advertisements in multiple newspapers and magazines to advertise his new tower. The first tenants included Asprey and Ludwig Beck, who moved into the building before its planned opening in early 1983. The grand opening of the atrium and stores was held on February 14, 1983, with the apartments and offices following shortly afterwards. The tower's forty ground-level stores opened for business on November 30, 1983. At the building's dedication, Mayor Koch said, "This is not your low-income housing project ... of which we need many. But we also need accommodations, uh, for those who can afford to pay a lot of money and bring a lot of taxes into the city." By August 1983, the construction loan for Trump Tower's construction had been paid off using the $260 million revenue from the sale of 85% of the 263 condominium units. Ninety-one units, representing over a third of the tower's total housing stock, had sold for more than $1 million. The first residents were set to begin moving in that month.
Despite the destruction of the Bonwit Teller store's building, the flagship store itself was able to keep operating at the site, having signed a lease for 80,000 square feet (7,400 m2) within the lower-levels' shopping area. The controversy over the destruction of the Bonwit Teller decorations had largely passed: in August 1983, one New York Times reporter wrote that "the only negative comments about Donald Trump these days are given off the record." By then, there were forty high-end outfits that had opened stores in the tower. These included Buccellati, Charles Jourdan brands, Mondi, and Fila. Trump said in 1985 that there were more than a hundred stores wanting to move into a space in the tower. Around this time, he began describing the tower as "something of a New York landmark." By 1986, between 15% and 20% of the tower's original stores had closed or moved to another location. The commercial rents were the highest of any building along Fifth Avenue at the time, with retail space in the atrium costing $450 per square foot ($4,800/m2) per year. One writer for Vanity Fair magazine noted that as tenants were evicted from the tower's atrium due to high rents, several of them sued the Trump Organization for issues such as overbilling and illegal lease termination.
The residential units were more successful, and 95% of the condominiums were sold in the first four months after it opened, despite their high prices. The cost of condominiums at the tower started at $600,000 and ranged up to $12 million, and the penthouse was sold for $15 million in 1985. The tower attracted many rich and famous residents, including Johnny Carson, David Merrick, Sophia Loren, and Steven Spielberg. In total, Trump received $300 million from the sale of the condominiums, which more than offset the $200 million cost of construction. By 1991, Trump was involved in lawsuits against residents: in October of that year, he successfully sued actor Pia Zadora and her husband, businessman Meshulam Riklis, to collect $1 million in unpaid rent.
The city government, under mayor Ed Koch, challenged the validity of the tax breaks given to Trump Tower. The government originally tried to deny a tax break on the basis that Trump Tower did not replace an "underused" site, as was required under the 421-a tax exemption program. The New York Court of Appeals rejected the city's argument in 1984. Afterward, the city claimed Trump Tower's commercial space did not qualify for the exemption, but the Court of Appeals also rejected this argument in 1988. The city government then tried to reduce the amount of the exemption based on a more stringent method of calculation. In 1990, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the New York City government had to give Trump $6.2 million in tax rebates.
The flagship Bonwit Teller store remained as one of Trump Tower's retail offerings until March 1990, when its parent company declared bankruptcy and closed the Trump Tower location. In July of that year, Galeries Lafayette announced that it would sign a 25-year lease to move into the space previously occupied by Bonwit Teller, a move that expanded its business to the United States while helping Trump pay off the debts incurred by the tower's construction and operation. The new store opened in September 1991 after a $13.7 million renovation, but was unprofitable and lost a net $3.6 million in the first year alone because it had made only $8.4 million in sales.
Galeries Lafayette announced that it would be closing the Trump Tower location in August 1994, less than three years after it opened, due to its inability to pay the $8 million annual rent and taxes. Critics cited other factors, including the decision not to include merchandise from top French designers as the company's French locations had done. The Galeries Lafayette store was replaced with a Niketown location. By this time, most of the high-end retailers had moved out of Trump Tower, having been replaced with more upper-middle-class outlets such as Coach and Dooney & Bourke.
