Footage showing the removal of lettering from building facades in New York is circulating alongside claims that Donald Trump's name was taken off the properties during his civil fraud trial. This is false; the clips are old and the name of the former president remains on several buildings that his company owns or manages, including Trump Tower.
"DONALD J. TRUMP NAME IS BEING TAKEN DOWN FROM HIS BUILDINGS IN NEW YORK, THIS SMELLS LIBERALS ALL OVER IT," the caption of a September 28, 2023 post sharing a CNBC news clip that shows "Trump" lettering being removed.
On October 2, Trump's trial began following a finding by New York Judge Arthur Engoron that the former president and his sons Eric and Donald Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire. The case involves multiple Trump Organization properties, including Trump Tower, Trump Park Avenue, the 40 Wall Street building, and golf courses.
Trump could be barred from doing business in the state, and lose control over some of his properties.
But the posts are misleadingly using old footage, AFP found, and even if Trump lost control of some of his current holdings, the name could remain, depending on the terms of the contract, a legal expert said.
The removal of the lettering concerned a property, part of a series of six residential buildings branded as "Trump Place," located on Riverside Boulevard in New York City.
Trump started to work on the residential project overlooking the Hudson River on the Upper West Side in the 1970s in partnership with other organizations. After multiple revisions of the plan, Trump ended up selling his controlling stake to a consortium of Hong Kong investors in the 1990s. The Trump Organization agreed to manage most of the buildings, and six of them would bear his name.
Three of the "Trump Place" apartment buildings then removed their signage in 2016, the week following the presidential election.
The three buildings -- including the two seen in the clip, 140 and 160 Riverside Blvd. -- had been owned by Chicago-based real estate firm Equity Residential since 2005, at the time, according to media reports.
The owners of the other residential complexes with the remaining "Trump" branding took down the signs in the following years, the last ones coming down in 2019.
"We have already seen cases where Trump's name has been removed from a property because the owner no longer thought it benefited the property," David Reiss, professor at Brooklyn Law School, confirmed to AFP on October 4.
In September 2023, it was also reported that Trump would sell his multimillion-dollar lease on a public golf course in the Bronx to the Bally's casino chain.
In an estate ownership change, "naming rights are often a separately negotiated item. For instance, companies pay millions of dollars to get naming rights to stadiums," Reiss explained.
Both the Trump Tower and Trump Park Avenue, for example, still bear the former president's name and remain under his ownership, as of this writing, a member of buildings staff confirmed to AFP by telephone.
AFP contacted the Trump Organization for further comment, but a response was not forthcoming.
While exceptions happen, Reiss noted that "generally when a party gives up ownership or control of a property, their name goes with them."
Trump has denounced the business fraud charges as a "sham," contrived to torpedo his bid to recapture the White House in 2024.
AFP has debunked other claims about the former president here.