Location: Trump SoHo is a family project, but you guys aren’t technically the developers, right?
Mr. Trump: Well, we are partners in the development with Tom Sapir and Alex Sapir. … We have a building that will probably be the last of its kind built in its area. I think that zoning is probably going to be changed down there so that people won’t be able to go up high.
Does it bother you when community activists say, ‘Listen, this is just simply too high’?
I’ve seen very little opposition to this building, I have to tell you. I mean there’s a small little fringe group that has fought it, and I read yesterday in Newsday, a letter was sent. Why wouldn’t they have fought it before they’re on the seventh floor? They started fighting, we were already up to the seventh floor. And the reason they did that, they just want to get publicity for themselves.
You think that there will be zoning changes, so this will be the one tall building in the neighborhood. Will that be awkward?
No, that’ll be a huge asset. That’s not a liability. That’s called …
Donald “Don” Trump Jr.: Perfect.
Are there any neighborhoods in New York where you feel like you simply wouldn’t want to build because you like the neighborhood the way it is?
Mr. Trump: There are certain neighborhoods, perhaps, where you wouldn’t want to build. But, you know, eventually they’re going to down-zone the whole city and you’re not going to be able to build in New York City anymore, so you’ll have to go to China. You literally aren’t going to be able to build in New York. They’re going to down-zone everything, because nobody wants to have a building that’s above 15 feet high. And the city’s got to be very careful of that.
I want to know more about this actual deal. Did you guys license the Trump name?
Yeah, but we’re partners in the deal.
What stake do you have?
Well, I can’t tell you that, it’s very private. But we’re partners in the deal, very substantial partners in the deal, and we also manage the hotel.
Your Wikipedia entry talks about ‘television personality’ before real estate. Do you want to be remembered as a New York City real estate mogul, or as a TV personality or even a business guru?
Well, I’m one of the largest developers in the world, and real estate will always be my primary thing. But I have fun with television, and The Apprentice has become a monster hit. But I want to be known for real estate, not for television.
Don and Ivanka, do you guys want to be known as real estate builders, or do you want to have a national profile?
Mr. Trump: We’re a real estate family, not a television family.
Don: If we have the ability to add value by having a show where we can showcase our products and be out there with the real estate and everything that we’re doing, it would be stupid to not do it. We’d be shmucks if we left that opportunity on the table to say, ‘You know what? I want to lie in the background and not do any of that.’
Speaking of advertising, Ivanka, you’re not only working on the building, but you’re in the ads. I think it says, ‘Own a Piece of SoHo,’ and there you are. Does it bother you that you’re on ads? Would you prefer to simply be behind the scenes and a builder?
Ivanka Trump: Not at all.
Mr. Trump: Well, we all decided as a group with Don and with the Sapir family that Ivanka—who was a very successful model before she dropped that and went to Wharton—that Ivanka could represent the face of the building.
Did they decide that or did you decide that?
Ivanka: We …
Mr. Trump: We all did. We decided together as two families. Because, obviously, she’s very pretty but she also is very much involved in the building. So it was very natural that she would be the face of the building.
You just became a grandpa this year, and, last year, a new father. Why not just spend the rest of your days in Westchester?
Ivanka: It’s all part of his genetic code.
Mr. Trump: It’s not like guys in the corporate world … they retire and then they quickly expire! They have nothing to do, they’re bored. They play golf for a year and then after that they get bored and they keel over, that’s the end of them.
Don: That’s our grandfather’s great saying: ‘To retire is to expire.’
Mr. Trump: In this business, nobody ever retires, they love it. It’s in the blood. You ever think of that?
Do you find it equally enjoyable when you license your name to things, like Trump Financial?
Mr. Trump: I find it very enjoyable when things turn out very well. Trump Financial is going to turn out very well; you know it’s with a good company now. That was a licensing deal, that was purely a licensing deal. We licensed it to one, we didn’t like the group, and now we’re with a group we do like.
You mean Trump Mortgage? Which didn’t work out; it had a CEO résumé-inflation problem.
Who? What’s your next question?
Are there certain new developments you see that you hate, and certain things that you love?
Well, I would have liked to have seen the World Trade Center re-created as it was, but taller and stronger. As opposed to what they’re doing, I think it would have been a better symbol, it would have sent a better message.
Does gaudiness ever upset you in New York? Like Times Square, for example?
Yeah, I think that gaudiness upsets me. But I think in Times Square it has a place. I don’t like gaudy, but in Times Square gaudy has a place.
Does it upset you that you’re a symbol of excess? Now that you’re in your later years, do you aspire to some sort of Zen-like modesty?
No. Because I think I’ve gotten tremendous reviews on what I’ve done. I mean the reviews on Trump Tower [at 725 Fifth Avenue] have been fantastic, Gucci is taking the entire base of the building; they’re building a spectacular store. I used Philip Johnson to design Trump International Hotel & Tower. … I’ve had very few buildings where I haven’t received great accolades.
Is bigness something that you value? Would you be sorry if in your later years you gave away all your money and were out of the public eye and your name wasn’t as big and you weren’t on the billionaire list anymore? Would that affect the way you think of yourself?
Nothing affects me. And nothing affects the way I think of myself.
But something affects everyone. And you’ve said you hate looking at bad press.
I didn’t say that. No. For instance, your questions are nasty and yet I answer them. I could throw you out; I guess if they got a little nastier I probably would. But you ask nasty questions, I give you an answer. And, you know, it doesn’t affect me. I don’t mind bad press, I mind lying press. I’ve had bad press, but if it’s been truthful I handle it because it’s the truth. But, when I get bad press that’s false, then I do attacks.
You’re on TV on The Apprentice, often on news show, having very public feuds. In strictly day-to-day New York real estate business, are you a less war-torn guy? Are you more peaceful than a TV viewer would guess?
I believe that when somebody attacks you, you should attack the person back. Whether it’s Israel, which is the Israeli attitude, I believe in that attitude: When you get attacked, you attack back. … I don’t think you change personally.
What would it take for you to think, ‘You know what, this neighborhood activist has some really good points!’
I do that all the time. The community boards … they give you some ideas that—you could be a super-genius, but you don’t necessarily think of everything. They gave me many good ideas. And also I will say, on the negative aspect, some great ideas were taken away.
Do you care about living green, or building green?
I know everything about green, I know more about green building than anybody. And I know also that when I go into a building I like to have good air-conditioning, I like to have good heating, and I like to have lights where you can see. … I have to go! O.K., man?