2000s to present
In 2006, Forbes magazine valued the 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) of office space at up to $318 million; the tower itself was valued at $288 million. Trump took a ten-year, $100 million mortgage loan on the building in 2012. Between 2014 and 2015, the building's valuation rose from $490 million to $600 million, making the tower the single most expensive property under Trump's ownership. In 2016, the tower's value dropped from $630 million to $471 million due to a 20% reduction in the tower's operating income and a further 8% decline in the overall value of real estate in Manhattan. Because of a $100 million debt incurred on Trump Tower, Forbes magazine calculated the tower's net worth at $371 million, excluding the Trumps' three-story penthouse, which has a net floor area of 10,996 square feet (1,021.6 m2).
After Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign at Trump Tower in 2015, the number of visits to the tower had risen drastically, with many of the visitors being supporters of Trump's candidacy. Stores in the atrium sold campaign memorabilia such as hats, with the proceeds going toward funding his campaign. The tower gained popularity among New York City tourists in 2016, especially after Trump was elected president. During and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, opponents of Trump's election created petitions to relocate the Niketown store, whose lease at Trump Tower ran through 2022. In 2017, the city ordered the removal of two unauthorized kiosks in Trump Tower selling Trump's merchandise. The New York Times reported in 2020 that rent from the building's commercial spaces had earned Trump $336 million from 2000 through the end of 2018, amounting to over $20 million per year.
Condominium owners and tenants
45th president of the United States
Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and their son Barron maintain a three-story residence on the penthouse floors. Until 2017, the tower was their main residence, among the family's other homes at Mar-a-Lago in Florida; Seven Springs in Bedford, New York; and part of an estate in Charlottesville, Virginia. From January 2017 until January 2021, Trump lived primarily at the White House. Melania and Barron lived in Trump Tower until June 2017, when they moved into the White House. Barron was reported to live on his own floor. Before Trump became president, his offices were located on the 26th floor, and he had a private elevator between the penthouse and his office. In a 1984 article in GQ magazine, Trump's then-wife Ivana said the first floor of the penthouse had the living, dining, and entertainment rooms and kitchen; the second had a balcony over the living room as well as their bedrooms and bathrooms; and the third contained bedrooms for the children, maids, and guests. Angelo Donghia provided the original black-and-white, brass-and-mahogany design for the penthouse, which was later replaced with a gold-and-Greek-column design after Trump reportedly saw the more lavish house of Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi.
Noted soccer organizations and players have rented space or lived in Trump Tower. CONCACAF, the governing body of association football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, occupies the entire 17th floor. Chuck Blazer, the former president of CONCACAF, used to live in two apartments on the 49th floor. One of these apartments, a $6,000-per-month suite, was occupied mainly by his cats, while Blazer lived in an adjoining $18,000-per-month apartment. The apartments and office space were described as part of an "extravagant" lifestyle that ultimately resulted in Blazer being apprehended and becoming an FBI informant in a corruption investigation against association soccer organizations worldwide, including CONCACAF and FIFA. Another noted soccer figure living in Trump Tower is José Maria Marin, former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, who is currently under house arrest in his apartment for FIFA-related corruption charges. As well, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo bought an $18.5 million apartment in the tower in August 2015 and planned to buy another $23 million apartment in 2016.
Other residents include filmmaker Vincent Gallo, art dealer Hillel "Helly" Nahmad, who bought a second apartment in the tower in July 2010; pharmaceutical entrepreneur Stewart Rahr, who has a corporate space on the 24th floor; Juan Beckmann Vidal, the owner of tequila brand Jose Cuervo; Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, who reportedly lives on an entire floor in the tower; and actor Bruce Willis, who bought a $4.26 million apartment in 2007. Additionally, Qatar Airways, owned by the Qatari government, has had a corporate campus in the tower since at least 2008, a fact that news media outlets noted when one of Trump's executive orders, EO 13769, banned immigration from seven majority-Muslim Middle Eastern countries, but not from Qatar. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has rented the 20th floor of Trump Tower since 2008, for approximately $2 million a year.
