Trump Tower without Donald Trump? Here’s what that could look like after New York fraud ruling

He lost the White House. Now he may lose his glitzy towers.

The decision, issued by Justice Arthur Engoron on Tuesday, is still being interpreted and could be undercut by an appeal promised by Trump’s legal team.

But a portion of the ruling essentially ordered Trump and his family to relinquish their businesses in New York.

Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York in April. File photo: AP

On its face, the decision could force Trump to give up control of coveted properties, including the gold-plated Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, and 40 Wall Street, a valuable and recognisable neo-gothic lower Manhattan skyscraper with a mint-green roof.

A lawyer for Trump, Christopher Kise, said in a statement that Engoron’s ruling aims to “seize control of private property”, and that the Trump family would appeal for “remedies to rectify this miscarriage of justice”. In court on Wednesday, Kise asked the judge to clarify the reach of the ruling.

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But Engoron declined to say whether Trump’s iconic New York real estate assets had to be sold under the order, or could be managed by a court-appointed monitor. Legal experts disagreed on whether the ruling amounted to a clear overreach.

Joshua Stein, a prominent New York commercial real estate lawyer, said that “it’s a long, slow slog between this one adverse ruling” and an outcome that would dislodge the real estate holdings from Trump.

But if Trump Tower is sold, Stein said, the former president would likely try to keep his name on the building, which also houses apartments, restaurants and commercial space. “Trump Tower” screams in blocky gold lettering above the mixed-use tower’s entryway.

No New York building is more associated with Trump than the 58-floor skyscraper located between 57th Street and 58th Street. In 2015, he rode down the building’s lift before launching his successful presidential run. (It’s not clear if Engoron’s ruling could force Trump to give up his beloved penthouse triplex at Trump Tower).

Buyers of any Trump properties might condition their purchase with the removal of his name, given the 77-year-old Republican’s tarnished brand.

“Any building that gets sold, the name is going to go away,” Stein said. “That would be my bet.”

Donald Trump in a Trump Tower lift. File photo: AFP

Trump’s real estate footprint in his hometown is already shrinking.

The city axed its contracts with the Trump Organization following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, sending Central Park’s carousel and the Wollman and Lasker ice skating rinks into new management.

And Trump’s name is already coming off properties.

Earlier this month, the Trump Organization sold its right to operate the public golf course at Ferry Point in the Bronx. The Bally’s casino chain, now in charge of the course, plans to strip Trump’s name.

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The Central Park ice rinks had Trump’s name scrubbed off them in 2019. And his name also dropped from Trump Soho New York, known as the Dominick since 2017. (Trump never owned the hotel).

Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, said that even if Trump is never forced to give up his property, he may chose willingly to sell it.

“He has a really good chance of winning an appeal,” Bailey said. “However, being in a situation where he may be fed up with New York, and he may be the most hated man with New York, he may want to just make a deal and get time to sell his properties.”

David Cay Johnston, a journalist who has written extensively on Trump and teaches at Syracuse University’s law school, said the process of forcing Trump to give up his holdings could prove a “Gordian knot”.

But he said one thing was clear.

“This is the end of Donald Trump as a business presence in New York,” he said.

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