View from Fifth Avenue
Location within Manhattan
|Type||Retail, office, and residential|
721 Fifth Avenue|
New York City, NY 10022
|Opening||November 30, 1983|
|Owner||Donald Trump, The Trump Organization|
|Management||The Trump Organization|
|Architectural||664 ft (202 m)|
|Floor count||58 actual stories; top story is numbered 68|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Der Scutt; Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell|
|Structural engineer||Irwin Cantor|
Trump Tower is a 58-story, 664-foot-high (202 m) mixed-use skyscraper located at 721–725 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Trump Tower serves as the headquarters for The Trump Organization. Additionally, it houses the penthouse condominium residences of the building's namesake and developer, U.S. President Donald Trump, who was a businessman and real estate developer at the time the tower was developed. Several members of the Trump family also reside in the building. The tower stands upon a plot where the flagship store of department-store chain Bonwit Teller was formerly located.
Designed by Der Scutt of Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell and developed by Trump and the Equitable Life Assurance Company (renamed the AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company in 2004), the building broke ground in 1979. Despite being located in one of Midtown Manhattan's special zoning districts, the tower was approved because it was built as a mixed-use development. Trump was able to add additional stories to the tower due to his construction 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 over the fact that the tower was not tax-exempt.
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. On the other hand, the residential units were sold out within months of opening. Since 2016, the tower has seen a large surge in visitation due to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent election, as both his 2016 and 2020 campaigns are headquartered in the tower.
Designed by Der Scutt, Trump Tower was constructed on the site of the former Bonwit Teller flagship store, an architecturally renowned building that was built in 1929. The building was purchased by Trump in 1979, with the intention of building the city's "first super-luxury high-rise". The Trump Organization demolished the store at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street and erected Trump Tower there. HRH Construction was the contractor on the building. Barbara Res, who had worked on some of Trump's other projects and then worked as a consultant for Trump until 1996, was the construction executive. At the time, Res was the first woman who had been assigned to oversee a major New York City construction site.
The building is located in a special zoning district that spans Fifth Avenue between 38th and 58th Streets. Ordinarily, a building of that height could not have been built on the small site. However, the building was approved partially because it was mixed-use, with retail, office, and residential units. The Trump Organization also constructed a through-block arcade, connecting to IBM's 590 Madison Avenue tower to the east, and purchased the air rights from the Tiffany's flagship store next door for $5 million. The tower's five-story atrium, which was designed as a "public space" under the city codes at the time, enabled the Trump Organization to build a taller tower, though the plans also stipulated that a landscaped terrace be built. In particular, Trump built an atrium of 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) in exchange for building 20 extra stories to his tower. At the time, the building was the only skyscraper on Fifth Avenue with its own retail space.
As originally planned, the tower would have 60 stories consisting of 13 office floors, 40 condominium floors, and 2 floors for mechanical uses, but this was later amended. However, in the final plan, there were 26 office floors on the building's base, then another 39 condominium floors containing 270 condominiums on levels 30–68. Originally, it was estimated that it would take $100 million to construct the tower. When the tower eventually opened, it had 58 stories, with the top story marked as "68" because, according to Trump, the five-story-tall public atrium occupies the height of 10 ordinary stories. However, several Bloomberg L.P. writers determined that Trump's calculations did not account for the fact that the ceiling heights in Trump Tower were much taller than in comparable buildings. As a result of this miscalculation, the tower does not have any floors numbered 6–13.
In 1979, before construction had even begun, there was opposition to the construction of Trump Tower and other buildings in the area. The New York Committee for a Balanced Building Boom was concerned about the planned rezoning of the area that would arise due to the construction of high-rise towers along Fifth Avenue between 40th and 57th Streets.
Trump had originally promised that the Bonwit Teller building's Art Deco exterior limestone bas-relief sculptures of semi-nude goddesses, as well as the massive ornate 15-by-25 foot grille above the store's entrance, would be removed and be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum appraised the sculptures at over $200,000. However, the sculptures ended up being 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. The Met's curator, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, caught a cab to the building site and attempted to pay the workmen for the sculptures, but was rebuffed. The building's decorative grille, supposedly transported to a New Jersey warehouse, was never recovered. Instead the sculptures and grilles became scrap metal, and several days later, Trump stated that he had ordered the destruction himself. Later in 1980, he boasted that 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". Robert Miller, the gallery owner who had appraised the pieces, lamented that such things would "never be made again", and Peter M. Warner, a researcher who worked across the street, called the destruction "regrettable".
During the tower's construction, there were several other controversies related to the construction process. In one case, Trump sued a contractor for "total incompetence". He 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 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 worth between $15 million and $20 million. The tax on Trump Tower was upheld in a 4 to 1 decision.
