Posts tagged with "Donald Trump":

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Public gardens at Trump Tower are a well-kept secret

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 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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How Donald Trump transformed New York without any regard for design quality

There is something about the towering, architectural designs of Donald Trump that brings out the best in New York’s architectural wordsmiths and critics: The Trump International Hotel & Tower at 1 Central Park West was a perfect foil for Herbert Muschamp in The New York Times. Philip Johnson and Costas Kondylis re-skinned the old Gulf and Western Building in bronze-tinted glass. (Trump had wanted the glass to be gold.) Johnson, according to the book New York 2000, promised Trump, his client, “a fin de siècle version of the Seagram” building. Muschamp called the facade “a 1950s International Style glass skyscraper in a 1980s gold lamé party dress,” a change he considered an “undeniable improvement.…” “This is not a major work by Mr. Johnson,” Muschamp wrote later in the article. “Still, he has introduced considerable refinement to an essentially crass idea. In fact, the design’s chief merit is the contrast between the commercial vulgarity of the gold skin and the relative subtlety with which it is detailed.”

The building, he said, stands as a “triumph of private enterprise in such a publicly conspicuous place.” Now, he concluded, “a new Trump flagship sails into these troubled civic waters, carrying with it more than a faint air of a floating casino, or perhaps the winnings from one.” But elsewhere he wrote that it could have been worse. True, the design could have sported dollar-sign finials, a one-armed-bandit handle sticking out the side, window shades painted with cherries, oranges, and lemons, and a pile of giant Claes Oldenburg coins at the base instead of the scaled-down version of the Unisphere. Or maybe that would have been an improvement. Refinement was never this building’s point anyway.

Critics like Muschamp, Ada Louise Huxtable, and Paul Goldberger could hardly depend on Trump for an informed comment on his designs or buildings. He called his own Trump Tower triplex,  an Angelo Donghia–designed, marble-and-onyx-covered ode to Versailles, “comfortable modernism.” The New York critics had varying opinions about the tower and its six-story indoor mall, which Trump claimed had been designed by his wife, Ivana. The mall’s interior of polished brass and 240 tons of Breccia Pernice marble in shades of rose, peach, pink, and orange was called a “pleasant surprise” by Goldberger, who saw it as “warm, luxurious, and even exhilarating—in every way more welcoming than the public arcades and atriums that preceded it on 5th Avenue.” Huxtable took a more critical view of the space, which she called a “pink marble maelstrom and pricey super glitz…unredeemed by [its] posh ladies’ powder-room decor.” (There may be hope for future buildings, however; Trump’s current wife, Melania, apparently studied architecture and design in school.)

The 725 5th Avenue Trump Tower exterior, with 28 sides, was designed by Der Scutt, of New York’s Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell, and was equally criticized by Muschamp, who concluded, “everything [about it] is calculated to make money.” This, of course, was seen as a positive design value by Trump, who argued that the faceted facade gave every room two views and therefore made them more valuable. In fact, the designs of Trump’s buildings are driven solely by profit. Is this unusual for commercial construction in New York? Of course not—but Trump’s buildings are such obvious, in-your-face examples of this reality of how the city is being built in the 21st century.

Beyond the large, expensive brass “Trump” lettering that adorns his buildings, Trump has made a career of taking advantage of public subsidies and then putting up the cheapest-looking project possible. His re-skinning of the Penn Central Transportation Company’s 2,000-room, Warren and Wetmore–designed Commodore Hotel is an example of one such project. Here, he took a perfectly decent—even handsome—1919 brick-and-limestone building, next door to Grand Central Terminal, and clad it with a reflective glass that has not weathered well. The project, rebranded by Trump as the Grand Hyatt Hotel, was done by one of his favorite architectural firms, New York’s Gruzen & Partners, with Der Scutt. The architects did not remove the old facade but instead overlaid a bronze-colored glass set in a grid of dark anodized aluminum. Trump spoke about that facade in The Art of the Deal; he was “convinced that half the reason the Commodore was dying [was] because it looked so gloomy and dated and dingy.…[He] wanted a sleek, contemporary look. Something with sparkle and excitement that would make people stop and take notice.” It’s not that the business barons of yore, such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, the developer of Grand Central Station, were not concerned with profit, but Vanderbilt and his architects, Reed and Stem, as well as Warren and Wetmore, designed a handsome public work of architecture, whose striking stone gateway’s presence makes Trump’s glass skin seem cheap and dated. The building has one of the worst 1980s-era facades in New York.