Past tenants include Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the ex-president of Haiti who died in 2014, who was discovered to have lived in a $2 million apartment on the 54th floor in 1989, when public records in Haiti showed that he had forgotten to pay his bills. The singer Michael Jackson rented an apartment on the 63rd floor during the 1990s. The composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, known for musicals such as Cats, moved out of his 59th and 60th floor apartment in 2010 after 17 years of stating his intention to do so. Carlos Peralta, a billionaire businessman from Mexico, sold an apartment in Trump Tower in 2009 for $13.5 million. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who lived in the tower when he was Trump's campaign manager, agreed to forfeit his Trump Tower condo in September 2018, as part of a plea deal made during the Special Counsel investigation of Russian ties to the 2016 election. In addition, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.'s headquarters were on the fifth floor. Trump's parents, Fred and Mary, had a second home on the 63rd floor they sometimes used when visiting Manhattan.
In February 2017, the United States Department of Defense announced it was looking to lease space in Trump Tower, to house "personnel and equipment" dedicated to protecting President Trump. This followed precedents where the DOD bought space in other presidents' properties, but the difference in this case was that the DOD's plan would directly profit Trump's business holdings. Later that month, a controversial Indiegogo campaign launched to house refugees in Trump Tower in response to EO 13769, which barred nationals of several majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States before being superseded by EO 13780.
Since it was launched in January 2017, the Donald Trump 2020 presidential campaign paid more than $890,000 in rent for space in Trump Tower, and the Republican National Committee spent $225,000.
Incidents and controversies
Destruction of Bonwit Teller Building features
The art dealer Robert Miller owned a gallery across Fifth Avenue from the Bonwit Teller Building. When Miller heard the building was to be demolished, he contacted Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In December 1979, Stiebel and Trump agreed that the Art Deco limestone bas-relief sculptures of semi-nude goddesses on the Bonwit Teller Building's facade, as well as the massive ornate 15 by 25 feet (4.6 by 7.6 m) grille above the store's entrance, would be removed and donated to the Metropolitan Museum. Miller had appraised the sculptures at between $200,000 and $250,000. In February 1980, Trump wrote a letter to an official at the museum, in which he stated, "Our contractor plans to begin demolition on the exterior of the building in approximately three to four weeks. He has been instructed to save these artifacts and take all necessary measures to preserve them." Every week, the Trump Organization and Stiebel would meet to discuss the transport of the sculptures. However, Stiebel later said the Trump Organization never seemed to be able to agree on a specific date for their transport, and the organization had repeatedly dismissed her concerns about not having received the letter.
On April 16, 1980, the grille and sculptures were removed from the building. They were set to be transported to a junkyard and destroyed because, according to Trump, there were general hazard concerns, expense, and a possible 10-day construction delay due to the difficulty of removing them. Stiebel rode by taxicab to the building site and attempted to pay the workmen for the sculptures, but she was rebuffed. The workers in charge of demolition told her she could make an appointment to go see the sculptures, but they then canceled several appointments that Stiebel made. The workers later told her the building's decorative grille had been transported to a New Jersey warehouse, but it was never recovered, and on May 28, Stiebel was informed the grille had been "lost". On June 5, the sculptures were destroyed. Stiebel had received notice of the sculptures' pending demolition, but by the time she reached the Trump Tower site, the workmen told her they had been ordered to "destroy it all." Trump later acknowledged he had personally ordered the destruction of the sculptures and grille. Trump said these "so-called Art Deco sculptures, which were garbage by the way," had been informally appraised by three different individuals as "not valuable," and they had pegged the sculptures' value at $4,000 to $5,000. He also told the media that carefully removing the sculptures would have cost him an extra $500,000 and would have delayed his project. In a New York Magazine article in November 1980, Trump said the decor of his Grand Hyatt New York included "real art, not like the junk I destroyed at Bonwit Teller."
