Posts tagged with "Trump Tower":

Placeholder Alt Text

Trump reportedly pressured architect to remove braille from Trump Tower elevators

Barbara Res, the former vice president of construction for the Trump Organization, recently published an op-ed in the New York Daily News, which alleges that Donald Trump once pressured an architect to remove the braille signage from the elevators in Trump Tower in New York City. Res, who supervised the construction of the Manhattan skyscraper in the early 1980s, recalled being present as one of its architects showed Trump the newly installed elevator cabs. She says Trump was puzzled by the little raised dots on the button panel and demanded that they be taken off. When informed that braille was required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the future president of the United States became furious. “Get rid of the [expletive] braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower,” she remembered him shouting. “The more the architect protested, the angrier Trump got…As a general rule, Trump thought architects and engineers were weak as compared to construction people. And he loved to torment weak people,” wrote Res, a professional engineer. She went on to explain that this was a typical "Trump-style win-win," which allowed him to belittle a subordinate while setting up a scapegoat for any repercussions his "ridiculous orders" may bring. Although Res did not identify the architect, many have speculated that it was Der Scutt, the tower’s lead designer, who died in 2010. The firm responsible for the project, Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell, changed principals several times in the years that followed and filed for bankruptcy in 2015, making it difficult to corroborate the story. However, as noted by Snopes, a fact-checking website, neither the White House nor the Trump Organization have refuted it. For those familiar with president’s history of ableist comments, his organization’s suspected housing discrimination, and his administration’s hard-line position against health and safety regulations, these new allegations come as no surprise.
Placeholder Alt Text

Costas Kondylis, architect of Trump's New York City towers, dies at 78

Architect Costas Kondylis, the prolific designer behind over 86 buildings in Manhattan, died Friday at age 78, according to The Real Deal. The cause of death has not yet been announced. Kondylis was best known as one of Donald Trump’s closest and most frequent collaborators in New York City. He designed the 90-story Trump World Tower, formerly the world’s tallest residential structure, in Midtown East for the real estate mogul as well as the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, and several buildings at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. While Kondylis’s extensive resume reveals a handful of projects associated with Trump, the architect’s 50 years designing in New York included countless high-rise designs for various local developers Born in Central Africa, Kondylis studied in his parent’s home country of Greece before earning a graduate degree at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. After finishing his second masters at Columbia University in 1967, he began working for Davis Brody & Associates. While employed by Philip Birnbaum & Associates, he designed his first notable building, Manhattan Place Condo, in 1984. As one of the first high-rise condo projects in the city, as well as one of the few to focus on luxury design at the time, it caught the eye of Trump who was then expanding his New York building empire. Five years later, Kondylis launched his own firm, Costas Kondylis and Partners in 1989. During this busy time in his career, he designed 65 buildings—one building every six weeks—from 2000 to 2007, TRD reported. Once the practice dissolved two decades later, Kondylis started his own firm, Kondylis Design. It’s argued that Kondylis influenced the New York skyline more than any other architect in history. His more recent projects, Silver Towers, River Place, and Atelier, all towering residential properties, have helped shape the newly-developed far west side of Manhattan. He was largely recognized as the “developer’s architect,” a term he grew to embrace, having worked well with everyone from Silverstein Properties to Moinian Group to Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Though his work was usually on time and on budget, it wasn’t highly favored by critics who saw his large-scale structures as too conventional. Larry Silverstein told The New York Times in a 2007 interview that Kondylis’s name is almost synonymous with the city’s condominium architecture. “He designs an attractive, buildable, functional building,” he said. “If I’m going to do a residential building in New York, the most natural thing in the world is to pick up the phone and call Costas.” Kondylis repeatedly stated that his primary goal was always to please the client. He was regarded as one of the most professional, humble, and patient architects in the business despite criticism or praise of his work.  Kondylis died last week in his home and is survived by his two daughters, Alexia and Katherine. A service in his honor is scheduled for October.
Placeholder Alt Text

City Council approves legislation to tighten regulations on privately owned public spaces

