Lawsuit claims Eric Trump secretly approved deal passing millions in fees to condo owners at tower near UN

Eric Trump disembarking a plane in Scotland
Eric Trump joins his father on a trip to Scotland in May 2023.
Jane Barlow/PA via AP

Former President Donald Trump’s son Eric has been accused in a new lawsuit of orchestrating a deal to convert an unoccupied bar into “amenity space” for residents of Trump World Tower near the United Nations — and secretly pass off the multi-million dollar price tag to condominium residents.

Johanna Beiter, who has resided on the 39th floor of Trump World Tower since 2004, filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on May 25, accusing the condo board — of which the former president’s middle child is a member — of approving the conversion of 2,500 square feet of vacant commercial space, formerly the World Bar, into residential “amenity space,” with little notice to condo owners and no ability to contest the renovation.

Condo residents, Beiter alleged, are being forced to foot the massive bill for the project, including a $1.75 million “special assessment,” $300,000 in “amenity fees” amounting to 2% of residents’ annual rental fees, and the $190,000 annual rent for the space itself.

“What is particularly disappointing is this is a fabulous building with beautiful homes and a staff that provides an unparalleled level of service,” Beiter said in a statement. “We just want the Board to act within the powers granted to it under the condominium’s by-laws, and not spend the owners’ money by entering into questionable leasing transactions and improving other people’s property. Unfortunately, the Board left us with no choice but to start this litigation.”

The Trump Corporation, the property manager of the building, is also named in the suit. Trump Corporation is a subsidiary of the former president’s umbrella company, the Trump Organization, acting as a management company at his various properties.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization called the suit’s allegations “baseless” and contended the amenity space was “widely supported” in the building.

“The allegations are completely baseless,” he said. “Not only is the addition of this amazing amenity space widely supported by the building’s residents, but, prior to voting, the board conducted extensive, independent diligence, was at all times represented by third-party counsel.”

The 72-story Trump World Tower (center, black) as seen from across the East River in Long Island City, Queens.Tdorante10 via Wikimedia Commons

The lawsuit was first reported on Friday by The Messenger.

Beiter says that for the past four years, the space at the World Bar had sat vacant, but on Feb. 23, residents received a letter from the board disclosing the “amenity space plans” and noting that they would start being charged the special assessment a week later, on March 1. The Trump Corporation began charging both the special assessment and 2% amenity charge fees that day, says Beiter.

Residents had been informed of demolition work causing loud noise beginning Feb. 13, but weren’t told what it would involve; Beiter’s email inquiry to the property manager went unanswered.

The move had not been disclosed to residents before then, says Beiter, and in fact, had only been subject to a quick pro forma vote at the condo board’s January meeting, where only four members were present. The resolution was signed personally by Eric Trump, landlord of the 845 UN Limited Partnership, rather than by Barry Leistner, the condo board’s authorized signatory.

The resolution clearly violated the condo by-laws, says Beitner, as alterations to common areas costing in excess of $200,000 must first be approved by a vote of all the residents, rather than just the board.

The board’s meeting minutes, Beiter says, never mentioned an amenity space project for the former bar space going back to March 2020. The minutes similarly do not indicate “any discussion of a need for or interest in” such a space.

Eric Trump and the Trump Corporation stand to financially benefit from a glaring conflict of interest, says Beiter. Eric Trump lives in the building’s “sponsor unit,” essentially a condo that has never been sold and is owned directly by the developer.

Beiter contends that the former commander-in-chief’s son is not just a condo owner designated to serve on the board, but also has a financial interest in the transaction, as president of the sponsor company Trump 845 UN LP LLC, which will collect the special assessment, amenity fees, and rent for the new space from residents.

The other sponsor-designated signee of the agreement, Sonja Talesnik, also stands to benefit from the agreement, Beiter says, since she serves as assistant general counsel and vice president of the Trump Organization.

“We have a lease signed by both the landlord and the tenant by two Board members who also happen to be closely affiliated with the owner of the unit,” said Beiter’s lawyer, Robert Braverman. “Something doesn’t seem right.”

Beiter says the board was aware of the conflict of interest as Talesnik recused herself from discussion of the lease during the January board meeting, when it was approved. The Trump Organization spokesperson disputed this, saying that Eric Trump had also recused himself from the vote.

“The Trump Organization representatives — Eric Trump and Sonja Talesnik abstained from all of the board’s deliberations and voting on this matter,” said the Trump rep.

Former President Donald Trump, father of Eric Trump, at his own arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court on April 4.AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool

Beiter is petitioning a judge for an injunction against Trump and the other defendants, rescinding the lease agreement, halting work on the project, and canceling all fee charges.

The plaintiff is also demanding a financial judgment against the defendants, plus attorneys’ fees.

The former president is not named in the suit. But the Trump Organization was found guilty of criminal fraud at the trial of longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and was ordered to pay a $1.6 million fine. Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in jail for evading taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars in off-the-books pay.

Former President Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination again in 2024, is, of course, facing his own myriad legal woes.

Trump became the first former president ever to be handed a criminal indictment, after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged him in April with falsifying business records in connection to a hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The ex-president is also facing a criminal probe in Georgia over his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in that state’s 2020 presidential election, plus a Justice Department investigation over storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.

Though Eric Trump is a member of the condo board at the UN-adjacent tower, he followed his father in switching his official residence from New York to Florida last year.

This story was updated on May 30, 2023, with comment from Johanna Beiter and her attorney Robert Braverman, as well as a Trump Organization spokesperson.