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A new problem for the wealthy: Living in a building named 'Trump'

Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times 24/10/2016 Barbara Demick

Trump Tower at 56th St. and 5th Ave. in New York is headquarters for the Trump campaign. © Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS Trump Tower at 56th St. and 5th Ave. in New York is headquarters for the Trump campaign. NEW YORK — Donald Trump has long been one of this city's top figures in real estate, affixing his name — invariably in gold — to the marquees of more than a dozen Manhattan buildings.

But as his polarizing campaign for president has turned a segment of the population against him, home has become an uncomfortable place for some. At several Trump buildings, residents are quietly petitioning to get rid of his name.

"I used to tell people I lived in Trump Place. Now I say I live at 66th and Riverside Boulevard," said Sandra Brod, 74, a retiree waiting for a friend at a park bench outside her building one recent afternoon. "He has a mouth like a sewer."

Though Trump is a native New Yorker — born and bred in Queens — this is not his kind of town. More than a third of the city's residents are immigrants, a group Trump has alienated with his proclamations against Muslim refugees and Mexicans.

Only 17 percent of New York City voters plan to vote for him, according to a poll released this week by Siena College, compared with 73 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

Anti-Trump protesters have hurled eggs at the glass-and-granite facades of the row of Trump buildings where Brod lives. At other buildings, they've dumped excrement.

His flagship Trump Tower, a 63-story monolith on Fifth Avenue where he lives in a penthouse, has become a focal point for Trump fans — more than a hundred gathered there to cheer him the day after a tape was released in which he boasted of groping women.

The sidewalk out front has turned into a raucous pop-up stage for a public bent on expressing opinions about one of the most colorful presidential campaigns in recent memory.

Residents tend to use a discreet side entrance, but there is no escaping the megaphones, bullhorns and commotion. Taxi drivers honk as they go by. Pedestrians gesture with animation.

"The middle fingers are nonstop," said Paul Rose, a 54-year-old comedian dressed as a piece of excrement who was selling "Dump Trump" posters and lapel pins on the sidewalk, as marching bands paraded by in celebration of Hispanic Day.

Tourists watching the parade ran up to pose for selfies with Rose and another protester, 66-year-old June Seley Kimmel, a former actress holding up hand-lettered signs reading "Make America grope again" and "Trump Putin 2016."

"It's entertainment every day," said one of the building's doormen, enjoying his front-row view of the political drama riveting the nation. The man, who feared that being quoted by name would cost him his job, observed that pro-Trump demonstrators were generally rowdier than anti-Trump protesters.

"There was one guy who came by and dumped something out of his bag on the sidewalk" that appeared to be dog excrement, he said.

A few minutes later, after realizing the door staff would have to clean it up, the man returned to apologize and pick it up himself.

Some New Yorkers refuse to attend events at Trump buildings.

Ilana Broad, a 26-year-old lawyer who was invited to a brunch near the United Nations, said she was shocked when she arrived at the address on the invitation and discovered it was an apartment in Trump World Tower. Before going in, she took a selfie raising a middle finger at the building and sent it to friends on Snapchat.

"It was a charity event and I felt obliged," she said. "But I think most of us would not have agreed to go if we knew it was a Trump building."

In Manhattan, there are more than a dozen Trump buildings — including Trump World, Trump Tower, Trump Parc, Trump Palace, Trump Place and Trump International — with more than 4,000 units of luxury housing.

Most are not owned by the Trump Organization, and some are not even managed by Trump. But they bear his name as the result of licensing agreements struck years back.

Keith Olbermann, a sportscaster, political commentator and prominent Trump critic, sold his $3.8 million condominium in Trump Palace with its stunning skyline views because he could no longer bear to be associated with the Trump name.

"I got out with 90 percent of my money and 100 percent of my soul," he tweeted in July upon completing the sale.

Olbermann says that many of his former neighbors also want to sell but can't afford to take the loss. He hopes for the demise of the Trump brand after the election.

"In Russia, there was quite a spree of pulling down statues of Stalin and erasing his likeness from buildings," Olbermann said. "That's how the real estate market will treat Trump."

Prices of units currently for sale in Trump buildings range from $660,000 for a studio to $40 million for a six-bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park.

"I thought about hanging a 'Dump Trump' banner from the window, but they don't allow billboards on this building," said John Harrison, a 48-year-old real estate broker who is selling his own two-bedroom condominium in Trump Place with a view of the Hudson River.

At an open house last month for the apartment, Harrison was showing the place to two Chinese women, who were fresh enough in New York that they had brought along their interpreter. Another couple touring an apartment for an open house were Russian.

"There are people who would never buy anything with the Trump name, but many foreigners don't care, and they have a perception that the Trump name is associated with success and class," Harrison said.

He added: "Look, I think he is a genius in many ways, but it would be better if he stuck to real estate and was not running for president."

Most of the buildings pay the Trump Organization for the use of the name — and are bound by contract to do so. Removing his name would not be easy.

At 220 Riverside Blvd., which is part of Trump Place, the board of managers has already shot down the idea. In a letter last week informing residents of the decision, it cited several reasons: potential litigation, adverse publicity and the cost of changing the signage, which they estimated would be up to $1 million.

"This Board celebrates the diversity of all who live here, we do not favor any over others, and in an exceptionally contentious political season, we've attempted at all times to maintain a neutral position, especially so that we might avoid dragging the polarized external political environment into your homes," the Oct. 14 letter explained.

Trump has vigorously defended his brand name in the courts of law and public opinion.

He organized a boycott against Macy's department store last year after it dumped his menswear line over his anti-Mexican comments. He is fighting an effort by the city of Vancouver, Canada, to keep his name off the Trump International Hotel and Tower currently under construction.

And he is suing two chefs who took umbrage at his political views and pulled out of deals to open restaurants in the Trump International Hotel, which is under development in an old post office a few blocks from the White House — the real estate he covets most.

"People like politics," Trump said in a deposition in one of those cases. "They like to be around the name and maybe me."

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