The New York Times condemned Trump's actions as "esthetic vandalism," and a spokesman for Mayor Ed Koch said Trump had failed his "moral responsibility to consider the interests of the people of the city." Scutt was outraged by the destruction, having initially hoped to incorporate the goddess sculptures into the new building's lobby design; Trump had rejected the plan, preferring something "more contemporary." Miller lamented that such things would "never be made again," and Peter M. Warner, a researcher who worked across the street, called the destruction "regrettable." However, Trump later said he used the notoriety of that act to advertise more residential units in the tower.
In 1983, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Trump Organization concerning unpaid pension and medical obligations to labor unions whose members helped build the towers. Trump had paid $774,000 to a window-cleaning company that employed undocumented Polish immigrants during the renovation of an adjoining building. According to the laborers, they were paid $4 an hour (equivalent to $10 in 2020) for 12-hour shifts, and were not told about asbestos in the under-construction structure.
Trump testified in 1990 he was unaware that 200 undocumented Polish immigrants, some of whom lived at the site during the 1980 New York City transit strike, and worked round-the-clock shifts, were involved in the destruction of the Bonwit Teller building and the Trump Tower project. Trump said he rarely visited the demolition site and never noticed the laborers, who were visually distinct for their lack of hard hats. A labor consultant and FBI informant testified that Trump was aware of the illegal workers' status. Trump testified that he and an executive used the pseudonym "John Baron" in some of his business dealings, although Trump said he did not do so until years after Trump Tower was constructed. A labor lawyer testified that he was threatened over the phone with a $100 million lawsuit by a John Baron who supposedly worked for the Trump Organization. Donald Trump later told a reporter, "Lots of people use pen names. Ernest Hemingway used one." After the laborers filed for a mechanic's lien over unpaid wages, they said a Trump Organization lawyer threatened to have the Immigration and Naturalization Service deport them.
A judge ruled in favor of the Polish laborers in 1991, saying the organization had to pay the workers. The contractor was ultimately ordered to pay the laborers $254,000. The case went through several appeals by both sides as well as non-jury trials, and was reassigned to different judges several times. The original named plaintiff, plaintiffs' attorney, and two co-defendants, died during the litigation, leading Judge Kevin Duffy to compare it unfavorably to Charles Dickens' fictional case Jarndyce and Jarndyce in June 1998, when he was assigned the case after the death of the previous presiding judge. The lawsuit was ultimately settled in 1999, with its records sealed. In November 2017, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska ordered the settlement documents unsealed. In the settlement, Trump agreed to pay a total of $1.375 million, which, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer, was the full amount that could have been recovered at trial.
There were several other controversies related to the construction process. In one case, Trump sued a contractor for "total incompetence." Construction was also halted twice because minority rights' groups protested outside the Trump Tower site to condemn the shortage of minority construction workers.
Trump was also involved in a disagreement with Mayor Koch about whether the tower should get a tax exemption. In 1985, Trump was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state in the New York State Court of Appeals concerning the payment of a 10% state tax in the event that a real estate property is transacted for $1 million or more. The exemption was reported as between $15 million and $50 million. The tax on Trump Tower was upheld in a 4-to-1 decision.
The City of New York granted Trump permission to build the top twenty stories of the building in exchange for operating the atrium as a city-administered, privately owned public space. In the lobby of the building are two Trump merchandise kiosks (one of which replaced a long public bench) operating out of compliance with city regulations. The city issued a notice of violation in July 2015, demanding the bench be put back in place. Although the Trump Organization initially said the violation was without merit, a lawyer speaking for Trump's organization stated in January 2016 that the kiosks would be removed in two to four weeks, before an expected court ruling.
