Tag Archives: Manhattan

Trump brand loses its luster as business plummets

Event planner Beth Bernstein decided she had had enough with the Trump brand after his 2005 hot-mic boasts about groping women came to light earlier this month. She removed photos of weddings she had thrown at a Trump hotel in Chicago from her website, wrote to hotel staff to remove her from the list of “preferred vendors” and posted a sort of call to arms on her blog.

“I simply cannot bring myself to walk in the door there any longer,” wrote the owner of SQN Events.

Bernstein is not alone. Rates for rooms at Trump’s new D.C. hotel are being slashed as travelers weigh their options, and smartphone data suggest fewer people are visiting his properties compared to rival venues nearby.

The Republican nominee for president is in danger of losing not just the election, but something dear to a man who claims the marketing value of his name alone is worth $3 billion: the many customers, mostly wealthy, who have stayed at his hotels, played a round at his golf courses or held galas at his ocean-side resorts.

Experts say the Trump brand is tarnished and at a tricky crossroads as his appeal shifts from the well-heeled, high-income people he has long courted to a more middle-class base, including the fervent fans he cultivated during the campaign.

There is speculation that he could start a Trump media network as a right-wing alternative to major news outlets, drawing money from advertisers to make up for any weakness in his empire elsewhere. But he may have to pivot fast.

“The current trajectory is very harmful to his businesses,” said Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University. “Right now his brands cater to the affluent, who are disproportionately turned off by his activities.”

Ever confident, the business mogul has denied his campaign has dimmed the gilded allure of his five-lettered name and has said, if anything, it has burnished the brand and boosted his business. In a statement, Amanda Miller, vice president of marketing at the Trump Organization, said: “The Trump brand remains incredibly strong and we are seeing tremendous success across business units.”

Evidence of that is hard to see at Trump’s new hotel in Washington, which Trump has declared the “best” in the city. It appears to have gotten off to a slow start.

A room at the Trump International Hotel with a king size bed and a city view could have been yours any night of the week starting Nov. 14 for $505 or $555, according to a check of the hotel’s website last week. By contrast, five major luxury competitors in the city generally charged more — sometimes hundreds of dollars more — or were sold out. For instance, the St. Regis only had rooms starting at $975 on Monday and Tuesday. The Four Seasons in Georgetown had no rooms available at any price for those days, and the Jefferson Hotel for those two days plus Wednesday.

Rates at the Trump hotel have continued to sink, too: By the end of last week, the price of many Trump rooms had been cut by 10 percent or more.

The managing director of Trump’s new hotel disputes that it is struggling.

“With 10 years of experience with Trump Hotels, I can easily say the opening of Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C., has been the most successful in terms of opening bookings, interest from groups and large events,” said Mickael Damelincourt in a statement. “The building itself is an American icon, and we’ve created a world-class hotel with the largest luxury ballroom in Washington, D.C.”

Some customers are clearly turned off by Trump’s derogatory remarks about women and immigrants, though, and the fallout is spreading beyond the hotels.

A woman angry about Trump’s groping comments, and that his daughter still supports him, has created the hashtag “GrabYourWallet” on Twitter to boycott the Ivanka Trump Collection, which includes handbags, shoes, jewelry and clothes. On Monday alone it was viewed more than half a million times.

Some charities, including the Susan G. Komen Foundation are considering moving events from Trump’s properties, including the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. On Monday, three U.S. senators sent a letter to the U.S. Golf Association to move the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open from a course owned by Trump following protests from others.

It’s difficult to know how any future loss of hotel bookings and weddings, charity galas and tournaments could hurt Trump, because his businesses are privately held. But he is vulnerable because so much rides on his name. Unlike his golf courses, in which he has heavily invested, many Trump hotels and residential towers are owned by others who pay him to place his name over the entrance and for marketing and management services — and could possibly cut him out someday.

That’s already being threatened at Trump Place in Manhattan. A petition to remove his name from the building, which he does not own, has gotten 328 names in a few days. One of the signers, Marjorie Jacobs, said the pressure has already led to new uniforms for doormen and other staff, ones that will no longer bear the Trump brand name.

“He’s disgusting, and people are embarrassed to say where they live,” she said.

Brand Keys, a research firm that polled 1,536 registered voters nationwide, said Trump’s comments about groping women has sent the premium you can charge for something bearing the Trump name down sharply.

“How consumers feel about the brand and whether or not they’re more or less likely to engage with it has been affected,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “People see a brand that had an image based on a glamorous lifestyle and a lot of money, and that is being been reevaluated by people.”

