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Judge Sides With Residents Who Want Trump's Name Off Their NYC Building

Workers remove Trump signage from Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. on Manhattan's West Side on Nov. 16, 2016. A separate building nearby won a judge's permission to remove Trump's name if enough residents agree.
Bryan R. Smith
AFP/Getty Images
Workers remove Trump signage from Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. on Manhattan's West Side on Nov. 16, 2016. A separate building nearby won a judge's permission to remove Trump's name if enough residents agree.

Updated at 12:29 p.m. ET Thursday

A judge in New York has ruled that residents of Trump Place, a condominium building on Manhattan's West Side, have the right to remove President Trump's name from the building if enough of them approve of it.

The ruling by New York Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten marks a defeat for the Trump Organization, which had argued that removing the name would violate the building's licensing agreement.

The company has had to contend with a growing number of commercial and residential buildings, including several outside the country, that want to remove Trump's name.

In New York, several other apartment buildings along the Hudson River have taken the same step. The Trump Soho, a condo hotel opened with great fanfare a decade ago, has been rechristened the Dominick.

Trump Place has not definitely said it will change its name, but wanted the judge to determine that it had the right to do so. Most of those who voted in a straw poll said they favored changing the name.

After Thursday's ruling, Harry Lipman, the attorney for the building, would not say whether the building's condominium board would now proceed with a vote, but did say of the ruling, "We're pleased, obviously."

The building is not owned by Trump, but is managed by the Trump Organization.

Elizabeth Holub, who owns an apartment there, says she has no complaints about the way the building, which has a highly desirable view of the Hudson River, is run.

"The reality is, it's the best-run building. It's unbelievable. Every member of the staff. There's no better place in the world to raise a family," Holub says.

Still, she wishes it were named something other than Trump.

"Look, I can't stand Donald Trump. I'm sorry he's the president. I don't support his policies," she adds.

The view is shared by residents of other Trump buildings across Manhattan, such as the 72-story Trump World Tower, on the East Side, near the United Nations.

"I have to explain to everybody who comes to visit me that I'm sorry about the name on the building, that I live there doesn't constitute any kind of endorsement," says James Tufenkian, who heads a New York carpet company and lives in the building.

Despite that, Tufenkian loves everything about the building, noting it has great views, a helpful and accommodating staff and is very well managed.

The movement to de-Trump buildings reflects a political reality: New York may be the place Donald Trump calls home and made his fortune, but he remains distinctly unpopular in much of the city and lost the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton by a landslide there.

There are signs his unpopularity is affecting the value of his properties.

While real estate prices have softened in much of New York over the past two years, especially at the high end, some evidence suggests that the Trump name can hurt sales even further.

One business official with deep knowledge of the real estate industry, who didn't want to be named for fear of losing business, said there's no question Trump apartments are sitting on the market longer than they used to.

Even Trump Tower has recorded many fewer sales so far this year than it did during previous periods in 2016 and 2017, the official said.

As the home of the president, Trump Tower is guarded by the Secret Service, and residents have to endure intense security measures, which may have temporarily scared some buyers away.

But there are signs other Trump buildings in the city may also be losing value.

The online brokerage firm Zumper has studied rental prices at Trump buildings. Nathan Tondow, managing broker at the firm's New York office, says in most cases, Trump buildings now fetch somewhat lower rents and sit on the market longer than they did two years ago.

More recently, the differences have narrowed, although Tondow says that may be due to seasonable factors.

This being New York, good apartments are always in short supply, and prospective tenants will always snatch up good deals, even when they're named Trump, he says. But the Trump name does matter in some cases.

"We've had rental clients who didn't want to see buildings, because they did have the Trump name on them. And we tried to explain that it is owned by someone else. It's just the Trump name. And they say, "I know. But walking into that everyday just feels wrong."

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment. But the company has pushed back against the lawsuit by 200 Riverside Blvd., insisting that the building is obligated to use the Trump name.

Before Thursday's ruling, the president's son, Eric Trump, told David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, "I will always fight vehemently against rogue individuals not only to protect our incredible owners but also to protect the legacy of a true visionary who did so much to shape the New York City skyline."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.
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