Trump SoHo ho­tel will lose its ‘Trump,’ but in New York there are plenty more

Sunday Star - - BUSINESS -

NEW YORK (TNS) — 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 year-end, 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 that it would end its li­cens­ing deal with the prop­erty’s owner and hand over day-to-day man­age­ment of op­er­a­tions, after re­ports that the ho­tel and res­i­den­tial com­plex had strug­gled to at­tract busi­ness.

New York 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 name. A new restau­rant, Spring & Var­ick, beck­oned din­ers, of­fer­ing $14 Greek yo­gurt and $36 lob­ster rolls.

Guests lounged 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,” Ashish Bhan­dari said, who was visiting town with some fam­ily mem­bers from Dal­las.

“Maybe the name at­tracted us as well,” Bhan­dari said, not­ing he was cu­ri­ous to see what all the fuss was about.

Bhan­dari said that at about $550 a 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 dur­ing an episode of Trump’s TV show “The Ap­pren­tice.” The project soon faced zon­ing bat­tles and op­po­si­tion from 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 among the 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 a year, hit the mar­ket just as the 2007-09 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 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 was in town for a re­union with friends and said he stayed at the ho­tel only be­cause some­one else had paid for it.

“I would never have paid to stay in a Trump ho­tel,” Gomez, a na­tive of Colom­bia said. “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 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 from the build­ing.

PHOTO BY KEVIN G. HALL/MCCLATCHY/TNS

The Trump SoHo build­ing was one of sev­eral U.S. lux­ury prop­er­ties that at­tracted in­vest­ment from an ex-Kazakh politi­cian, Vik­tor Khra­punov, who is al­leged to have laun­dered stolen money. Photo taken May 22 in New York.

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