Foursquare, which tracks people’s locations via their smartphones, said share of foot traffic at Trump branded businesses is down since Trump started his run in June 2015. Prior to Trump’s presidential bid, foot traffic to his golf properties, hotels, resorts and other properties, both those owned by him and those just bearing his name, was steady year-over-year. According to its most recent data, share of foot traffic was down 19 percent in September, compared with 2014, before Trump announced his candidacy.

In a statement, Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, a collection of more than dozen hotels, called the Foursquare data “manipulated” and “inconsequential,” and said it does not “provide an accurate representation of our performance.”

Not all the data point to a slowdown. Several big-name brands including NBC, Macy’s and others severed ties in July 2015 following Trump’s derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, but there has been no similar high-profile exodus since.

And the home listing site Streeteasy compared prices for Trump-branded condos in 16 buildings in Manhattan to similar ones nearby and has found no evidence the brand has been damaged. In fact, Trump condos sold for 5.6 percent more in August than they did a year earlier, versus a drop for rivals.

Still, there’s evidence of a shift of Trump’s demographic base, from the affluent to the more aspirational middle class.

Will Johnson, a research analyst at BAV Consulting, which monitors brand perception for 3,500 brands, said that the Trump brand was “collapsing” among people with a household income of over $100,000 a year.

Recognizing this, The Trump Organization, which runs hotels, golf courses and other Trump brands, is developing a new hotel chain called Scion, which won’t bear the Donald’s name. The new chain, which launches next year, will be a notch below the luxury that Trump Hotels are known for.

“He really has alienated the upper socioeconomic group and the data has consistently shown that he is down on pretty much all the metrics we measure,” Johnson said. “He’s low on trust and high on arrogance.”

On the other hand, his brand is resonating more among those who make less than $100,000 a year. During the first nine months of the year, among that group, there was a 21 percent rise in people who think Donald Trump “cares about customers” and a 14 percent increase in those who think he is a “visionary,” according to BAV.

“In the short run, business gets damaged, but in the long run there’s a lot of opportunity with less aspirational brands that target the middle- and lower-class,” NYU’s Galloway said. “I think the Trump brand effectively dies in a Manhattan, but it thrives in some of the lower income, very red regions.”

One way to do that: start a conservative media network, as some analysts have floated.

“He could start the ultimate ‘bro’ news network that caters to his core constituency,” Galloway said. “He could out-offend Fox.”

One hurdle: He would have to get a major cable or satellite company to give him bandwidth, and there isn’t much to go around. He could launch on a smaller scale on social media using Facebook or YouTube.

The biggest test of the Trump brand, of course, will come Nov. 8. National polls show Hillary Clinton with a clear advantage over Trump, and possibly winning even traditional Republican states such as Arizona.

“I think at some point, probably after he loses the election, that we’ll do a reevaluation of what the brand means and what the brand stands for,” Brand Key’s Passikoff said. “You can’t continue the kind of activities and have these revelations without significantly affecting how the people see the brand. The man and the brand are inseparable.”

AP Business Writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

Suspect walks free in NY transgender death case

The case against a suspect arrested in connection with the fatal beating of a transgender woman in Manhattan has been dismissed.

The Daily News says 20-year-old Paris Wilson left Manhattan criminal court earlier this week as prosecutors said they were not ready to move ahead in the case.

The victim, 21-year-old Islan Nettles, was attacked in Harlem in August. Police say she and a friend, another transgender woman, ran into a group of men who made anti-gay remarks.

Police say one of the men beat Nettles, who lapsed into a coma and later died.

Wilson was arrested on assault charges, but upgraded charges were pending because the victim died. His lawyer said Wilson never laid a hand on Nettles.

Prosecutors say the case remains active.

Bansky ends monthlong residency in New York City

The secretive street artist Banksy ended his self-announced monthlong residency in New York City with a final piece of graffiti, a $615,000 painting donated to charity and a debate: Is he a jerk or a genius?

Banksy, who created a new picture, video or prank every day of October somewhere in the city, spent his last day like thousands of graffiti artists before him: He tagged a building near a highway with his name in giant bubble letters. The twist was that these letters were actual bubbles: balloon-like inflatables stuck to a wall near the Long Island Expressway in Queens.

As if to underscore his dual identity as both a street punk and an art-world darling, he also donated a painting that was auctioned off for $615,000. The original painting first sold for $50 at a Manhattan thrift shop that benefits Housing Works, an organization that fights homelessness and AIDS. Banksy added a Nazi soldier to the landscape scene and Housing Works sold it in an online auction.

