OpEd: The Novelty In Trump-Branded Buildings

Front of Trump International Building

Front of Trump International Building | Photo Credit: GOBankingRates (2018).

The following article has been minimally edited for clarity. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect an official position or imply endorsement by CUNY SPS or The Kiosk.

Richard Caves (2000) argued, ” A common pattern appears in the structure of contracts. The gatekeeper offers an option contract that assigns to himself the right to decide whether to commit additional resources to the project. The artist is compensated by a promise of royalties, anticipated by an advance, if the gatekeeper picks up the option. The royalty rate splits the profit between the artist and gatekeeper, while the advance induces the gatekeeper to expand appropriate effort on the project. Successful art-world reputations have been built by self-promotion at the essence of creativity and by satirizing the idea that works of art be fabricated to the preferred speculation of persons sampled randomly from the general public. There is thus a certain self-destructing property in the spatial location of the markets for contemporary art. This process has repeated itself in New York several times.” (Caves:2000, pp.19-31)

The stereotypes and self-fulfilling prophecy that underlies the symbolic-interactionist perspectives in the labeling theory, were developed by such contributors as Emile Durkheim’s state of anomie and sacrality/profanity in social facts, George Herbert Mead’s conceptions of the “I” and “Me” (generalized other), and Erving Goffman’s (1959) “Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life” in the performer(s), audience, and stage/theater. This, especially, pertains to controlled information and its processes in adopting and managing not only the opulence and plutocracy of the status quo, but, also, stigmatized, deviant, projected, and conferred (self) identities of the larger society in its role with social interaction in the making of the self.

Insofar as U.S. President Trump’s top position in his family business and his career prior to his presidential campaign culminating in currently serving his first term and second year in office, his real estate legacy as a mogul and developer endures and, thus, has been solidified in New York and abroad. U.S. President Trump’s oversized self-titled print name imprint which reads as “TRUMP” is manifested in full-blown New York City tourist attractions, residences, and businesses.

These attractions followed a series of developmental project deals in Trump buildings that he bought, sold, and even with the handful of upscale properties that he still owns, licensed his name as an obligation and requirement to other developers in New York, New Jersey, and well beyond (i.e., Trump Place/West Side series of luxury towers,  golf courses, casinos, Mar-a-Lago, Trump Palace, Trump Royale, etc.). Despite, the questionable, assumed ownership by Trump in Trump-branded buildings and his other branded properties, U.S. President Trump does own only a handful of them, and, in his image as a real-estate developer, has provided himself with the lavish bearings of international name recognition.

A disclosure of public records and research from Actovia Commercial Mortgage Intelligence, CityRealty.com, and the Trump Organization in articles from WNYC (2015) entitled, “What it Means to put ‘Trump’ on the Front of a Building“, and, from NPR (2015) , “When You See ‘Trump’ On A Building, It Might Not Be What You Think” provided a breakdown of which Trump-branded buildings U.S. President Trump actually owns and the ones that he does not own. http://CityRealty.com

Undoubtedly, U.S. President Trump is a celebrity, billionaire, real-estate business mogul, currently holding the most prestigious title in the officialdom of U.S. politics, and, is notorious for the face value of his own personal branding. Consequently, U.S. President Trump is also noteworthy when it pertains to various forms of shady business dealings and practices, and irrational decisions that have translated in high public disapproval rates and political corruption. One can draw to the various pyramid schemes that U.S. President Trump lent his name to in various business ventures and projects that were marred by fraud, scams, bankruptcy, business failures, and litigation.

U.S. President Trump’s reputation has been riddled with his exploitation of foreign workers, use of illegal labor, discrimination against Black renters, tax-dodging/evasion, violation of antitrust laws, and doing business with the mob and with Eastern European kleptocrats. His properties even became the go-to vehicle for Russian oligarchs and mobsters to launder their money, as reported from a Reuters (2017) article on how the Russian elite invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings.

Additionally, one can clearly see how Trump’s spurious business dealings are closely associated with his apparent ignorance, political agenda, and lopsided decision-making while in office. This consists of 20% of tax breaks for the richest 1% and corporations helping to push the projected federal deficit to over $1 trillion, pulling the U.S. out of the Paris summit climate talks, withdrawing the U.S. from TPP agreements, notions in his rhetoric advocating for white supremacy, partial repeals in the Dodd-Frank Act, America’s role in an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, being in collusion in ongoing U.S.-led military attacks in the Middle East, and his role in the deregulation of asbestos for companies by the EPA, among many other instances.

In the case of U.S. President Trump’s proposal in putting up a wall along U.S.-Mexico borders, it definitely enables the furthering of the “America’s First” Reaganomics in the “War On Drugs” that disproportionately imprisons people of color in the age of Trumpism.

Some might be surprised to know that this wall building is not a new idea, whereas constructing barriers to keep people others in-and-out may have allowed civilization to flourish and is as ancient as human civilization itself.  Speaking of which, a ruling earlier this year by Manhattan State Supreme Court established a wall was seen as a victory for residents of New York’s “Trump Place” luxury tower overlooking the Hudson River. The ruling allows the removal of the “Trump Place” branding.

It would give even more for “conspiracy theorists” to sink their teeth into if the Trump buildings were perhaps, named, “Drumpf” instead of “Trump”. After all, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the CEO of his own family’s real estate holding and development company, Kushner Companies LLC., and owns the most expensive office (41-story) building ever purchased, 666 Fifth Avenue.

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