Given his background, it’s not surprising that Trump, who wallows in his New Yorkness, has no idea of the difference between architecture and building. He was raised in Jamaica Estates, Queens, hard up against the Grand Central Parkway, in what today would be called a Federalist Georgian McMansion, with tall Corinthian columns. He went to New York Military Academy for high school, attended Fordham University, and graduated from the Wharton School, where he studied real estate. While at Wharton, he worked at his father’s building company, which made a fortune developing small buildings in Queens and Brooklyn after World War II, when the government (via the Federal Housing Administration) subsidized affordable housing. Woody Guthrie lived in one in of these buildings, Beach Haven, in Coney Island, and wrote a song about its racially discriminatory rental policies:

I suppose Old Man Trump knows Just how much Racial Hate He stirred up In the bloodpot of human hearts When he drawed That color line Here at his Eighteen hundred family project

Beach Haven, like so many other federally financed affordable projects, was forbidden by the National Housing Act of 1934 from including any extra architectural details or embellishments, something the national real estate industry worked to have included in the law. Though it has directness to its design and some sort of dignity missing from Fred Trump’s Manhattan buildings, Beach Haven is nevertheless a standard New York City complex of stripped down, bland six-story brick boxes, spread across a city grid. It—like his son Donald’s later projects—was a profit-seeking opportunity. The FHA later discovered that Fred Trump had pocketed over $4 million in illicit profits from the construction.

Donald would later put up (or at least put his name on) a similar sort of development, along Riverside Drive just north of 57th Street. Like Beach Haven, Riverside South is a series of bland rectangular boxes spread across a series of city blocks. Though here, rather than looking out over Coney Island, the development looks toward the river. The detailing of these riverside buildings is faintly art deco, recalling their Upper West Side neighborhood in their massing and repetitive walls.

This was also the site for Trump’s proposed Television City, which could have been even worse, or at least more massive. In 1974 to 1975, Trump proposed to develop Television City—with 4,850 apartments, 500,000 square feet of retail space, one million square feet of office space, a 50-room hotel, television studios, parking for 3,700 cars, and 28 acres of open space—in a largely abandoned old train yard. The original scheme, which proposed a large superblock of high-rise towers, with a three-armed telescoping tower, was designed by Murphy/Jahn Architects, of Chicago, and would have been the tallest tower in the world, at 1,670 feet and 150 stories. It was a massive development, with several towers over 70 stories, all built on a podium over the old rail yards and a park. The West Side Highway would have been relocated under the towers to create a road not unlike the one under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Needless to say, there was opposition to this new complex. The world’s tallest building, many thought, was never meant to be built, but was a ploy, a wedge to get more square footage in the plan approved by the city.

In some ways, Television City came closer to real architecture than any other project from the Trump family (albeit as a forerunner of the contemporary glass boxes that have risen all over the city since the late 1990s). Though Goldberger claimed the tower was “hardly a real building for real people in a real city,” Michael Sorkin was more pointed. In the Village Voice column “Dump the Trump,” Sorkin wrote, “Looking at the boneheaded proposal, one wonders whether the architect even visited the site. Indeed, there is evidence that he did not. The rank of glyphs bespeaks lakeside Chicago, and the centerpiece of the scheme, the 150-story erection, Trump’s third go at the world’s tallest building…was there ever a man more preoccupied with getting it up in public?”

Trump, on the other hand, was his typical ebullient, promotional self and called the plan, in a press release, “the master planner’s grandest plan yet.” Because Trump, more than any builder in New York in the late 20th century, has transformed the city with barely the slightest architecturally-worthy design or public service.