Throughout his 31 days in NYC, Banksy put pictures of his work on BanksyNY.com, with clues as to locations but nothing precise. That spawned a treasure hunt by fans who tracked the works down, shared locations via social media, then swarmed to see them.

But by the time Banksy was done, New Yorkers were divided in their opinions. Some tweeted “Go home, Banksy!” Others declared their admiration.

The turning point for many was an essay he wrote criticizing the building replacing the World Trade Center. Banksy called the new design “vanilla … something they would build in Canada,” and added, “It so clearly proclaims the terrorists won.” He offered the essay to The New York Times. The paper wouldn’t print it, so he posted it on his website.

“The terrorists won” comment upset many New Yorkers, including Brian Major, 51, of Brooklyn. “Enough!” Major said. “Who is this guy? Everybody’s got a right to an opinion but what gives him any kind of credibility in New York? Shut up, Banksy! Go home!”

A lifelong New Yorker, Major says he understands graffiti culture, and he also appreciates fine art. But he doesn’t think Banksy’s art is all that good — “though I’ll give him credit, he’s a good marketer.”

But Sean Lynch, 25, of Staten Island, thinks Banksy is “one of the more captivating artists of our generation.” Lynch said it was magical visiting Banksy sites around the city and hearing conversations about art that the works inspired, with “people of all different walks and cultures sharing opinions, sharing stories. … The walls started to talk to them, in a way.”

Banksy, who refuses to reveal his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England. In New York, many of his images were silhouetted figures or spray-painted messages. The art ranged from a stencil of a dog lifting his leg on a hydrant to a video of a “slaughterhouse delivery truck” filled with stuffed animals. Some works were defaced by other graffiti artists. But interest grew with each piece, and at least one Banksy street work was covered with Plexiglas to preserve it. He also sold some pieces, unadvertised, for $60 on the street.

Radhika Subramaniam, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in Manhattan, says Banksy is part of a long tradition of graffiti artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat whose work ultimately earned recognition from the art establishment. But he also fits into a contemporary trend of opening up public spaces to conversations about who owns them and what can happen there – especially in today’s cleaned-up New York, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when asked about Banksy, called graffiti “a sign of decay and loss of control.”

OK, but is Banksy any good? “There’s plenty of wit in what he does, as well as some thoroughly ordinary, sometimes pleasant, sometimes banal, but sometimes sweet things,” Subramaniam said. But he’s also “not a naïf in the art world. After all, who would care if you or I were to set up a blog and enact a residency like this? It’s only because he’s able to marshal this kind of PR and marketing that … catapults his residency to another level and elicits these polarized points of view.”

In a final gesture that was simultaneously serious and self-mocking, audio commentary posted Thursday on Banksy’s website called his final piece- his name in bubble letters by the road — “an homage … to the most prevalent form of graffiti in the city that invented it for the modern era. Or it’s another Banksy piece that’s full of hot air.”

But three men apparently thought it was worth something. Newspaper photos show one of them on a long ladder, trying to reach the installation.

All three were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. One was additionally charged with criminal mischief. Police are seen in one photo cramming the bubble letters inside a van.

Hate crime charge pursued in killing of gay man in New York

The man who police say hurled homophobic slurs at a gay man on a Manhattan street before firing a single fatal shot to his head appeared in court on May 19 to face a charge of murder as a hate crime.

Elliot Morales, who appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court, is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, according to the complaint filed Sunday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Authorities said the Greenwich Village resident used a silver revolver to kill 32-year-old Mark Carson early May 18 as he walked with a companion in Morales’ neighborhood.

Morales was ordered held without bail pending another court appearance on May 23. His attorney, Reginald Sharpe, could not be reached for comment.

On May 18, seconds before opening fire in the lively Village streets just after midnight, police say Morales followed Carson and a companion through the Village, asking if they “want to die here,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Police said Morales then yelled anti-gay slurs before shooting Carson point-blank in the face in a neighborhood long known as a bedrock of the gay rights movement.

Morales was soon arrested a few blocks away.

He has a previous arrest for attempted murder in 1998, police said. Details of that arrest weren’t immediately clear.

The New York Daily News reported that Morales allegedly confessed to police – and laughed about shooting Carson.

The shooting scene is a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to gay rights when patrons reacted to police harassment.

The killing follows a spate of recent bias attacks on gay men in New York. Kelly said police were looking into possible links between the incidents.

The shooting stunned a city where, in many neighborhoods, same-sex couples now walk freely holding hands. It also comes at a time when the gay marriage movement is gaining momentum in many parts of the United States. Twelve states have legalized same-sex marriage, including New York in 2011.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project and other activist groups were planning a march and rally against anti-LGBT violence for the night of May 20.

