At a press conference held yesterday, ostensibly to discuss his fundraising for charities that help veterans, real-life presumptive GOP nominee and future can of beans Donald Trump spent more time berating the journalists who gathered in the atrium of Trump Tower, calling one a "sleaze," another a "real beauty," and telling them to "be ashamed of themselves." That little tantrum is now garnering Trump negative attention for an entirely different reason: it appears his campaign may have violated city guidelines by shutting down the public atrium for that and a number of other campaign events, and now the city is investigating.
Security staff who were wearing Trump badges were seen barring New Yorkers and tourists from entering the atrium yesterday morning, Reuters reports, and credentialed media and building employees were reportedly only let in after they were screened by Secret Service agents. Media reports on the news conference apparently caught the eye of the Department of Buildings, which is now investigating yesterday's event, along with others that the Trump campaign has held in the atrium over the past year.
The lobby is supposed to be open to the public between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day, as part of a zoning arrangement that allowed Trump Tower developers to build 20 stories higher than would normally be permitted in exchange for maintaining the lobby as a public space.
"Department of Buildings inspectors will be investigating the allegations that the (public atrium) was closed contrary to the building owner's agreement with the city," said Joe Soldevere, a department spokesman.
This wouldn't be the first time that The Donald's campaign violated that zoning arrangement with the city: last year, the city cited Trump for selling campaign gear in the lobby, and Trump had to remove swag-selling kiosk and pay a $4,000 fine.
Per the arrangement, the privately-owned public space can only be closed four times a year for private events, and requires the city's permission to do so. But city officials have said there's no record in the past two years of the Trump Organization seeking authorization for private events.
Trump's lawyers deny ever having closed the atrium to the public: Michael Cohen, an attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, told NBC that "the property was never closed and I dispute any reports from anybody stating otherwise."
"Despite what he may think, the rules and laws of this city apply to everybody, including Mr. Trump," said a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio. "Mr. Trump should honor his agreement with the city to keep the space open to the public."