Privately Public

Public gardens at Trump Tower are a well-kept secret

Architecture Development East Newsletter
The entrance to one of the gardens can be seen in the corner of the atrium. (Courtesy Maria Eklind / Flickr)
The entrance to one of the gardens can be seen in the corner of the atrium. (Courtesy Maria Eklind / Flickr)

A Crain’s New York Business article has publicized what a few already know: New York’s Trump Tower holds “secret gardens.”

In 1979, Donald Trump made a development deal with the city that permitted him to increase the building’s size by twenty stories. That zoning variance was only achieved by including 15,000 square feet of public space in the building’s gardens and atrium. This space is one of some 500 privately owned public spaces (POPS) in New York City.

The agreement with the city stipulates that the atrium must be accessible to the public daily from from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and the gardens must open at the same time as the building’s retailers. The agreement also states that the space can only be closed four times a year following the city’s authorization.

But the atrium has been closed numerous times for Trump’s campaign affairs, such as press conferences. The Department of Buildings began to investigate whether Trump violated the agreement with the city.

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings have looked into another possible violation of the deal. The removal of a 22-foot-long bench in the atrium led the city to fine Trump Tower $4,000 and an additional $10,000 if not reinstalled. In place of the bench were kiosks selling Trump’s campaign merchandise. Michael Cohen, a lawyer for the Trump Organization told The New York Times that the bench could be reinstalled in two to four weeks. That was in January of this year.

The interior of Trump Tower in New York (Courtesy andruby / Flickr)

The interior of Trump Tower in New York (Courtesy andruby / Flickr)

The Crain’s article goes on to describe the challenges posed by people attempting to visit the “public” space. The reporter’s personal account states that the security guards prevented him from entering, telling him incorrect hours of operation. There is also a lack of clear signage for the space; only a sign above the lobby elevators.



The reporter goes on to describe the gardens as not much to look at: a few plants—some appearing dead, simple metal chairs and tables, built-in granite benches, garbage receptacles, and a large fountain. But there is clearly a great deal of potential for the space.

There were two gardens noted in the article: one on the fourth floor overlooking East 56th Street and another on the fifth floor overlooking East 57th Street. The fourth-floor garden is often not open, according to Crain’s. In fact, the garden was roped off and the doors were locked when the Crain’s reporter visited.


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