The New York City Council has voted to tighten regulations on privately owned public spaces (POPS) after staff at Trump Tower flouted rules that required them to leave the space open to the public. The City Council passed the vote on Wednesday after news that a bench in Trump Tower's designated public space was removed and replaced with Trump merchandise that was on sale. Recently, protestors had been using the public space within Trump Tower to hold teach-ins on public housing and to campaign against cuts to arts funding. “This is not just about President Trump,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor, speaking to the Daily News. “Unfortunately most developers have not been keeping that deal.” In fact, an audit by the city controller has discovered that more than half of New York's buildings (where POPS are required to afford buildings more square footage) violate public space rules. However, the lack of inspections, the audit found, means that these are seldom picked up on. The legislation which was waved through on Wednesday stipulates that developers and building owners implement signage that tells visitors that the space is indeed public, noting its hours of use, and telling them how to file complaints regarding public space violations. In addition to this, the ruling meant that all POPS will be inspected every three years, as a minimum. The city will also be releasing a list of all the POPS in New York.    
Placeholder Alt Text

Artists protest funding cuts to the arts at Trump Tower

On President Donald Trump’s birthday, New York City artists held performances inside Trump Tower’s not-so-secret public gardens to issue a call-to-arms against the White House's proposed budget cuts to arts funding. The performances, which took place earlier today, are part of a rising trend where activists now use Trump Tower’s public gardens as spaces for political activism. The gardens and atriums inside Trump Tower were a part of Trump’s 1979 agreement with the city, which led to the creation of 15,000 square feet worth of public space in exchange for a zoning variance to build an additional 20 stories. The agreement also stipulated that these privately-owned public spaces (POPS) be accessible to the public from 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. “Today in an act of resistance, we take back what is rightfully ours, the public space inside Trump Tower, and use the power of art to protest this administration,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who is also chair of the committee on cultural affairs. “There is an assault on the arts, culture, and thinking in this country right now.” Trump’s budget proposes eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “We gather as artists and citizens to celebrate our country's commitment to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas between all people,” said Lucy Sexton, an artist at the event. Performers used art as a way to cover a wide range of subjects that have been topics of hot conversation in Trump’s administration, including climate change and Russia. Trump himself was also a topic of interest, in performances like Brick x Brick, where participants wore brick-patterned jumpsuits adorned with statements of misogynistic violence made by Trump. The performance was a way to “demonstrate disdain to Trump’s policies,” according to Caterina Bartha, the event’s curator, adding that it was “a gift to New Yorkers who attended the free performance and a call to people across the country to fight to save the arts from Trump’s axe.”
Placeholder Alt Text

"Flying Pigs" installation will block Trump sign in Chicago

This is really happening. Late last year Chicago-based New World Design proposed Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly, an installation of four golden flying pigs directly in front of the Trump sign on the Trump International Hotel and Tower. After receiving permission from Roger Waters, co-founder, bassist, and lead songwriter of Pink Floyd, New World Design will reproduce the same pig used for the iconic Pink Floyd photo shoot over Battersea Park Power Station, London, for the Animals album cover. This time the pigs will be gold. The helium-filled balloons will then be floated, single file, from a construction barge in the Chicago River at just such a height to obscure the 20-foot-by-141-foot Trump sign. The single day installation is expected to be launched in late August or early September. The pigs hold multiple meanings and make a number of pop culture references, most clearly to the 1977 Pink Floyd album cover and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Other references include Trump’s alleged “Miss Piggy” comment directed at a former Miss Universe and the gold so often used in Trump’s interior design. "The design follows meticulous rationale in imparting layers of meaning but ultimately allows for interpretation by individual viewers," said Jeffrey Roberts, partner at New World Design. The Trump Tower has become a lightning rod for protest since the election. The base of the tower has been the site of multiple peaceful demonstrations, and the Honorary Trump Plaza sign, which marked Wabash Avenue in front of the tower, was removed some months ago. On any given day, tourists can be seen across the river taking selfies of themselves giving the building the middle finger. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, another consequence of Trump’s lack of popularity in Chicago has been slowed condo sales. Currently, over 50 condos in the Tower are on the market. That is nearly three times that of any similar tower in the city. “We are a small group of designers creating visual commentary on the inflammatory nature of our current political environment. We are not radicals. We see design as our path to building and reinforcing a community of more rational, optimistic and inclusive minds,” said Roberts. The pigs and the protests are all happening in a public way, peacefully. So it would seem that the targeting of the tower by scornful Chicagoans is not going to stop anytime soon. Not even when pigs fly.
Placeholder Alt Text

Trump Tower teach-ins highlight the often perilous state of publicly-owned private spaces

