In New York City you can’t go too far without seeing the five letters: Trump. Sometimes, it’s TRUMP.
Start at the flagship Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, walk one block west and two blocks north, and you’ll reach the luxury residential buildings of Trump Parc and Trump Parc East.
Head about the same distance in the opposite direction, and you’ll hit Trump Park Avenue, full of more opulent condominiums.
But by the end of the year, there will be one less “Trump.” The glass-clad skyscraper downtown called the Trump SoHo will no longer bear the name.
The Trump Organization announced last week it would end its licensing deal with the property’s owner and hand over day-to-day management of operations, amid reports that the hotel and residential complex has struggled to attract business.
This city overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton a year ago, exit polls showed, and some New Yorkers cheerfully greeted the news of the name change. “Dumping Trump: Suffering Soho spot ditching Don,” said the Daily News. But for many, the name still connotes power and elegance.
And snarky Twitter chatter about the upcoming name change was far from apparent at the hotel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Inside the lobby a tall Christmas tree dotted with copper and silver ornaments stood in one corner. Glass display cases advertised skin care masks and terry cloth products with Trump’s moniker. A new restaurant, Spring & Varick, beckoned diners, offering $14 Greek yogurt and $36 lobster rolls.
Guests lounged on plush armchairs checking their phones. Visitors speaking Chinese, Spanish and accented English walked in and out of the revolving doors, toting shopping bags from Saks Fifth Avenue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We wanted something with a skyline view. Maybe the name attracted us as well.
“It’s a fantastic hotel. The name doesn’t matter,” said one man from Germany while smoking a cigarette outside. The man, who didn’t wish to be identified because of the associated politics, said this was his fourth time staying at the hotel — and that he would do so again without hesitation in the future.
He and other guests said the hotel’s unique view, service and location made it particularly appealing.
“We wanted something with a skyline view,” said Ashish Bhandari, 25, who was visiting town with some family members from Dallas.
“Maybe the name attracted us as well,” Bhandari admitted, noting he was curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Bhandari said that at about $550 per night over the holiday weekend, the hotel was less expensive than others his group had looked at in the area. (A recent online search turned up reservations at the Trump SoHo ranging from $335 for smaller rooms with “urban views” to $7,000 a night for a “duplex terrace penthouse suite.”)
The hotel was launched in 2006 — during an episode of Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice.” The project soon faced zoning battles and opposition from local activists who argued that the neighborhood, just west of SoHo proper, wasn’t zoned for residential properties and that the towering structure would be out of place amid designer boutiques and galleries lining cobblestoned streets.
When construction workers broke ground, they discovered human bones — the remains of an old abolitionist church’s burial vaults.
In 2008 a construction worker fell 42 stories to his death after wooden supports bracing the top floors broke while concrete was being poured.
Still, the project, a condo-hotel hybrid, moved forward.
Condos in the hotel, nonresidential units where owners could stay for up to 120 days per year, hit the market just as the Great Recession did. Buyers later sued, accusing the Trump family of inflating the number of condos that had been sold at the time. The Manhattan district attorney’s office also opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
The Trumps settled the civil lawsuit and the criminal investigation was ultimately dropped, but questions continued to hang over the hotel’s finances for years.
These days in New York, the name Trump inevitably suggests politics. And some guests at the hotel over weekend weren’t so enthusiastic about it.
Mateo Gomez, 20, was in town for a reunion with friends and said he only stayed at the hotel because someone else had paid for it.
“I would never have paid to stay in a Trump hotel,” said Gomez, a native of Colombia. “I don’t like how he’s pressuring my Latin community [and] pushing out Mexicans and Muslims.”
Gomez said he did not spend a penny inside the hotel.
George Yang, 32, was visiting New York from Los Angeles with his wife.
“The name doesn’t really bother us, as long as the service is good and the room’s nice,” Yang said. “And the location,” he added, pointing out the hotel’s convenient proximity to the Holland Tunnel, which connects New York City and New Jersey.
Yang’s wife, though, was a bit more muted.
“I am a little embarrassed,” she said, not wanting to give her name. “I’m not telling everyone that I’m staying here.”
Anyway, she quickly pointed out, soon enough the name will have faded away from the building.