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Time travel to when Lebbeus Woods and others fought Trump’s Upper West Side “Trump City”

31 years ago a certain property developer was causing a stir in New York City. Surprise, surprise, it was a certain Mr. Trump. Controversial and as egotistical as ever (what has changed?) Trump proposed his self-prescribed "Trump City": an array of developments for the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The project and its name were thankfully curtailed in 1991 and finally realized as "Riverside South" due to fervent opposition that involved community groups, architects and politicians. “That was a war to the death—with everybody,” Trump later said. Of those architects, three were Lebbeus Woods, Michael Sorkin, and John Young. In 1989 they showcased their alternative scheme on Robert Lipsyte's Eleventh Hour as a documentary set 21 years into the future, now six years ago now in 2010 (feel old yet?). Titled the Michelin Guide to New York City: 2010, the trio's film shows the Upper West Side as a place called "Timesquare," a place that in their eyes that is "the first true realization of a city district conceived in multiple layers, rather than as a series of individual buildings." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI1FZ_xBNvU Described in the films commentary as "radical" yet "derided" in the hypothetical public eye as "science-fiction," Timsquare is meant to be a lively space. It was intended to be an alternative cityscape, one that defied convention, filled with tramways, "party walls," and New York's social underclass. This message however, is somewhat eclipsed by the eerie music that accompanies it alongside Woods' drawings which depict a much more sinister environment. “We’re talking about an absolute nightmare—an absolute nightmare,” said Batya Lewton, vice president of the Coalition for a Livable West Side. But she wasn't talking about Woods, Sorkin and Young's plan. Instead, Lewton, whose coalition formed in 1981, was referring to the much more real prospect of Trump City. “They’re asking for, unbelievably, 2,300 more parking spaces in an area that is just so overwhelmed with traffic,” she added. Dubbing Trump as the "Prince of self indulgence," Sorkin argued that Woods, Young and himself were reacting to Trump's proposal to "erect a 150-story high monument to himself." Building on this, Woods added that the scheme was merely an "experiment" that imagined a future that wasn't depicted in the usual technical medium of plans, sections, and elevations. Timesquare was meant to be departed from the surrounding "greed-based proposals" and something that wasn't profitable. "I don't want [Trump's] money and in fact I wouldn't accept it," Woods implored. In a retrospective blog post on the trio's counterproposal to Trump's plans, Woods, who passed away in 2010, spoke of the scheme's intended inhabitants. "One has to resist pitying those squatters. Pity is a treacherous emotion, for everyone involved. Better to respect them. Their way of life, as chosen as any in the capitalist jungle (don’t imagine that the rich are really free), included the certainty that they would one day have to move on, probably very quickly. They were prepared and no doubt found other ‘undeveloped’ spaces to settle down in for the next timeframe, whatever that would work out to be. On the other hand, their scattering was traumatizing and unnecessarily brutal. And another thing: their little community had a spirit of invention impossible to achieve in the emotionally arid and highly regimented skyscraper landscape that was soon to come."
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Woody and The Donald

Here is a story to file under the Republican presidential primary, celebrity, radical American politics, and affordable housing policies in New York City. The Conversation writer Will Kaufman reports that the "This Land is Your Land" folk singer Woody Guthrie lived in Federal Housing Authority–financed housing in Coney Island's Beach Haven. Those residences were constructed by non other than Fred Trump, Donald’s father. Guthrie despised his landlord, the elder Trump, and wrote several ditties (a reprise of his "I Ain’t Got No Home") about him:

Beach Haven ain’t my home! 
I just cain’t pay this rent! 
My money’s down the drain! 
And my soul is badly bent! 
Beach Haven looks like heaven 
Where no black ones come to roam! 
No, no, no! Old Man Trump! 
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home! Trump’s involvement with and creation of (racially exclusive) affordable Beach Haven housing for the hundreds of thousands of returning servicemen to New York after World War II is a sordid tale. Kaufman unearthed the story after going through the Guthrie archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He reports that “when the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) finally stepped in to issue federal loans and subsidies for urban apartment blocks, one of the first developers in line, with his eye on the main chance, was Fred Trump. He made a fortune not only through the construction of public housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them." Its a fascinating story of housing policy in New York that becomes more pointed “in the wake of Donald Trump, who says, 'My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.'” (via Gawker)

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Just don’t call it Frisco: Could Trump top a San Francisco tower?