Also, activists planned to do outreach in neighborhoods on Friday nights throughout May and June.

Meanwhile, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, issued a statement regarding the series of anti-gay crimes and the hate-motivated killing of Carson. Chad Griffin said, “When an innocent person can be beaten or killed simply on the basis of their identity, something is profoundly sick and wrong. There’s not an LGBT person who didn’t hear about this horrendous murder and think: ‘that could have been me.'”

“As long as discrimination remains a feature of this nation’s laws, as long as second class citizenship trickles down into our schools and our communities, these crimes and the terror they instill will never stop.”

“We pledge liberty and justice for all, but every one of us has a duty to make those words a reality. We can’t be patient and simply wait for equality, because the next Mark Carson is running out of time right now. Equality is an urgent fight – a fight that continues until our nation’s laws treat all our citizens equally, with respect and dignity, in all parts of our lives. This is a fight that involves all Americans who believe in civil rights and equality for every citizen.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with victims’ families, and we thank the police and other agencies for their full and ongoing investigation of these heinous acts.”

Two men arrested for anti-gay assault in NYC early Friday

Two men were arrested in connection with the beating of two gay men in Manhattan early Friday and police are investigating whether there is a link to an earlier anti-gay attack in the same area near Madison Square Garden.

Friday’s attack happened at 5 a.m. after two gay men tried to enter an after-hours billiard club and were denied entry, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The two were approached by a group of about five men who shouted anti-gay slurs and beat them, Coleman said.

He said the gay men tried to flee but the attackers followed them to the entrance to the 33rd Street PATH station, where Port Authority officers saw the assault and broke it up.

Several of the attackers fled but officers arrested two suspects.

Asllan Berisha and Brian Ramirez, both 21, were arrested on charges of felony assault as a hate crime. No information on attorneys for the suspects was immediately available.

Coleman said both victims suffered severe facial injuries and were treated at Bellevue Hospital, where one victim underwent eye surgery. Their names were not released.

The earlier attack happened a few blocks away on Eighth Avenue near 34th street. Police said four men yelled anti-gay slurs at two men, pushed them to the ground and began punching one of them in the face.

No one has been arrested in the earlier attack. Police are trying to determine of the two attacks are linked.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the city’s highest elected gay official, said she was outraged at the anti-gay attacks.

“These vicious assaults are not reflective of the diversity that defines New York City,” Quinn, a Democratic mayoral candidate, said in a statement.

Final design released of New York AIDS memorial

The New York City AIDS Memorial’s Board of Directors released new renderings of the final design for the memorial and formally launched its capital campaign at a press conference this week in Manhattan.

The effort to build the memorial, which started in 2011 as a grass-roots advocacy campaign led by two men, Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, will feature an 18-foot steel canopy as the dramatic gateway to the new St. Vincent’s Hospital Park at the intersection of West 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue in the West Village neighborhood. The memorial also will feature a central granite fountain, granite benches and a granite paving surface carved with educational and commemorative text. The text will be curated by a team of historians, artists, community members and activists led by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Keith Fox, president of the memorial board of directors, said, “The goal of the capital campaign is $4 million, with donations from both the private and public sectors. To date we have already received $975,000 in private commitments needed to fund the design and construction of the new memorial.”

Private funding has come from donors across the LGBT and AIDS communities, including an important lead gift of $250,000 from the Arcus Foundation, and a $105,000 grant from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“So much of the progress made by the LGBT movement is owed to the incredible AIDS activists who catalyzed organizations and advocacy that continue to serve us today. Their story is an inspirational one of a community uniting to fight for its very life, and ensuring that this story is preserved and taught to future generations couldn’t be more important,” said Arcus executive director Kevin Jennings, a longtime activist in the LGBT community and pioneer of the safe schools movement.

The NYC AIDS Memorial organization, which is responsible for raising funds for the design and construction of the memorial, also is seeking funding to provide for the memorial’s ongoing maintenance and public programming. The group wants to use the site to teach about the history of the AIDS crisis and the struggle to defeat the disease.

The memorial will be constructed by the Rudin-Ofer Development Team alongside a new park that is part of the redevelopment of the former hospital complex.

“We are proud to work with the New York City AIDS Memorial organization to deliver a beautiful new park to the neighborhood and a fitting tribute to the important role St. Vincent’s and the local community played in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Eric Rudin, president of Rudin Management.   

Press conference attendees included representatives from dozens of organizations that supported the grass-roots effort to designate the site, including GMHC, the LGBT Community Center, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, representatives from the local Manhattan Community Board 2, neighborhood preservation groups such as Preserve the Village Historic District and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and local officials.

