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Last edited 13 Feb 2018
Trump Tower New York
Trump Tower New York is a mixed-use skyscraper located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York which houses some of the city’s most prestigious residential, commercial and retail spaces. Completed in 1983, it was the first of many towers to be constructed by property developer Donald Trump. Trump owns the primary penthouse condominium, and the tower serves as the headquarters for The Trump Organisation. Trump Tower was also the setting of the NBC TV show ‘The Apprentice’.
The 58-storey skyscraper replaced the flagship Bonwit Teller department store, a change that was beset with controversy, as described below. At the time of its completion, Trump Tower was the tallest glass-clad building in Manhattan but, as of 2016, it is the 57th tallest building in New York City.
The tower is a high-end shopping destination, with Nike and Gucci flagship stores on the lower floors, and it is also home to fine dining establishments Trump Grill, Trump Café and Trump Bar. World-famous designers have created some of the 263 luxury condominiums that make up floors 30 to 68, with residents being among some of the wealthiest in the world.
The building was designed by architect Der Scutt as a reinforced concrete, shear wall core structure. Exterior columns are tied to the core with a concrete hat-truss at the top of the building which increases the effective dimensions of the core to that of the building, enabling it to resist lateral forces such as wind load and minor earthquakes.
The public atrium that comprises the tower’s first five storeys is clad in Breccia Pernice, a pink white-veined marble, with mirrors and brass used throughout. It also features a 7 ft waterfall on the eastern wall with a pedestrian bridge spanning the pool below.
The construction of Trump Tower was mired in controversy that, in the words of then-chairman of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission Kent Barwick, “…established [Trump] as a bad guy…afterwards, rightly or wrongly, there was a question of trust.”
In March 1980, Trump was given permission to demolish the existing Bonwit Teller building, a structure that many New Yorkers appreciated for its masonry-façade and art deco architecture that gave Fifth Ave its unique aesthetic. There were two distinct architectural features of the building that many wished to see salvaged and preserved:
- An ornate grillwork of interlocking geometric designs made of Benedict nickel that was directly above the building entrance, measuring 20 ft x 30 ft long.
- Two 15 ft high art deco bas relief limestone sculptures depicting partially-draped females on the building’s façade between floors 8 and 9.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art had been promised both of these features by Trump on condition that it was ‘economically viable to remove them intact.’ Robert Miller, a Fifth Avenue art dealer compared the significance of the reliefs with the sculptures of the Rockefeller Building, and put their value at “several hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
The removal proved to be a difficult operation, at an estimated cost of $32,000 along with a 10-day delay to construction. According to an account in New York Magazine, Trump ‘blew up’ and gave the construction team the order to forget about it and demolish them. Accordingly, the stone reliefs were crushed into dust without warning to the museum or anyone else, including the architect Der Scutt who was reportedly outraged by the destruction.
To make matters worse, the grillwork feature was removed and taken to a New Jersey warehouse where it then mysteriously disappeared.
Trump’s action caused anger amongst city officials who argued that since he had received real estate tax abatements of up to 90% for some of his earlier Manhattan projects, he should have ‘a moral responsibility’ to consider city resident’s interests. Meanwhile, the New York Times called Trump a ‘unenlightened developer’ who was guilty of ‘aesthetic vandalism’.
Despite the furore this caused, Trump later pointed out that the negative publicity actually generated interest in the building and helped with the sale of the apartments.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston questioned why the decision was taken to build a 58-storey skyscraper out of concrete instead of traditional steel girders. He alleged the decision was due to Trump’s links with New York’s shadier organisations. The tower was built by S&A Concrete, a firm whose owners were ‘Fat’ Tony Salerno, the head of the Genovese family, and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano, the head of the Gambinos family. Trump later used S&A Concrete on several other of his Manhattan buildings.
The workforce Trump employed on the demolition works were also cause for controversy. He employed 150 Polish men, most of whom were alleged to have entered the country illegally and to have been paid in cash at less than $5 an hour without benefits. They were not equipped with hard hats and slept on the site.
A federal judge found that Trump had conspired to exploit the Polish workers as well as the union health and welfare fund. A class-action lawsuit was filed in 1983 over unpaid labour union pension and medical obligations. After going through several appeals and non-jury trials, the lawsuit was finally settled, with its records sealed, in 1999.
 Project data
- Address: 725 Fifth Avenue, New York, 10022, USA
- Construction started: 1979
- Completed: 1983
- Height: 202 m (633 ft)
- Storeys: 58
- Architect: Der Scutt
- Structural engineer: Irwin Cantor
- Owner: Donald Trump II
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