New York has one, Chicago has one, and now the Chronicle’s John King alerts us that San Francisco might see a Trump-brand tower in its future. No one is taking bets on the conservative presidential candidate’s name emblazoned on a highrise located in one the most progressive cities on the planet, but King is stirring the pot to call attention to a land auction hosted by Transbay Joint Powers Authority on September 2. On the docket: a parcel of land on the 500 block of Howard Street, where zoning allows for an 800-foot tower. Five development teams will bid against each other. According to King, “[I]dentities are being kept secret until the live auction to, in the words of bureaucrats, 'preserve the integrity of the competition.'” Will Trump be one? The Chron’s critic is wagering a guess, suggesting that with minimum bid at $160 million, the live auction could set off a bidding war that would help pay for the Transbay Transit Center. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the center expected to serve eleven different transportation systems and feature a rooftop park. The tower on the offer would join others in San Francisco's Transbay district by Studio Gang, OMA, SOM, and Foster and Partners. Gang’s undulating 40-story tower recently came under fire for its soaring height, which community activists protested would cast a shadow over the public Rincon Park on the Embarcadero waterfront. King’s argument, however, is not that Trump will soon be mixing it up in the town of Milk and Moscone (or the new SF: Twitter and Uber) but that design is pushed off the table for the sake of raising cash. In 2007, the city held a design competition for the transit center and neighboring tower. This auction comes with no design strings attached. “Standards are slipping,” he wrote and continued: “If the check clears, good enough. Let the city’s Planning Department sort through messy questions about how the tower looks or whether the developer will try to push for extra space.”
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Eavesdrop> Sign of the Times: Reflecting on Chicago Summer-Long Trump Tower Saga

Mr. Donald Trump has bestowed upon fair Chicago an ode to his own self-worth, spurring an architectural debate that’s pulled in Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Jon Stewart, and plenty more. Grab a bag of popcorn and we’ll catch you up. In June, Trump International Hotel & Tower gained an array of 20-foot-6-inch-tall stainless steel letters spelling T-R-U-M-P, which Curbed called a “big, dumb sign” and Blair Kamin called “as subtle as Godzilla.” Trump didn’t like that, and bashed Kamin as “a lightweight” in the press—Trump, critic of architecture critics! Already reduced in size about 20 percent from its original plans (The Donald makes no small plans), the sign was always part of the 2008 SOM building’s design, although architect Adrian Smith apparently “had nothing to do” with it. It’s a gaudy bit of self-promotion along Chicago’s most visible strip of real estate, but it’s Trump’s name—not his sign itself—that’s really got us riled up. After all we put up with corporate intrusions on our public field of view all the time. In fact, all this public indignation over design has us hopeful: Let’s rise up and take back our public spaces! Or at least sarcastically Instagram the new sign with its ‘T’ strategically cropped out.
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Trumped by the Ocean: Hurricane Sandy Squanders Jones Beach Plans

While waterfront development continues uninhibited in some parts of New York City, it looks like Hurricane Sandy has put the kibosh on Donald Trump’s plan for a large catering hall-restaurant complex at Jones Beach dubbed Trump on the Ocean, replacing a former Robert Moses-era restaurant once on the site. From the beginning, Trump faced opposition from the state over the design of the project and spent several years locked in legal battles. Many lawsuits later, Trump and New York State finally came to an agreement this summer. But just when Trump got the green light to move the project forward, Sandy swept the east coast and flooded the construction site. Jones Beach State Park suffered serious damage from the storm and only some areas have been reopened. This past Wednesday, Trump and state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey announced that they will be abandoning the project altogether. The Parks Department hasn’t given up on the idea of building something at the former Boardwalk Restaurant site, but Commissioner Harvey said that “we have concluded that building a major new facility directly on the oceanfront, on the scale of the Trump project, is not prudent policy."
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Trump Channels Moses at Jones Beach

The Moses-era cafe was destroyed in 2004. (Courtesy NYState Parks via WSJ) Following a lengthy battle over design issues, Donald Trump and New York State reached a deal over his proposed $23 million catering hall to replace a destroyed Robert Moses-era restaurant at Jones Beach, the Wall Street Journal reported. The new restaurant and catering facility will be called Trump on the Ocean (shown here as a rendering). Officials at Trump told the paper that the developer has fond memories of the beach and has long been an admirer of The Power Broker.