Trump maintained a connection with organized crime members to supply the building's concrete. According to former New York mobster Michael Franzese, "the mob controlled all the concrete business in the city of New York," and that while Trump was not "in bed with the mob ... he certainly had a deal with us. ... he didn't have a choice." Mafia-connected union boss John Cody supplied Trump with concrete in exchange for giving his mistress a high-level apartment with a pool, which required extra structural reinforcement. A 1992 book by journalist Wayne Barrett concludes that "Trump didn't just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with [Anthony] Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn ... at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business." Barrett questioned some of Trump's business dealings in a Daily Beast article in 2011, and alleged that concrete was one of "several dozen" suspected mob connections Trump had. Trump admitted in 2014 that he had "had no choice" but to work with "concrete guys who are mobbed up."
Claims made by Trump
In March 2017, after Trump was elected president, he wrote several posts on Twitter claiming former president Barack Obama had wiretapped phones in the tower toward the end of the 2016 campaign. An Obama spokesperson refuted the claims and, during a subsequent meeting with the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee that discussed the issue, FBI Director James Comey informed the committee that there was no evidence of wiretapping in the tower.
Trump also claimed to own the painting Two Sisters (On the Terrace), an 1881 work by French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The original work hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. In October 2017, Timothy L. O'Brien said that during his interviews with Trump for the book TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, he asked Trump about the copy of Two Sisters, which was then on Trump's plane. Trump repeatedly said his copy was the genuine work, despite O'Brien's statements to the contrary. By then, the Renoir copy was hanging in Trump's penthouse office. The Art Institute of Chicago released a statement refuting Trump's claim that his Renoir copy was the genuine one.
On August 9, 2016, a man posted a viral video on YouTube, claiming to be an independent researcher who wanted to speak to Donald Trump. The next day, a man (suspected to be the same person as identified in the YouTube video) climbed from the 5th to the 21st floors using industrial suction cups for aid climbing, though he was arrested after nearly three hours.
Serious issues concerning safety and security in the building arose after Trump became president-elect of the United States on November 8, 2016. Trump Tower served as a rallying point for protests against Trump after the election's results were announced, requiring the deployment of security measures. Pedestrian traffic on the east side of Fifth Avenue and the north side of 56th Street was restricted, and NYPD officers started questioning pedestrians about their destinations. The block of 56th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues was closed completely to vehicular traffic, but the eastern part of the street, west of Madison Avenue, was subsequently reopened to allow local deliveries. Customers of the Gucci and Tiffany stores in Trump Tower's lobby were allowed to proceed, while other pedestrians were redirected to the opposite side of the street. During presidential visits, dump trucks from the New York City Department of Sanitation were parked outside the tower to prevent car bombs. Fire protection was also provided for the tower whenever Trump visited it. The press nicknamed the now-heavily secured building White House North, comparing it to the White House's West Wing.
The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a no-fly zone over Trump Tower until January 20, 2017, and the NYPD stated that it expected to spend $35 million to provide security to the tower, subsequently revised to $24 million. As a result of the heavy security, businesses around the tower saw decreased patronage due to less foot traffic in the heavily secured area. Despite the heavy security after the 2016 election, there have been some detentions and arrests related to the increased security at the tower. On December 6, 2016, a woman reached the 24th floor—two floors below Donald Trump's office—before being stopped by Secret Service officers. A week later, a Baruch College student was arrested at Trump Tower and was found with multiple weapons. The day afterward, NYPD detained another man who wanted to meet Trump, reportedly got angry, and threw a wine glass on the lobby floor.
Protests around the tower subsided after Trump's inauguration in January 2017, and by summer 2017, security measures around the tower had been loosened, as they were only in place when Trump was physically on site. However, several businesses at the tower's base had closed by then because of a reduction in the number of customers. After Trump's presidency ended in January 2021, the vehicular barricades blocking access to 56th Street from Fifth to Madison Avenues were removed.
At around 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 7, 2018, a 4-alarm fire broke out in a condominium in the tower's 50th floor, killing a resident and injuring six firefighters. In a Twitter post, Trump attributed the fire's limited damage to the building's design. The only person to die was 67-year-old Todd Brassner, an art dealer known for his association with Andy Warhol. The residential units did not contain sprinklers because the structure had been built before 1999, when the city passed a law requiring sprinklers in residential units; Trump had lobbied against the proposal. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) subsequently announced that the fire had been accidentally caused by power wires that had overheated. The April 2018 fire followed a minor electrical fire at the tower earlier that year, which had injured three people.
