Developer Donald Trump, who spent weeks courting the fringes of American politics in a possible presidential bid, stuck to real estate last night in brief remarks at the premier of a documentary produced by The Real Deal about the prolific and aging New York architect Costas Kondylis. (See photos above.)
Trump, who traveled the United States questioning President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, praised Kondylis — born in Africa to Greek parents — as a “great design architect.”
Kondylis was the architect on many of Trump’s buildings such as the Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza and an imposing row of residential towers that were critically panned called Riverside South, which face the Hudson River.
“I’ve never told you this, Costas,” Trump said. “Because I wanted to keep your fees down, [but renowned architect] Philip Johnson said, ‘I have to tell you, Costas is a great design architect.'”
Trump joked as well that Costas at times made him envious.
“The women have always loved this guy. It made me jealous,” Trump said. “He’d walk into a room and every woman would say ‘Oh, he’s so handsome!’ I hated that. In fact he lost a couple jobs over that,” drawing laughter from the audience.
Trump was speaking at the premier of “Building Stories,” an hour-long documentary about the architectural designer of 86 towers that now mark the Manhattan skyline, yet who remains relatively unknown. (Trump said that number should really be 88 because there were two buildings Costas did not get credit for.)
About 750 people attended the opening reception at the Morgan Library on Madison Avenue between 36th and 37th streets, including real estate notables such as Joseph Sitt, chairman and CEO of Thor Equities; Barbara Corcoran, author, television personality and founder of the real estate brokerage that carries her name, and Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of the Corcoran Group. Other attendees included Andrew Heiberger of Town, which sponsored the film, and developers Joseph Moinian and Gristedes magnate John Catsimatidis.
Before the movie began, author and journalist Peter Hamill praised immigrants, and also builders who have marked the city.
“We are fools if we ignore the memory of the people who put [the towers] there and honor them. From architects and engineers to those infantry people who put the buildings up,” he said.
Attendees weighed in on Trump, the movie and Kondylis.
Corcoran, a star on the ABC reality television show, “Shark Tank,” had characteristically harsh words for Trump and when a reporter said she’d love to see Corcoran and Trump interact, Corcoran said there would be nothing to watch because
they do not speak to each other. She was critical of him in her book “Shark Tales.”
Developer Ziel Feldman, managing principal of HFZ Capital Group, said he once sought to hire Kondylis, but the timing did not work out.
But he put a positive side on criticisms in the film that Costas is a “developer’s architect.” Costas creates a building that can be financially successful, “sacrificing in some cases his pride and ego,” Ziel said.
Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal said there were several documentaries about him in the works, yet he did not expect construction to begin on the controversial Downtown cultural center for three more years.
Others, such as Paula Busch, who recently left Corcoran for Town Residential, said, “I don’t think any of us understood his love of the city and his love of his family. And I love the fact that Donald Trump was so affectionate of Costas.”
Other attendees included Bruce Mosler, chairman of global brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield, real estate attorneys Adam Leitman Bailey and Edward Mermelstein, as well as Jeffrey Appel, sales manager at Metlife Home Loans.