A contentious and expensive fight over the future of a Trump-branded condominium on the Upper West Side ended democratically on Wednesday, with residents voting by a two-thirds majority to "remove the signage" bearing the president's name.
On Thursday, workers began ridding the 46-story tower of the massive gold letters spelling out TRUMP PLACE on the building's east and west-facing facades. The removal will cost an estimated $23,000, according to the building's board, on top of what residents say was over $200,000 in legal fees spent fighting the Trump Organization. Though the tower's legal name will not be affected, the building will now be known as 200 Riverside Boulevard.
The decision comes amid an effort in New York City and elsewhere to remove the president's name from the many buildings it adorns—a branding that Trump often licensed to properties that he never owned or managed. Following the 2016 election, neighboring rental buildings at 140, 160, and 180 Riverside Boulevard decided to shed the president's name from their exteriors, in order "to assume a neutral building identity," according to Equity Residential, which owns and operates the rental buildings.
This is the 7th bldg to remove @realDonaldTrump's name since '16. The others: 3 other "Trump Place" bldgs in NYC, plus hotels in Toronto/Panama/SoHo.
Also NYC took his name off a carousel in Central Park, which Trump had unilaterally renamed after himself https://t.co/0ttx9ltCdW https://t.co/CdPgQmf3qH
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) October 17, 2018
But the condos at 200 Riverside—as well as 220 and 240 Riverside—continue to be managed (though not owned) by the Trump Organization, complicating efforts for those residents to join their neighbors in purging the president's name. At the start of this year, the Trump Organization threatened legal action against the board at 200 Riverside Boulevard if they removed the letters, arguing that such action would "constitute a flagrant and material breach" of a $1 licensing agreement signed in 2000.
Faced with the prospect of an expensive lawsuit, some residents took to internal message boards to oppose the change. “I am adamant that the sign should remain on the building," one resident wrote, according to the Times. "We bought in the building with it. There is no reason to take it down."
But in several heated meetings over the last year, the condo's de-Trumpification contingent won out. In addition to not wanting their homes identified with the president for political reasons, some argued that the signage made the building a target for terrorists or protesters, and could potentially hurt the real estate value on their homes.
In May, a State Supreme Court judge sided with the board, finding that the Trump Organization had no basis for its claim that the building should carry the name "in perpetuity." The judge concluded that the decision should be made by the building's condo owners, adding, "the court does not find any of defendant's arguments convincing."
On Wednesday, the results of a formal poll of residents conducted over the last few weeks was released by the board. Nearly 70 percent of residents supported the resolution to remove the signs, with votes tallied from more than 80 percent of units—a "record turnout" for building elections, according to the email.
"Having clarified our rights in court, we are pleased to have resolved this matter democratically," the email concluded. "Our entire community has engaged in a thorough and respectful deliberative process regarding how to address the signage on our building. We encourage everyone to move forward and respect the will of the community."
UPDATE: The signage has been fully removed, though we're told it's still possible to see "ghost letters" on the building's exterior. A power washer is expected to arrive at some point to remove all traces of the former Trump branding. As for what happens to the letters now? It's not clear, but we're choosing to believe they'll be repurposed—anyone need some gold letters for a "Cat Plumper" residence or "Rectal Pump" facility?