A second fire in Trump Tower in the last few months seemed like a joke at first and when Trump tweeted the fire was out and everything was fine, social media started speculating. But shortly after, it was reported that someone died in the fire.
That someone was Todd Brassner, who was an art dealer with health problems and a 2015 bankruptcy. His now burned apartment contained more than $3 million worth of artwork and other collectibles, including a ’75 portrait of Brassner by Andy Warhol.
According to The New York Times,
Brassner, 67, lived alone amid a collection of about 100 vintage electric guitars, 40 guitar amplifiers dating to the 1930s, 150 ukuleles and artwork by Robert Indiana, Mati Klarwein, Jack Kerouac and others.
Friends of Mr. Brassner said he had been trying to move since the election of President Trump in 2016, which brought increased security and activity to the building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, but he could not sell his 50th-floor apartment, which he estimated to be worth $2.5 million in 2015.
“It haunts me,” said Stephen Dwire, 67, a musician and music producer who had been friends with Mr. Brassner since they were 14-year-olds in Harrison, N.Y., in Westchester County. “He said, ‘This is getting untenable,’” Mr. Dwire said. “It was like living in an armed camp. But when people heard it was a Trump building, he couldn’t give it away.”
Officials from the Fire Department declined to comment on the damage to Mr. Brassner’s extensive holdings. On Sunday, they had not determined the cause of the blaze, which also injured four firefighters.
“We send our prayers and deepest condolences to Mr. Brassner’s family and loved ones,” a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said on Sunday.
Mr. Brassner’s apartment in Trump Tower, built in 1983, did not have sprinklers, which were not required. In 1999, after two deadly fires in high-rise apartments, New York City enacted legislation requiring sprinkler systems in most new residential buildings and existing properties that were extensively renovated.
In the 80s, developers like Trump, fought against installing sprinklers saying they would add $4 per square foot to the cost and were unnessary. The NYC Fire Department, said on Sunday in a statement that residents in a fireproof building, like Trump Tower, were safest inside their apartments rather than evacuating.
The building was a prestigious address for dealing art for Brassner and Jodi Stuart, who was Brassner’s first girlfriend, said he used to live large.
“You never saw him without his Jaguar. We used to go to the Fillmore East and Max’s Kansas City. Todd got right in with the Factory and Andy Warhol. He picked em: Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Jaguars, beautiful homes, beautiful women.”
Brassner was one of two sons born to an art dealer and lighting manufacturer named Jules Brassner, who introduced him to Warhol.
Stuart Pivar, a collector who was very close to Warhol said,
“They were like two 14-year-olds, seeing the world. And he was very knowledgeable about pop art.“
But in recent years, Brassner started leaving the apartment less and less, and he declined offers from friends to visit or bring him food.
Art critic Blake Gopnik wanted to interview Brassner for a biography of Warhol and said that he set up a number of meetings,
“But he always made some complicated excuse.”
And Pivar said that Brassner’s struggle with drugs brought him into contact with,
“shady characters, who snookered him out of masterpieces.”
Ms. Stuart said she thought Brassner did not want his friends to see him in declining health.
“We tried very hard to meet with him or have lunch or dinner with him. He wanted us to know the Todd that was before. Not the Todd who was impaired. He suffered a lot.”
You could argue (and I’ll bet that lawyers will) that Brassner died because of Trump himself. Trump lobbied against installing sprinklers in his own building which would have extinguished the blaze and because of the Trump brand and insanity he brought to Trump Tower, Brassner was unable to sell his apartment. Trump joked during the campaign that he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care. The universe has a sick sense of humor sometimes.
Fire at Trump Tower is out. Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2018
Friends of Todd Brassner remember the man who died in a fire at Trump Tower on Saturday https://t.co/69sA8IQbf8
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 9, 2018
Trump fiercely opposed a bill that would have mandated fire sprinklers throughout Trump Tower, where a fire left one man dead on Saturday. https://t.co/gvhgRkcoAW
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) April 9, 2018
(Photos, Facebook, Twitter; via NY Times)