In 1983, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Trump Organization, concerning unpaid labor union pension and medical obligations. Trump testified in 1990 that he was unaware that 200 undocumented Polish immigrants, some of whom lived at the site during a 1980 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 that he rarely visited the demolition site and never noticed the laborers, who were known as the "Polish Brigade" and 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. In testimony, Trump stated that he and an executive used the pseudonym "John Baron" in some of his business dealings, although Trump said that 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." The case went through several appeals and non-jury trials, and was at one point compared by a presiding judge to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the seemingly unending case that forms the backbone of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. The lawsuit was ultimately settled in 1999, with its records sealed.
Trump was granted permission by the City of New York to build the top 20 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 that 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, prior to an expected court ruling.
In 2015, journalist David Cay Johnston questioned the particular use of concrete and suggested there was a connection with organized crime. Johnston stated that a 1992 book by journalist Wayne Barrett had also come to similar conclusions: "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 himself questioned some of Trump's business dealings in a Daily Beast article in 2011, and that concrete was one of "several dozen" suspected mob connections that Trump had.
Opening and occupancy
The first tenants included Asprey and Ludwig Beck, who moved into the building before its planned opening in early 1983.:196–197 The grand opening of the atrium and stores was held on February 14, 1983, with the apartments and offices following shortly thereafter. The forty ground floor stores in the tower were opened for business on November 30, 1983. 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. In addition, a wide variety of high-end outfits opened stores in the tower, including Buccellati, Charles Jourdan brands, Mondi, and Fila.:197 Trump said in 1985 that there were more than 100 stores who wanted to move into a space in the tower.
By 1986, between 15% and 20% of the tower's original stores had closed down 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. The flagship Bonwit Teller store remained as one of Trump Tower's retail offerings until 1990, when Bonwit Teller's parent company declared bankruptcy and closed the Trump Tower location.
The residential units were more successful, and 95% of the 263 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, with the penthouse being sold for $15 million in 1985. The tower attracted many rich and famous residents, including Johnny Carson, David Merrick, Sophia Loren, and Steven Spielberg.:197 In total, Trump received $300 million from the sale of the condominiums, which more than offset the $200 million cost of construction.:197 The tower was seen as "something of a New York landmark" as early as 1985.
In 2006, Forbes magazine valued the 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) of office spaces at up to $318 million; the tower itself was valued at $288 million, since the Trump Organization had a $30 million mortgage on the property. As of 2013[update], that mortgage had risen to $100 million. The valuation of the building rose from $490 million in 2014 to $600 million in 2015 due to increased rent payments by anchor store Gucci. This revaluation made the tower the single most expensive property within Trump's ownership. The next year, however, the tower's value dropped sharply from $630 million to $471 million, losing $159 million of valuation 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. Due to a $100 million debt incurred on Trump Tower, Forbes magazine calculated the tower's net worth at $371 million, excluding the Trumps' 3-story penthouse.
In March 2017, after Trump was elected president, he wrote several posts on Twitter claiming that 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 conference 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.
On August 9, 2016, a man posted a YouTube video that subsequently went viral, in which he said that he was an independent researcher wishing to speak to Donald Trump. The next day, a man, suspected to be the same man who had posted the YouTube video, climbed the outside of Trump Tower from the 5th to the 21st floors. The man was aid climbing using industrial suction cups. During the incident, the police attempted to "safely isolate" the climber, breaking and removing windows to try to capture him. After climbing for 2 hours and 45 minutes, he was apprehended by the NYPD Emergency Service Units (ESU) at the 21st floor of the tower. The man identified himself as Stephen Rogata, a 20-year-old Virginia resident. Rogata was arrested for endangerment and criminal trespassing and taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Serious issues concerning safety and security in the building arose after Donald Trump was declared 45th President-elect of the United States on November 8, 2016. Trump Tower had served as a rallying point for the protests against Donald Trump in the days after the election's results were announced, thus requiring extra deployments of security officials. The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a no-fly zone over Trump Tower until January 20, 2017, and the NYPD stated that it was projected to spend $35 million to provide security to the tower, of which $7 million would be repaid by Congress. The NYPD later revised its estimate to $24 million. Street closures were imposed along the east side of Fifth Avenue and on the north side of 56th Street, with NYPD officers stopping and questioning pedestrians on these sidewalks as to their destinations. Customers to the Gucci and Tiffany's stores in Trump Tower's lobby were allowed to proceed, while other pedestrians were redirected to the opposite side of the street. The press nicknamed the now-heavily secured building White House North. As a result of the heavy security, businesses around the tower had seen decreased patronage due to less foot traffic around the heavily secured area.
Even so, despite the heavy security after the 2016 election, there have been some detentions and arrests that have been related to the increased security at the tower. On December 6, a woman managed to bypass security and go to the 24th floor—two floors below Donald Trump's office—before being stopped by Secret Service officers. A week later on December 13, a Baruch College student who was arrested at Trump Tower was found to have multiple weapons, including knives, a garrote, and firecrackers. The next day, another man reportedly got angry after he wanted to meet Donald Trump at the tower, and after throwing a wine glass onto the floor of the tower's lobby, was subsequently detained by the NYPD.
