Trump condo owners cry foul on board election after name change dispute

Owners claim June meeting is a ploy to flex authority after argument

Trump World Tower Owners Clash With Condo Board

Eric Trump along with Trump World Tower (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)

While voters on the national stage face down another election year starring Donald Trump, condo owners at Trump World Tower are claiming a rigged election is stifling their efforts at the Midtown Manhattan property.

A monthslong push to change the name of the building could be facing certain death in a board meeting scheduled for next week. Owners in the building say a June 4 vote — its first in years, in violation terms of the condo’s bylaws — is a move to assure the reelection of current members.

The meeting intends to fill the building’s six board seats, the board notified unit owners on May 17 in a letter viewed by The Real Deal. The election ballot distributed to unit owners includes the names of current board members plus several write-in slots.

Condo owners say they fear reelecting the current board is a foregone conclusion that would cement the board’s determination “that pursuing a renaming would not be in the best interests” of the building, which the board expressed in a May 28 letter to unit owners.

Removing the Trump name from the building would not be in the interest of the Trump Organization, whose vice president Eric Trump is one of two appointed members of the Trump World Tower board. The firm charges a licensing fee for lending its name to the building and earns revenue for managing the property at 845 United Nations Plaza on the east side of Manhattan near the UN Headquarters.

“We want to remove the financial incentive that really attaches the management company to our building,” said one owner who favors a new legal name for the building and removing signage with the Trump name from its facade, with the ultimate goal of finding a new manager.

Grassroots organizing for an opposing slate of board members has been slowed by the fact that many owners in the building rent their units as investment properties and live outside the city; owners say that fear of the Trump family also stifles attempts to organize against it. 

The board of the 90-story tower is known to be loyal to the Trumps, and recently won a sweetheart deal for the family’s firm at the financial expense of owners in the building. 

To make their case to remove the Trump name, some unit owners approached property appraiser Jonathan Miller to assess how the Trump brand has impacted property values at the building, but the board declined to release funds for the appraisal, according to several owners. 

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“Removing the Trump name from the building removes the loss associated with the name,” Columbia University economist Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh told the New York Times in February, after analyzing sales at Manhattan buildings bearing the Trump name.

One reason the board gave for rejecting a name change is that its licensing agreement is bound up with the title of the building, meaning lenders with liens on any of its condo units would need to approve the change. That conclusion was disputed by a title expert, however.

The board also claimed the ownership structure of Trump World Tower differs from buildings where the Trump name has been removed, including the former Trump Soho and six buildings on Manhattan’s west side, but gave no further explanation. 

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The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment. The composition of the current board is reportedly what first endeared Michael Cohen to Donald Trump, after Cohen strong-armed the board in favor of the Trump Organization.

The board meeting is slated for just days after Trump was convicted in a New York court of falsifying business records to cover up payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Cohen was among those who testified that Trump conspired to hide information about the affair from the public.

“Nice to live in a building bearing the name of a convicted felon,” one building resident told TRD following the verdict.