Collateral Damage

Trump Place Residents Fear Low-Class Name Is Costing Them a Fortune

Everything about the apartment was great. They listed it at the broker-recommended price. Then no one showed up for the open house. There may be one reason why.

Harvey and Peggy Koeppel did their research before putting their house on the market earlier this year. They checked with real-estate brokers, researched neighborhood sale history, placed ads in all the right places.

And they listed their three-bedroom apartment with sweeping views of the Hudson River, high ceilings, and hardwood floors for a broker-recommended price of $2.85 million. They figured, like almost every apartment in New York, and certainly every apartment in Manhattan, that it would attract a throng of interest, and probably a few offers after an open house, some of them even above the asking price.

Instead, nothing. The open house was a bust. The flood of would-be buyers was a trickle. No offers came through. So the Koeppels cut the price by $55,000.

Still nothing.

Now the only thing they can figure wrong with their apartment is the name on the front of the building: Trump Place.

“The number of people who have even come to look at this place is shockingly low,” Harvey Koeppel said. “It is horrific to be caught up in this maelstrom.”

In a little more than a week, the Trump political phenomenon will have more than likely run its course. The reality TV star will return to New York, and the Republican Party will be left sorting through the wreckage.

But for families like the Koeppels, and thousands of others across the country whose most significant financial asset is inextricably linked with the Trump name, the fallout from the 2016 campaign is very much a contested subject. Will a defeated Trump slink off of the national stage, his name little more than a footnote to history, someone who through a confluence of factors (an abnormally large Republican field, a certain facility with modern media) managed to sneak his way into the nomination?

Or will the Trump name live on beyond 2016 and become synonymous with a certain kind of snarling nativism, demagoguery, and racial resentment. Will Trump be remembered as Michael Dukakis, in other words, or Father Coughlin?

For the residents of Trump Place, or for that matter Trump Parc and Trump Plaza and Trump Plaza Residences New Jersey and Trump Tower in the suburbs of Westchester, this is the $2.85 million question (or in many cases, much much more.) Who, after all, would be in the market for an apartment in Joseph McCarthy Court, or George Wallace Gardens, no matter how good the views or lacquered the hardwood floors?

At Trump Place, a series of architecturally charmless properties on the far West Side of Manhattan just below Riverside Park, residents say they are going to be watching the aftermath of the election more closely than ever with an eye toward what it means for their portfolios.

Already, a petition to have the Trump name removed from the building has garnered 80 signatures out of the 400 or so units across the properties. Backers of the name change say the number is artificially low because many apartment owners in the complex are foreign and rarely make an appearance in the building, so much so that the condo board has been unable to convene a quorum to address the measure.

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“This is a very emotional situation for people, but the only thing that should matter is the economics of it,” said one building resident, a corporate attorney who, fearful of Trump’s capacity for retribution, asked that his name not be used. “There was a time when the brand meant something positive. I don’t know that that can ever be the case again.”

Trump built Trump Place after battling New York City lawmakers in the 1980s and 1990s—he called one fierce opponent of the project, councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, “second-rate in just about every way,” and “a woman that doesn’t have a great grasp of finance or anything else.” When he went through bankruptcy in the 1990s, Trump sold the buildings to Chinese investors, who later sold their stake to the Carlyle Group and Extell Properties. (A spokesperson for the Trump campaign declined to comment.)

And so residents say that taking the Trump name down would merely accurately reflect the building’s status.

Still, they are aware that doing so would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and possibly ignite a lawsuit in retaliation from Trump.

“There are some people who would very much like to have the name taken off, but the condo board has been pushing back,” said Michael Raskob, a 10-year resident of the building. “The name is unfortunately now associated with a number of ideas that are not very appealing. We tell people it is just a name on the building but it can be embarrassing.”

Although Trump no longer owns the buildings, the Trump Organization still is charged with managing them. That arrangement means that residents of the buildings are still putting money into the reality star’s pockets. But so far there is no movement under way to switch management companies at the properties, according to residents.

“It is a fantastically run building,” added another resident, also an attorney, who expressed being torn about removing the name.

“My visceral reaction is let’s get it off of there. But what is the process? How many lawyers do we need? How much will it cost? I don’t want to bankrupt the building in the process. Trump shouldn’t have that much control over what we do.”

The presidential campaign has already left its mark on other Trump-branded entities. A similar petition effort is under way at the Trump Place rental properties just south of the condo buildings. Bookings are down 60 percent at Trump hotels and the Trump Organization recently announced that a line of new hotels would now come out under a different moniker.

But a condo building is different. It is easy to cancel a hotel reservation, or even rent an apartment elsewhere. A home is for most people their biggest single investment, and a difficult one to offload.

And the residential sales market is slow-moving, so as of yet there is no real data on how much Trump’s campaign is affecting condo sales at is buildings. According to the website Streeteasy, six units for sale at Trump’s place on 220 Riverside Boulevard recently dropped their price, as have three at 240 Riverside and six at 200 Riverside, but real-estate professionals stressed that the price drops could have had as much to do with a market slowdown as with anything related to the presidential campaign.

“These are incredibly well-built apartments. People who live there are really happy with them, they are in a great location. I think that matters more than who built them,” said Elizabeth Kivlan, president of Stribling and Associates, a luxury residential real-estate brokerage firm in New York City. “Who doesn’t want to live on Riverside Boulevard with incredible views. I think demand will always be there.”

David DeRosa, who runs his own economic research firm and has lived at one of the Trump Place buildings since 2006, said he disagreed with his neighbors who wanted to change the name out front.

“I don’t care if his name is on the building or not. We are the ones who own the building,” he said. “Things tend to get a little heated during election time. I can tell you that I would not hesitate to buy another unit in the building.”

As for the Koeppels, their plans are now up in the air. They have taken their place off the market. After moving into the building soon after it was built and raising their son there, they are now stuck. Their dreams of moving upstate have been delayed indefinitely. And they are now, partly in jest, considering a Trumpian move of their own: suing the guy whose name is on the building for bringing down their apartment’s value.

“For nearly everybody that lives here, this is their nest egg, this is their future or their retirement,” said Peggy Koeppel. “What Donald Trump has done to the value of these homes, it is enough to drive you crazy.”