A commitment for the memorial to occupy a portion of the park was made by the Rudin organization during the recent St. Vincent’s rezoning.

Led by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the project has gone through a myriad of agency design approvals including Community Board 2, the city planning commission and the parks department.

Quinn said, “The New York City AIDS Memorial will help us to honor those who fought and remember those we lost during the early years of the AIDS crisis.  Its location in the West Village will remind us of the location of the original epicenter of the epidemic. I thank all who have contributed to get us to the place we are today –including the designers, city officials, local neighborhood residents and the community board.  I urge those who can to provide additional support, and to remember that this memorial will connect existing generations of New Yorkers with their history and help inspire young people to become active in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS, which is still ravaging so many of our communities in all five boroughs of the city.”

“When it is completed, the AIDS Memorial will be an important place of reflection for so many of us who lost loved ones and friends–and it will also be a reminder to future generations that New York City must be forever vigilant when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our residents,” said Borough President Stringer, who was one of the first elected officials to publicly support the project. “That’s why I am extremely proud to commit $1 million in capital dollars to make it possible for us to construct this new and vitally important landmark, so that our City–and the world–will never forget.”  

Nearly 500 architects from around the world submitted designs for the memorial during an ideas competition in late 2011, sponsored by Architectural Record and Architizer and displayed at the AIA’s Center for Architecture. The jury, led by Michael Arad, designer of the National September 11th Memorial, selected a winning design by Brooklyn-based architectural firm studio a+i. After the New York City Council designated a site for the memorial in March 2012, the NYC AIDS Memorial organization continued to work with the original team of architects to create the new design. 

On the Web…

The organization is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYCAIDSMemorial and on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/AIDSMemPark.

Gay group flash mobs JC Penney for Ellen while her online support grows

A group of gay men wearing pink and waving credit cards mobbed midtown Manhattan’s JC Penney store on Saturday to support the company’s decision to retain out comedian Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson.

The company has been under fire from right-wing extremists who formed a group called “One Million Moms” to protest the hiring of DeGeneres, whom they describe as an “open homosexual” whose image will alienate “traditional families.”

JC Penney has stood by DeGeneres. In Manhattan yesterday, store managers warmly welcomed the “flash mob,” according to the gay blog site Joe.My.God, which posted pictures from the event.

The action came as a new Facebook page called “1 million people who support Ellen for JC Penney,” which was begun only three days ago, surpassed the One Million Moms Facebook page in number of fans.

When “One Million Moms” launched its effort against her, DeGeneres joked on her television show, “Not that there’s anyone counting, but for a group that calls themselves the million moms, they only have 40,000 members on their page.”

Her comment sparked the launch of several pro-Ellen Facebook pages. The largest, “1 million people who support Ellen for JC Penney,” currently has nearly 160,000 “likes” and is growing rapidly. The anti-Ellen “One Million Moms” Facebook page appears to have peaked at about 43,000 followers.

In addition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination has launched a Stand up for Ellen petition at Change.org. The petition has more than 41,000 signers so far.

Anti-gay iPhone app approved by Apple, then disappears

An anti-gay iPhone app approved by Apple apparently is no longer available for download from the iTunes store after causing a stir on the Internet.

The app, titled The Manhattan Declaration, is a four-question survey on same-sex relationships, marriage and abortion that’s promoted as a “call of Christian conscience.” If the user’s answers do not conform to the viewpoint of right-wing fundamentalist Christians, the user is told his or her answers are wrong.

At the end of the survey, users are asked to sign a document in support of the anti-gay agenda promoted by the app’s makers. The document’s supporters include James Dobson, founder of the anti-gay Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which was recently labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After reviewing the app, Apple awarded it a 4-plus rating, which means it contains nothing objectionable.

On websites and blogs throughout cyberspace, LGBT people and their allies complained that the app was very objectionable, especially considering the fact that Apple will not allow gay-inclusive apps to be made available for download.

Change.org said the app favors “homophobia and extreme anti-choice views” and started a petition to have it removed.

Creators of the Manhattan Declaration responded, “These radicals often pollute the debate with ranting. They rant about ‘equal rights,’ without explaining how homosexuality deserves it, ‘women’s rights,’ without explaining how women have a right to kill their child, and even ‘hateful Christians,’ without showing instances where we hate.”

After complaints about the app spread throughout the Web, it abruptly disappeared without notice on Nov. 26. Whether the disappearance is a glitch or a purposeful decision made by Apple remains to be seen.