Fannie Lowenstein Needs To Be Better Known
There are many reasons to read this article about Donald Trump. It provides a look into the way high-priced real estate deals are conducted, the style of how Trump operates as a business person, and how one canny old lady worked a brand new piano into her own wish list so to make the larger deal work.
The story revolves around the famed Plaza and Trump’s desire to own it.
In essence, Mr. Trump was telling Mr. Barrack that he trusted him to disclose everything that a team of lawyers and inspectors would typically need at least 90 days to unearth. It was like asking an enemy for a map of a minefield. And by saying, in effect, “I’m at your mercy and will believe what you tell me,” Mr. Trump was appealing to Mr. Barrack’s integrity. Which was very disarming.
Mr. Barrack thought over Mr. Trump’s question for a moment. He had already worked out most of the major problems.
“The biggest issue,” he told Mr. Trump, “is Fannie Lowenstein.”
He was referring to a woman, who might have been in her 80s, who lived by herself in a tiny, rent-controlled apartment in the Plaza. With Ms. Lowenstein there, reconfiguring the building as a condominium or a co-op, which was Mr. Trump’s plan and the only way to justify the $407 million price tag, would be far more difficult. But she had adamantly refused to give up her rent-control rights and move to a larger apartment in the Plaza.
“I’ll do the deal in a week, for $407.5 million,” Mr. Trump said, “and you take care of Fannie Lowenstein. All I want at the closing is to hear that Fannie Lowenstein is happy.”
For Mr. Barrack, winning over Ms. Lowenstein was a project. She knew more about tenant law than any lawyer, and for the next two months, the two spoke four or five times a week. He ultimately offered her an apartment in the Plaza that was almost 10 times as large as her studio apartment, with a view of Central Park. Rent-free. For life. Also, new furniture, new dishes, new everything. She grudgingly agreed. But she also wanted a piano. She got a Steinway.