Yesterday, activists associated with Our Climate and the #PutAPriceOnIt Campaign gathered on the rain-soaked fifth-floor terrace of Trump Tower, an elusive privately-owned public space (POPS), to host a teach-in on climate pricing. The attendees, many college students, were critical of President Trump’s policies related to climate change and initially had to ask the building supervisors to unlock the space which—by law—must be freely accessible to the public between 8am to 10pm daily. This is not the first challenge activists have experienced gaining access to the space: recently The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reported that a similar teach-in was almost thwarted by building officials who cited the un-shoveled snow and icy conditions as hazardous. As stewards of the garden, Trump Tower is responsible for the maintenance of the space, which includes de-icing walking surfaces and shoveling the snow. Some participants noted that the sidewalk on street level was free and clear of similar hazards.  To illuminate these issues further, AN sat down with Michelle Young, founder and publisher of Untapped Cities and an adjunct professor in urban planning at Columbia University. AN: As part of a deal with the city of New York that allowed for the construction of Trump Tower, then-businessman Donald Trump agreed to maintain what is called “privately-owned public space,” which includes the multi-level indoor plaza and a couple of the building’s roof terraces. What can you tell us about these POPS and the political role they play in our public discourse? Michelle Young: I wrote a piece last year after the election on Privately-Owned Public Space (POPS) because I was curious what would become of them—most people don’t even know they are out there. In the case of Trump Tower, it really feels like just the lobby of the Tower. It is very unclear from the street that it is actually a public space. [During development] Trump received over 105,000 square feet in additional area in exchange for pedestrian spaces and two landscaped terraces in Trump Tower. And then he received about the same amount again, not for adding public space, but for providing retail opportunities in the building. [This was common along fifth avenue in the 1970s and 80s.] Jerold S. Kayden, who wrote a book about POPS in New York City, approximates that one of those bonuses was about 8 stories.... So that means he got 28% of the FAR in additional square footage for zoning bonuses [POPS and retail]. Has Trump treated these POPS differently than other developers? All over the New York City there are POPS out of compliance, which includes: retail spaces that slowly take over public spaces (“retail creep”), or retailers' signs in POPS that say “Customers Only,” or when gates are closed at a time when they are supposed to be open, and smaller things like not having a garbage can, bathrooms, etc. I think if we took the total aggregate of problems, the Trump Tower POPS are fairly well-maintained except for one of the terraces that is almost never open. I think one of the reasons there has been a lot of attention is the type of violation that Trump Tower has incurred. A specific case is a bench across from the elevator bank which has had a lot of controversy over the last couple of decades. First, the bench was replaced with flower pots, which was a fine.  Then, last year Kayden himself launched new complaints against Trump Tower for removing the whole bench and replacing it with a retail kiosk that was selling “Make America Great Again” hats and other campaign merchandise. It’s a different issue altogether than neglect which is typically the problem in some of these POPS. Several organizations and political activist have been using the terrace of Trump Tower to host so-called teach-ins operating under the hashtag #teachtump. What is the effect of events like these when they happen in all communal spaces but especially at Trump Tower? I spoke at the first event and I think it was great to have it at Trump Tower, not just for political reasons, but also because of the level of security that is present there. The activists knew in advance that there might be some trouble so there was a careful staging of how and when people would enter the space. There was a lawyer on site who was knowledgeable of the issues and had all of the zoning documents on hand. Also, councilman Mark Levine was at the event and helped smooth things over when the New York Police Department and the Secret Service showed up. However, at the end of the day, it is a little bit... ridiculous that one needs a councilman and a lawyer to facilitate an event that was peaceful in a public space. The fact that this organization is currently holding protests there, I think, is a great thing. Originally it was supposed to be a one-time teach-in but I encouraged them to do it regularly because I think the symbolism of Trump Tower is effective. I think it’s a great way to highlight this issue of POPS and keeping developers accountable the rules of these spaces. A few months ago during the Women’s March in New York, Trump Tower was protected by a one block buffer on all sides and pedestrian traffic was limited in the area, bring into focus the entangled reality that comes with having a president with such extensive real estate holdings. What do these instances of exceptional spatial conditions illustrate about the privatization of public space? I think that one of the POPS that is particularly affected by privatization is 6 ½ avenue, which is a public space that runs through streets and buildings. It’s a really great initiative for New York City to support. The problem, again, is compliance and perceived inaccessibility. The lobby of the Parker Meridian hotel, for instance, is a part of 6 ½ Ave and was originally built as a POPS, but the owners installed a cafe at the entrance off of 57th street that is not welcoming to people who are not ordering food or coffee. There have been reports that people have been kicked out of the cafe for not buying something. That to me is a true privatization of public space. The area around Trump tower is like de facto privatization but is is not exactly the same. We hope that after these four years there will be a normalization but increased security has created disruptions in the public space especially the flow of people into and around the building’s POPS. And design plays a role? Yes, to that end New York City has updated their design principles for these space; in 2007 it released an update. So it is not a lack of effort on the part of New York City but obviously many of these places were built in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, far before this update, so there is a big range in quality. Many have debated the role that President Trump’s background as developer and businessman will play in his presidency, especially with regard to urban development and infrastructure policy. What future do you see for shared space in our cities over the next four years under President Trump’s leadership?  I haven’t yet seen a direct threat to public space because of the Trump administration. Mayor de Blasio remains very good about supporting public spaces, public amenities, and policies for the people. There are definitely concerns on the federal level that can impact New York City. For instance, the Jamaica Bay area is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area which is managed by the National Parks Service (NPS) so any cuts to the NPS could reach New York CIty.
Placeholder Alt Text

