When Central Park Tours leads groups to the ice skating rink on the south side of Central Park, they reach a point where big red letters spell out the name of the facility’s operator: “Trump.”“We say, ‘Hey guys, you want to stop for pictures?’ And they are like, ‘No, no, no, let’s keep going,’” said…
When Central Park Tours leads groups to the ice skating rink on the south side of Central Park, they reach a point where big red letters spell out the name of the facility’s operator: “Trump.”
“We say, ‘Hey guys, you want to stop for pictures?’ And they are like, ‘No, no, no, let’s keep going,’” said Teodor Panterov, the tour company’s president.
The number of visitors to New York City has broken records every year since 2010, and the economy is steaming ahead. But business is not thriving at the four concessions in New York City operated by the Trump Organization: a golf course, a carousel and two ice skating rinks.
At each, sales have dropped or been flat since President Trump’s political rise, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.
The Trump Organization attributed any dips suffered by these outdoor attractions to bad weather. And it emphasized that it had invested many millions of dollars in improving the facilities, which are owned by the city.
“There is no connection to politics and usership at our facilities here in N.Y.C,” said Ronald C. Lieberman, an executive vice president with the Trump Organization.
But tour operators and others involved with the concessions suggested that Mr. Trump’s deep unpopularity in his native city was having an impact.
And another threat is looming. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is examining whether thelegal troubles of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, are grounds for canceling the Trump Organization’s contracts with the city.
A golf course with great views, but not attendance
Christopher Brown, a golfer who works at the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, won’t set foot at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, the city-owned golf course the Trump Organization runs in the Bronx.
“He being who he is, why would you give your money to him?” Mr. Brown asked.
From roughly April to June of 2018, the Trump course grossed just under $2.3 million, according to the most recent city data available. Three years ago, the course grossed over $1 million more for the same period.
The course looks out over the Whitestone Bridge, which spans the East River between the Bronx and Queens.
How the city’s concession agreements are structured depends on the facility. For some, the Trump Organization pays rent; for others, there is a revenue-sharing agreement.
Attendance at the golf course might also have been affected because the Trump Organization has not yet made good on its promises to complete the clubhouse there. Nearly three months ago, the president’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $13 million building. They were joined by golf greats who touched down in a Trump-branded helicopter.
But the clubhouse hasn’t opened yet, the interior still raw in places.
Last year, the course was the site of a protest over President Trump’s immigration policies. Avandal spray paintedlines from the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus,” across the greens.
The Trump Organization said that while overall attendance was down, so-called resident rounds — rounds of golf booked by people who reside in the five boroughs — were up this year.
Those resident rounds rose less than two percent.
Tensions over the Trump name
The Trump Organization’s two city skating rinks — Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink, both in Central Park — seemed to be prospering in the winter of 2015-2016.
But the following year, revenues dropped 5 percent, following Mr. Trump’s campaign for the presidency and election victory.
Matt Falber of Central Park Sunset Tours said a fight once broke out between two visitors over Mr. Trump. As a result, he has sometimes added a warning before bringing groups to the Wollman Rink, as well as to the carousel, which is also run by the Trump Organization.
“People would laugh and I would say, ‘You think I am joking?’” Mr. Falber said.
The carousel in Central Park has been operated by the Trump Organization since 2011, when the “Trump Organization implemented significant changes and received tremendous praise for returning the famed carousel to its original grandeur,” according to the organization’s website.
For the year beginning May 1, 2017, the Trump Organization turned a profit of just over $30,000 on the carousel, a sharp decline from over $188,000 profit two years earlier, according to city data.
Although the antique attraction is technically called the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel, for a time the name “Trump Carousel” was on at least one sign.
Last May, the sign was taken down and replaced, the word “Trump” swapped with a tiny picture of a horse.
The Trump Organization said the changes were not a response to concerns about the Trump name. The plaque wassimply being updated.
The Cohen case and the concessions
Following Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea in federal court, Mayor de Blasio has asked city lawyers to determine whether the case could allow the city to void the Trump Organization’s licenses to run the four city-owned facilities.
“We are monitoring these events to determine whether or not they provide grounds to take action,” said Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
This is the second time that the mayor has asked whether the agreements with the Trump Organization could be severed.
In 2015, after Mr. Trump made derogatory comments about Latinos, Mr. de Blasio tried to terminate the licenses. But city lawyers said that was not possible because of First Amendment protections for Mr. Trump’s speech.
But the renewed push comes on the heels of new information. Contained within the city contract documents is a name that has suddenly garnered attention: Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
It was revealed last month that Mr. Weisselbergtestified and was granted a measure of immunity in the investigation of Mr. Cohen.
“The fact that his C.F.O., the guy named on the contracts, has taken immunity, is a big red flag for doing business with the city,” said Adrian Benepe, who was the city’s parks commissioner when the Trump Organization became the operator for the Bronx golf course.
The art of ending the deal
The Trump Organization criticized the de Blasio administration’s approach.
“We are and have been in complete compliance with all our contracts with New York City, in fact we view that as rather absurd,” said Mr. Lieberman, the Trump Organization executive, about the mayor’s new push.
“We have been a terrific partner for New York City, we have been very proud to be associated with these incredible, iconic properties, and we look forward to continuing our relationship,” he said.
Private entities have successfully stripped Mr. Trump’s name, including theTrump SoHo hotel, now the Dominick, and some of theformer Trump Placecondominiums in Manhattan.
But some legal experts said the city was unlikely to be successful.
“The city does have rules about allowing the city to decide not to contract with people who don’t pay their taxes or who are convicted of bid-rigging or things of that kind,” said Ross Sandler, director of the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School. “It doesn’t sound like it’s really related to anything other than ‘We don’t like Donald Trump.’”
Though there are clauses in the license agreements that entitle the city to terminate at will, they also contain language that forbids “arbitrary” or “capricious” reasons for cancellation.
“‘We don’t like the person or their politics,’ would be arbitrary and capricious,” Mr. Sandler said.