Trump has his mark all over New York

The crowning jewel of Mr Donald Trump's empire is Trump Tower on New York City's shopping street, Fifth Avenue.
The crowning jewel of Mr Donald Trump's empire is Trump Tower on New York City's shopping street, Fifth Avenue.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Unlike other candidates, billionaire Donald Trump does not have volunteers putting up posters or handing out campaign fliers - but his presence still looms over New York City.

A short walk around Midtown Manhattan yields half a dozen sightings of giant Trump signs, most of them adorning gleaming skyscrapers in the country's financial hub.

The Republican front runner - who built his real estate empire in New York - has over 450 businesses registered in the city and 17 buildings with his name on it.

There's the 52-storey Trump International Hotel overlooking Central Park that was the scene for the 2011 movie Tower Heist. A few blocks down the road is the luxury condominium block named Trump Parc East. Another 10-minute walk north or east can take you either to more Trump condos at Trump Park Avenue or the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park.

The ice skating rink - which has Trump all around its railing - is the sort of project that has helped the property mogul make his name as a shrewd businessman and real estate developer in the city.

An attempted redevelopment of the historic rink by the city government had been plagued by lengthy delays and budget overruns when Mr Trump swooped in in 1986. By that time, a planned two-year US$9 million (S$12) project had become a six-year, US$13 million fiasco.

After taking over the project, Mr Trump finished it in four months at a cost of just US$2.5 million.

Still, the crowning jewel of his empire is Trump Tower on the city's shopping street, Fifth Avenue. The tower, where he lives, stands as a shrine to all things Trump.

The building houses Trump Bar, Trump Grill, Trump Ice Cream Parlour and a Trump Store selling his campaign memorabilia as well as Trump-brand merchandise.

An employee in the building who declined to be named said a handful of visitors turn up every day just to take photos of the escalator he stood on when he announced his presidency. "They want to see places he's been. They take photos on the gold escalator, they sit at the bar where he normally sits."

Exactly how all this will come into play in his election chances is not clear in a state that has traditionally voted Democrat in the general poll. But his looming presence in the city means that, love him or hate him, voters here know him well.

Even his detractors concede that he is a good businessman, while his supporters have bountiful evidence of his abilities.

Legal consultant Francis Kelly, 22, said he has known of Mr Trump for as long as he can remember, even if he used to only associate the name with skyscrapers and golf courses. "I think he's very smart and we have a lot of big problems right now in this country," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Trump has his mark all over New York'. Subscribe