Denied access to Trump Tower public space, protestors still hold affordable housing teach-in

This morning, some fifty people gathered outside Trump Tower's fifth-floor public terrace to protest proposals from New York Governor Cuomo and President Trump that would affect affordable and public housing in New York. The event was organized by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, two grassroots coalition groups that draw support from a range of New York City tenant organizations, labor unions, not-for-profits, and advocacy groups. The teach-in started at 11:30 a.m. as protestors arrived just outside the terrace entrance, located on the top floor of the Tower's large central atrium. Prior to the election, Trump Tower's two tucked-away public terraces seemed to exemplify the slight-of-hand developers can use to leverage extra development rights without meaningfully giving back to the public. Recently, they've become a venue for protestors to gather at the heart of President Trump's most prominent development. This time, however, the fifth-floor terrace was closed due to reported icy conditions. To this reporter's eyes, it was a plainly flimsy excuse. (The four-floor terrace is still closed due to construction, according to a sign outside its entrance.) Civil rights attorney Samuel B. Cohen was on hand to speak to Trump Tower staff and inquire about the space's closure. Just like a sidewalk or any other public space, he told the crowd, Trump Tower has an obligation to clear the space for public use. Regardless, the teach-in continued, as the NYPD did not express safety concerns about the crowd. Over the course of approximately 45 minutes, protestors spoke out against Governor Cuomo's proposed renewal of the 421-a tax break, which is designed to spur the development of multi-unit buildings on vacant land. Tom Waters, housing policy analyst from the Community Service Society, said 421-a was a product of the 1970s, an era when the city was in dire straits. "Those times are over," he said, adding that 421-a would create far more value for developers than for the public. Waters also spoke out against a new provision in the bill that extends 100 percent tax-exempt status for certain new affordable developments from 25 to 35 years, a move which could generate further profits for developers.  Waters also explained that Trump Tower itself was a product of 421-a tax exemptions when it was built; according to The New York Times the project received "an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980." After being initially denied 421-a exemptions for Trump Tower, Trump successfully sued the city, and he later won 421-a exemptions for his Trump World Tower under the Guiliani and Bloomberg administrations in a similar fashion. Massive cuts to federal housing programs were an equal source of ire: According to a press release issued by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, President Trump's proposed budget reduces federal housing funds by 13 percent. Those cuts "are expected to strain public housing programs and axe $75 million in federal funding from the New York City Housing Authority, the agency that manages public housing in NYC," the groups said. The Community Service Society estimates that Governor Cuomo's proposed 421-a program would "cost NYC taxpayers $2.4 billion annually and yield minimal affordable housing units in return." In the face of federal cuts, Jawanza Williams of VOCAL NY urged New York State to take a more aggressive stance to fill in the gaps and create its own robust health care and public housing systems; he also argued that 421-a would "only exacerbate gentrification." Claudia Perez of advocacy group Community Voices Heard added her thoughts in a question to those assembled: "Will you help me fight against the developer-in-chief? Now more than ever, New York must protect NYCHA." "We're calling on Cuomo to realize these $2 billion in cuts are more Trumponian than Trump," said New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams at the protest. "So if [Cuomo] wants to run for president, if he wants to be a champion of saying what New York City is going to do to push back against these Trumponian cuts, 421-a is not it."
Placeholder Alt Text

Protestors take to Trump Tower's fourth floor for a teach-in

City Councilman Mark Levine and a host of other New Yorkers have taken to the fourth floor of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to give a range of public talks on climate change, jobs, energy efficiency, and public parks. Organized by Climate Works For All, the teach-in aims to heighten awareness about Donald Trump's backward energy and climate policies as well as his real estate practices.

