Maybe it’s the namesake developer, or the one-percenter residents, or even that god-awful sign plastered on the side, but there’s something about Trump Tower that seems to polarize people the minute it’s mentioned. The latest kerfuffle? A quick Web post on the negatives of living at the tower.
Tech entrepreneur and longtime Chicagoan Ajay Goel caused a minor real estate stir this weekend when he published a piece on Medium listing the downsides of living at Trump Tower. Goel, who has lived in the building for six months now, says he was only hoping to sharpen his writing skills and inform the public, but the piece was soon picked up (and ripped apart) by Gawker, Curbed, and other spots around the Web.
Chicago called Goel to ask about the backlash to what he had intended to be a "lighthearted piece.” Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
What was the reaction online after you published your piece?
The reaction was harsh and intense and sometimes even violent. One reader suggested I impale myself with a pitchfork. Many readers found me to be complaining about first-world problems and were cursing at me. But then a small contingency were also supportive and offering up that I was just trying to write a balanced perspective of what it’s like to live at Trump when there’s plenty of information about the positives already.
Has Trump Tower been in touch with you?
No, they haven’t. I do wonder if the staff and management have seen the article. I’m pretty sure they have because several people retweeted my article and tagged Trump Chicago in the tweet. I kind of nervously walk in and out of the building through the lobby wondering if the door staff knows and if they’re upset with me. Should they approach me, I’ll tell them exactly what I’m telling you, which is: I love living in Trump. I’ve lived in four different buildings in River North and this is by far my favorite building. All I tried to do was inform and somewhat entertain and provide information about the building that otherwise is unavailable anywhere on the Web.
What led you to write the post in the first place?
I actually had been trying to exercise my writing skills and become a better writer and editor. That was one of my motivations. And the other one was to genuinely provide information that is unavailable.
One thing that surprised me was the addendum on your lease that said to not allow high heels on the floors. Trump Tower has some pretty ritzy residents, and I’d imagine high heels would come into play a lot.
I guess I don’t have enough experience with flooring to know what the standard is. I just know that I was given a stern warning by both the owner and the listing agent when I moved in that this was an issue, that the floors are easily damaged. There was an addendum to my lease that stated that. I do know that the units for the most part are not customizable, so the flooring that I have is the same flooring that almost everyone else has. I’m not certain how everyone else is handling it, because you’re right, I would expect that a highbrow crowd, that there are women in high, pointy heels walk through the units. Maybe it’s one of those Sex and the City moments where the women are asked to take their shoes off when they enter.
Why do you think it went so viral?
Well, Trump is a prominent building in Chicago, and I think it’s always interesting to learn about how the upper class lives. And it’s easy and even fun to take down someone who is living a nice lifestyle. And again, it’s information that isn’t otherwise available. You can read about all the wonderful things on Yelp and the Trump Chicago website, but to be able to get an insight from someone who’s living there and takes the opposite perspective, I think that’s what makes it interesting.
Have you heard from your neighbors?
I have not, no.
What would you say to Trump himself if you could talk to him?
[Laughs.] Well, I want to reassure him that I meant no harm or offense, that I love his building, and that I was just exercising my writing skills and hopefully entertaining. Donald Trump’s handle was also tagged in some of the tweets, so there’s a good chance he’s at least seen it or knows it exists. I don’t know if he’s read it.
What surprised you most about the reaction to the piece?
One was the amount of publicity I got. This was my first post on Medium. The article became staff recommended by Medium, which sets the article to Medium’s home page for about 24 hours. And from there it was picked up by Reddit and Gawker and Curbed. It was retweeted by a bunch of people, blogged by a bunch of people. So that was surprising. But then what people were actually saying and how upset [they got] and how much they directed their anger at me was surprising as well. I thought I set the article up such that it was written in a lighthearted tone, and I even said at the beginning there are a lot of positives, but here are some negatives. I was surprised most people found me to be an a-hole based on what I wrote.
Also entertaining was that, in my Twitter profile, I mention that I’m a didgeridoo player and an emotional-intelligence instructor. People would pick on those two attributes and say, Oh yeah, of course he’s a didgeridoo player, that goes hand in hand with what he’s saying. It didn’t really make sense to me. I didn’t know that didgeridoo players had any sort of reputation associated with them.