The man killed in a blaze at New York City’s Trump Tower was an art collector who spent time with Andy Warhol, but fell on hard financial times in recent years and went through bankruptcy proceedings.
Todd Brassner, 67, died on Saturday at a hospital after a fire tore through his 50th-floor apartment in the high-rise, which was constructed at a time when building codes did not require the residential section to have sprinklers.
The city’s Department of Buildings said Sunday the building did have working hard-wired smoke detectors, and that the fire department was first notified of the blaze by the detectors in the building’s heating and ventilation system. A cause had not yet been determined.
Brassner, who records show bought his unit in 1996, is mentioned several times in Warhol’s posthumously published diaries, with references including lunch dates and shared taxis. The artist signed and dedicated at least one print to him.
But in recent years, Brassner came upon money difficulties. According to documents, his family had stopped helping him pursue buying and selling art at the end of 2014, and in the last few years he had been “plagued with debilitating medical problems that have made it difficult for him to function.”
The fire sent thick, black smoke pouring from the windows of the skyscraper that bears the president’s name.
New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the apartment was “virtually entirely on fire” when firefighters arrived.
Fire sprinklers were not required in New York City high-rises when Trump Tower was completed in 1983. Subsequent updates to the building code required commercial skyscrapers to install the sprinklers retroactively, but owners of older residential high-rises are not required to install sprinklers unless the building undergoes major renovations.
Some fire-safety advocates pushed for a requirement that older apartment buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers when New York City passed a law requiring them in new residential highrises in 1999, but officials in the administration of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani said that would be too expensive.
Trump was among the developers who spoke out against the retrofitting as expensive and unnecessary.
No member of the Trump family was in the 664-foot tower on Saturday.
Trump’s family has an apartment on the top floors of the 58-story building, but he has spent little time in New York since taking office. The headquarters of the Trump Organization is on the 26th floor.