Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 12 p.m.
The view from the picture widows is so gorgeous that at first, it's all you notice. The sprawling condominium -- white floors, white walls, white ceiling -- opens in a glass rectangle over a white balcony that frames the ocean and sky, two strips of rippled blue glowing in the last diffusions of sunlight, uncomplicated by money, cars, or people: a perfect tableau.
The first sign that something is wrong comes when you pull up and the valet doesn't bother giving you a ticket ("There aren't many people here," explains an employee). Indeed, only a couple of dozen of the ivory-and-azure tower's 200 units seem to be occupied.
Many of the units with owners are under construction, and this one -- modestly perched on the tenth of 41 floors -- is showing early signs of wear.
A woman named Erin and her husband, who refused to be named and asked that we refer to him as "a nationally prominent physician" (which he is, though some of his critics might substitute "infamous" for "prominent"), rented the ice-slick space for a whopping $8,000 a month, for six months.
They rented the apartment from Francisco Bernat, president of Mexico's Puebla soccer team who was arrested last year for fraud involving 30 million pesos. The charges were dropped after he sold his share of the team to co-owner Ricardo Henaine. Anyhoo, he still owns the three-bedroom condo at the Trump Hollywood, which has an assessed value of $1.6 million.
In November of last year, lenders foreclosed on the unsold condos in the building, which had been owned by the Related Group. The units were sold to BH3, a Miami-based firm. Meanwhile, Donald Trump distanced himself from the project, saying that he had licensed only his name and was not responsible for what happened there.
Erin walks back to the laundry room, where the dryer is installed in such a manner that it prevents opening the apartment's second door, required by fire codes. A strong breeze blows through the open balcony doors and through the apartment; where hallways doors have slammed shut, flimsy door frames are split open.
On the balcony, she points down to a lovely pool area where the day's towels are still draped over chaise longues. She explains that a television blares all night on the patio, keeping her and her husband awake -- the couple has reported these problems to management and received encouraging replies, but she's not convinced the annoyances are going to stop.
The water pressure stinks. The kitchen cabinets are awkwardly designed. Construction noise from neighboring condos starts at 7:20 in the morning. There are no trash cans by the elevators or in the building's public spaces.
"I know some people might say, 'Look where you live -- what are you complaining about?'" says Erin. But the building is understaffed, and the annoyances persist. "I want to warn other people," she explains. The lack of neighbors only increases the frustration: There's no feeling of camaraderie here.
Erin walks through a nearly-empty parking garage, where luxury vehicles are stationed in a few spots, and out to the beach, where a cement ramp ends abruptly over the sand, as if construction were never finished. She says the ramp used to end in sharp pebbles, which somebody finally cleared to the side.
Inside the lobby, a vast space with 30-foot ceilings holds a few blocky couches, some lamps, furry carpets, and a water sculpture. Upon closer inspection, it's a ruse: The couches have not been sat upon; the carpet is untrammeled. The cords for the lamps are carefully rolled up and placed below the tables, nowhere near an outlet.
As she heads to the locker room to demonstrate the sauna that doesn't work (but does emit a loud buzz that shakes the peace in the adjacent massage room), Erin says there have been a couple of parties here, celebrations of the building in which hosts passed out cocktails and hors d'oeuvres under the carefully designed lighting, passing through clouds of perfume sprayed around the elevators.
Now they're gone, and so is Donald Trump. Only a skeleton crew remains, daily scrubbing and dusting this $355 million boondoggle, the latest in a series of monuments to Trump's name. And a name is all there is. The rest is just reality.
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