People were able to group at the garden of Trump Tower by invoking a long-standing (but infrequently used) legal requirement that this part of Trump Tower has public access. The event is being live-streamed on Facebook and protestors are using #TeachTrump on social media. “It’s clear that Donald Trump has a lot to learn, so we came to Trump Tower to teach him about issues that matters to us and working families,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, in a press release. “Making buildings more energy efficient is a win-win: cutting down on wasted energy protects the environment and creates good jobs in a city of vast inequalities. We also wanted to let the president know that New Yorkers value our public spaces, so he can’t cut corners like this anymore.”

If you fancy a trip yourself, the address is: 725 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022.

Placeholder Alt Text

A man is currently climbing up the facade of Trump Tower using suction cups

A man is currently on his way up the Trump Tower in Midtown, Manhattan with the aid of suction cups. The police and fire department so far have tried (unsuccessfully) to help the man down, however, he does not appear to be cooperating.
A person is climbing Trump Tower in New York City.A person is climbing Trump Tower in New York City using suction cups. Posted by CNN on Wednesday, 10 August 2016
According to multiple ABC News, the climber had smashed several windows while also changing his path up the building so to avoid police who had sawed into ventilation grates. Police were reportedly leaning out of these openings, though were unable to stop the man who's reason for the stunt is so far unknown. At the base of the Tower on Madison Avenue, a crowd had formed with many cheering the man's efforts. He has so far responded with whistles though gasps were heard when the climber slipped. So far provisions have been made for if the climber falls with two giant inflatable cushioned drop-zones in place. The road has also now been closed.
The climber will have no luck if he expects to find the Republican nominee in the building as Trump himself is currently at a rally in Abingdon, Virginia, more than 500 miles away. UPDATE: As of 6:35 p.m. (EST) AN learnt that the man, identified as Stephen Rogata was caught and subsequently arrested shortly after by the NYPD. Glass had been removed from windows located above the climber thus preventing him from ascending any further. Rogata was described by police as a 20-year-old man from Virginia who intended to meet Trump. Ironically, Trump (as mentioned above) was in Rogata's home-state as he made his ascent. Since his arrest, he has been taken to Bellevue Hospital to be psychologically evaluated.
In a YouTube video posted this week (see below), Rogata defines himself as an "independent researcher" who had to give an "important message" to the Republican presidential nominee. Trump's campaign meanwhile, has reacted to the incident. "This man performed a ridiculous and dangerous stunt," said Michael Cohen, executive vice-president of the Trump Organization. "I'm 100% certain the NYPD had better things to do."
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.

Placeholder Alt Text

Eavesdrop> The Great Chicago Fire Festival was a bust

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire ripped through the city's streets and spurred a massive urban renewal. On Saturday, in an attempt to honor that city-defining event, some kayakers paddled around the Chicago River and tried to light some fake houses on fire. It was all part of the $2 million Great Chicago Fire Festival put on by the Redmoon Theater Company. But on Saturday night, it quickly became clear that the festival would be neither great nor full of fire. You could say the festival fizzled out or that it failed to ignite. Both will do. Like moths to a flame, 30,000 spectators gathered along the Chicago River to see the city ignite three old-timey, floating model homes. Before that could happen, we waited—and waited—for some local pols to light cauldrons underneath city bridges. There were also some actors from the NBC show Chicago Fire there to help out, so that was probably kind of cool if you watch that show. Oh, and Martin Sheen was apparently there too. Why not. With the fires set, it seemed like it was time for the action (read: fire, lots of fire). But no, not quite yet. For close to half an hour we were stuck watching some fire-toting kayakers and mock paddle-wheelers tool around the river. After that second delay, the "Grand Spectacle" finally began. We were led to believe that the houses would be lit, they would ignite, and then disappear to reveal recreations of firefighters' ladders, a skyscraper, and the Chicago flag. That didn't happen because, well, nothing really happened. The houses barely caught fire; they just kind of floated there like uncooperative logs. Redmoon has said heavy rain in the days leading up to the event "tripped up" the electric systems in the houses. When it became clear that the houses were not going to ignite, the city moved on to the fireworks part of the event, but by that point many people (myself included) had left the banks of the river and filtered back into the city grid. Behind all of us was the glowing Trump sign on the eponymous tower. "You're fired," the Don could almost be heard screaming to the organizers below. "You're fired." Despite the rough reviews, representatives from Redmoon and the city said they hope to try this all again next year.