In July 2020, activists including New York City mayor Bill de Blasio painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in giant letters on Fifth Avenue directly in front of the building. The project was announced in response to the George Floyd protests in New York City, a series of pro-police-reform protests that started after the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, in May 2020. Trump expressed his opposition to the mural after it was announced.
Fodor's New York City 2010 described Trump Tower's "ostentatious atrium" as an example of the "unbridled luxury" of the 1980s, characterized by "expensive boutiques and gaudy brass everywhere." The tower's public atrium, along with that of Citigroup Center a few blocks away, was described as a convenient public area.
Frommer's called the tower a "bold and brassy place" whose golden sign "practically screams 'Look at me!'", with more evidence of the tower's gaudiness provided by its spacious atrium, pink-marble waterfall, and interior mall. Meanwhile, Insight Guides' 2016 edition recommended Trump Tower as an example of the "opulence synonymous with Manhattan in the 1980s." The tower's atrium and waterfall was described as distinguishable for those who watched The Apprentice.
In a 1982 review of the building, New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger contrasted the "reflective" Trump Tower with the nearby postmodern 550 Madison Avenue building. In a later review just before the tower opened, Goldberger said the tower was "turning out to be a much more positive addition to the cityscape than the architectural oddsmakers would have had it," and that the indoor atrium might become "the most pleasant interior public space to be completed in New York in some years." However, he criticized the "hyperactive" exterior of the tower, contrasting it with Tiffany's "serene," solid facade next door, as well as the narrowness of passageways within the atrium, saying it created "little room for milling or casual strolling."
Before the atrium opened, Ada Louise Huxtable, an architectural critic for The New York Times, said the building was a "dramatically handsome structure." However, she reversed her opinion on the opening of the atrium, saying the tower was really a "monumentally undistinguished one" and saying her earlier comments had been taken out of context. Huxtable also called the atrium a "pink-marble maelstrom" and publicly requested in one of her editorials that Trump remove one of her quotes from his building's lobby. Another writer for that newspaper described the tower in 1984 as "preposterously lavish" and "showy, even pretentious." Architect Gregory Stanford described the atrium as "pretty horrible." By contrast, a review from 1983 had predicted it could be New York City's "most pleasant interior public space" to be built in recent history.
The fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, published in 2010, described Trump Tower as a "fantasyland for the affluent shopper" hidden by "folded glass," with the Trump theme evident throughout the building. Comparing the building's interior design to alcoholic drink brands, the authors wrote that the design was less like a high-end "Veuve Clicquot" and more like a generic "malt liquor."
In popular culture
Trump Tower served as the location for Wayne Enterprises in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. In a 2012 vlog post, comprising one of the few movie reviews on the Trump Organization's YouTube channel, Trump referred to the movie as "really terrific" and that "most importantly Trump Tower—my building—plays a role." Other films have used Trump Tower as a filming location as well. For instance, the 2010 comedy film The Other Guys contains a car chase scene that has Samuel L. Jackson's character drive his car into Trump Tower. The penthouse in Trump Tower was used as a filming location for the action film Self/less (2015).
Trump Tower, a romance novel by Jeffrey Robinson, chronicles the sexual activities of fictional characters living in the tower. News media reported on the novel's existence during the last week of the 2016 presidential campaign. The novel was never formally published but is registered as having an International Standard Book Number. For unknown reasons, some versions of the novel are advertised with Trump as the author.
Trump Tower is featured on the cover of the 1997 video game Grand Theft Auto and is depicted in the 2008 sequel Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodes The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony as Cleethorpes Tower.
- List of things named after Donald Trump
- Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
- Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections (July 2016–election day)
- Timeline of post-election transition following Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
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