Todd Brassner, a 67-year-old art dealer who lost his life Saturday in the Trump Tower fire, despised building owner Donald Trump, a friend of the victim told the Daily News. The feeling was evidently mutual, with now-President Trump allegedly calling Brassner a “crazy Jew” soon after the art dealer moved into the Fifth Ave. high-rise more than two decades ago, Brassner pal Patrick Goldsmith said Sunday.
A fellow art dealer, Goldsmith said he heard the vile remark in 1996 as he entered the building and passed by the exiting Trump. Goldsmith, who like Brassner opposes the President, took the opportunity to glance at Trump’s petite hands — which gained notoriety in the late 1980s and suffered another wave of scrutiny during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump reportedly became enraged when he caught Goldsmith staring and demanded the gawker’s identity from his doorman, Goldsmith said. The doorman said Goldsmith was headed to the 50th floor to see Brassner.
“Oh, that crazy Jew?” Trump asked, according to Goldsmith.
The nonobservant Brassner later dismissed the comment, joking, “I’m a Hebrew, I’m not a Jew,” when Goldsmith divulged what happened.
“Apparently he already had a go-round with him about something,” Goldsmith, 64, said, adding Brassner was annoyed by an overflowing sink in his home.
“I would’ve probably gone nuts on him,” said Goldsmith, who lives in Plainsboro, N.J., and owns PDG Art Gallery, which has multiple locations in Manhattan.
Goldsmith said he met Brassner, a music lover, in 1990 at a club near the United Nations. Trump adores his eldest daughter, Ivanka, who converted to Orthodox Judaism when she married Jared Kushner in 2009. Moreover, Trump trusts the pair implicitly and has brought both his daughter and Kushner into the inner circle of his administration.
But Trump’s own recent history with Jews is rife with controversy, with many offended that he didn’t rebuff former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s support for his presidential run and critics claiming he hasn’t done enough to condemn anti-Semitism.
The President took heat a year ago when he issued a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day that strangely left out any reference to the 6 million Jews the Nazis slaughtered.
Several months later, Trump faced backlash for claiming there were “some very fine people” among the white supremacists who marched in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
The White House criticized The News’ report Sunday night, without acknowledging Brassner’s death.
“Basing a front-page story maligning the President solely on a decades-old unverified claim by a critic of the President — whose own family members are Jewish — is absurd,” said Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary.
Meanwhile, Brassner’s indifference about Trump apparently grew to an ever-deepening hatred after the mogul ran for and became President.
By this year, Brassner was desperate to move out of his apartment — but he couldn’t get the $2.5 million pad off his hands.
Deadly fire at Trump Tower
“He hated living at Trump Tower. He talked about not living there almost nonstop,” said Rachael Cain, a close friend of Brassner’s who lives in Chicago.
“He thought that (Trump) was the worst thing for our country,” Cain added, “not caring about environmental issues — a horrible, lowlife human being.”
It took firefighters just over two hours to bring Saturday’s four-alarm blaze, which began in Brassner’s sprawling apartment, under control.
Fire marshals were combing his charred apartment Sunday looking for the cause, which sources said initially appears to be accidental.
By Sunday evening, Trump had tweeted praise for the firefighters, attacked Syrian President Bashar Assad and thrown punches at former President Barack Obama.
But he hadn’t said a word about Brassner.
“Fire at Trump Tower is out. Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!” he tweeted Saturday, before it was known that Brassner had died. He didn’t tweet an update about Brassner’s fate.
The dead man’s friends fumed.
“How cold of Trump to make no mention of Todd,” said Cain, the head of house music label Trax Records.
The stress of living at the Fifth Ave. tower took a huge toll on the art dealer when Trump announced his campaign in 2015, friends recalled.
“He said, ‘I have to get out of here,’ a few times before and after the election,” recalled Bernard Joseph, a 58-year-old bass player who lived with Brassner for several years in the 1990s.
Brassner often complained about waiting for hours to get into the building whenever Trump was in town.
“It was like a nightmare for him,” Cain said. “He was very depressed.”
In 2015, Brassner filed for bankruptcy.
“The limited support of his family coupled with his medical problems caused the debtor to fall into arrears on his mortgage, credit card payments and line of credit payments,” the filing says.
The value of condos at Trump Tower dropped dramatically due to the recession and still hadn’t rebounded by last year, The Wall Street Journal reported — bringing Brassner even more agitation.
“He really wanted to sell (his apartment), but the value had gone so far down,” Cain said.
As a young man, Brassner was close friends with Andy Warhol and sold many of the famed artist’s paintings, including a 1967 self-portrait that went for $601,000 in 2007.
“He was just so much fun, so full of life,” Cain mused. “He had an incredible art collection.”
Warhol mentioned Brassner several times in his autobiography.
In December 1976, the two men grabbed lunch at Warhol’s Factory, in Manhattan, according to “The Andy Warhol Diaries.”
Brassner was born into a family of wealthy art dealers. His father, Jules Brassner, owned a Madison Ave. gallery in the 1970s, according to a New York Times report.
The elder Brassner was arrested in 1971 after police and FBI agents discovered $70,000 worth of stolen paintings at his gallery, The Times reported back then.
Brassner’s brother Howard currently runs Art Link International, a gallery in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the Palm Beach Post.
Brassner’s family declined to comment Sunday. Todd Brassner, the single fatality in Saturday’s inferno, was found unconscious and died hours later at Mount Sinai West hospital, authorities said.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro noted the blaze was harder to fight because the building’s residential floors lacked sprinklers and fire was on the 50th floor.
“He really was a sweet man,” a grieving Goldsmith said, bitterly adding, “He deserved better.”
With Stephen Rex Brown
On – 09 Apr, 2018 By Esha Ray