The 58-story Trump Tower is 664 feet (202 m) high making it the 64th tallest building in New York City. The tower, designed by Der Scutt of Poor, Swanke, Hayden & Connell, is a reinforced concrete shear wall core structure and, at the time of its completion, was the tallest structure of its type in the city. The 28-sided structure, with a stepped facade, was intended to give the tower more window exposure. 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 which allows 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's public spaces are clad in Breccia Pernice, a pink white-veined marble. 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. Mirrors and brass are used throughout the well furnished apartments and the kitchens are outfitted with "standard suburban" cabinets. This includes the office lobby, located off Fifth Avenue, and the five-level atrium, which features a 60-foot-high (18 m) internal waterfall alongside the eastern wall spanned by a suspended walkway atop, shops, cafés, and a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the waterfall's pool. The atrium 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. Many of the apartments are furnished, but some of the upper-floor commercial spaces come unfurnished.
The tower has two outdoor terraces 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 has 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 privately operated public space at 590 Madison Avenue. The building's main entrance is on Fifth Avenue, with a side entrance on 56th Street for "private use". Above the main entrance is a logo with 34-inch-high (86 cm) brass capital letters in a Stymie Extra Bold font, which read "TRUMP TOWER". The tower is well-served by public transportation, being about 600 feet (180 m) from three New York City Subway stations: Fifth Avenue/53rd Street, Fifth Avenue–59th Street, and 57th Street–Sixth Avenue.
Retail outlets include Gucci's flagship store at ground floor retail. A Tiffany & Co. store is located next door in its own Art Deco building at 1 East 57th Street. There are also stores selling Trump merchandise that are located in the atrium. During Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the stores sold campaign memorabilia such as hats, with the proceeds going toward funding his campaign. In 2017, the city ordered the removal of two unauthorized kiosks in Trump Tower that were selling Trump's merchandise.
Since the launch of Trump's presidential campaign in 2015, the number of visits to the tower had risen drastically, with many of the visitors being supporters of Trump's candidacy. The tower gained popularity among New York City tourists in 2016, especially after Trump was elected as U.S. president.
In a 1982 review of the building, a New York Times reporter contrasted the "reflective" Trump Tower with the nearby postmodern 550 Madison Avenue building then occupied by AT&T. Although another writer described the tower as "preposterously lavish" and "showy, even pretentious", the atrium's design was well received, with one commenter saying that it was New York City's "most pleasant interior public space" to be built in recent history. Before the atrium opened, Ada Louise Huxtable, an architectural critic for the New York Times, stated that the building was a "dramatically handsome structure," but reversed stance upon the opening of the atrium, saying that the tower was really "monumentally undistinguished one" and commenting that her earlier comments were 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. In 2010 the AIA Guide to New York City described Trump Tower as a "fantasyland for the affluent shopper" hidden by "folded glass."
The NBC television show The Apprentice was filmed in Trump Tower, on the fifth floor. The set of The Apprentice included the famous boardroom where at least one person was fired at the end of each episode, which was prominently featured in the television show, incorporates a fully functional television studio set inside Trump Tower. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., founded in 2015, is 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 in 2016, he indicated that Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., would remain in Trump Tower to organize his 2020 re-election campaign.
Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States; his wife Melania; and their son Barron live on the penthouse floors. The tower is their main residence, among the Trump family's other homes at Mar-a-Lago in Florida; Seven Springs in Bedford, New York; a part of an estate in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since 2017, Donald primarily lives in the White House but Melania and Barron still live in Trump Tower. Barron is reported to live on his own floor. Before Donald became president, his offices were located on the 26th floor.
Noted soccer organizations and players have rented space or lived in Trump Tower. CONCACAF, the governing body of association football in North & Central America and the Caribbean, occupies the entire 17th floor. Chuck Blazer, the former President of CONCACAF, used to live on 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 investigations against association soccer organizations worldwide, including against 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. Additionally, 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 former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who lived in the tower when he was Trump's campaign manager; 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 from one of Trump's opponents. Additionally, Qatar Airways, which is 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.
Past tenants include Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the ex-president of Haiti who died in 2014, was discovered to have been living in a $2 million apartment on the 54th floor in 1989, when public records in Haiti showed that Duvalier 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 60-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. In addition, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.'s headquarters were on the fifth floor.
In February 2017, the United States Department of Defense announced that it was looking to lease space in Trump Tower, in order to house "personnel and equipment" dedicated toward protecting President Trump. This followed precedents in which the DOD bought space in other presidents' properties, but the difference in this case was that the DOD's plan would directly profit President 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.
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." The tower also makes a cameo appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street.
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 the ISBN 1-59315-735-5. For unknown reasons, some versions of the novel are advertised with Trump as the author.
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