Will Manhattan’s Elite Really Spurn Ivanka and Jared (and Their Money)?

“Jared and Ivanka are poised to return to a Manhattan social scene that no longer welcomes them.” So declared a CNN headline that offered a wish-fulfillment response to questions so many New Yorkers have been tossing over obsessively in the aftermath of the election: Will Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner move back to a city whose values they supposedly betrayed? And what would their lives look like if they did?

Paradoxically, it is their most impassioned detractors — concentrated in 20 or so ZIP codes in Manhattan and Brooklyn — who seem to really want them back, who crave a theater of ostracism that would feel like retribution, a show staged multiple times a day on sidewalks, in the city’s boardrooms and dining rooms, in showrooms, parks, galleries, artists’ studios; vignettes of humiliation in perpetual review on Instagram and Page Six.

“I have had visions of Ivanka with her thousand-dollar hair and makeup trying to show up at the opera like that and getting ejected,” Jill Kargman, a longtime social figure on the Upper East Side told me. “The poetic justice is that coming to New York would put them in a kind of prison already.”

Theoretically, the couple could move anywhere — and they might go to Florida or New Jersey or somewhere else entirely. New York, where the performative distaste for the couple is unsurpassed, would present the greatest challenges — where to eat, entertain themselves, get their hair glossed to an ice-rink finish. Where could they walk freely in the center of the resistance?

I recently posed some of these questions to the playwright and satirist Paul Rudnick, whose latest effort, the HBO special, “Coastal Elites,” features a series of monologues delving into the anxieties of the current moment. In one scenario, the comedian Issa Rae plays a wealthy young woman who talks about visiting a former boarding school classmate, “Ivanka,” in the White House, only to discover that she is being co-opted to help her rebrand herself in New York.

Mr. Rudnick was fascinated by the notion that the Trump supporters he knew didn’t give much thought to Jared and Ivanka. “It is New Yorkers who fetishize them,” he said. “Seeing Ivanka on the street would demand some kind of response.”

He imagined a “grudge match” between the couple and the city that would endure more or less forever. “Almost no one will ever go on the record as being friends with them and that’s not a good sign,” he said. “People admit to being friends with Henry Kissinger.”

Among those who have not seemed shy about their relationship to the Trump-Kushners are two allies who find themselves in no position to help the couple along. One, Ken Kurson, whom Mr. Kushner enlisted as the editor in chief of The New York Observer when he owned the newspaper in 2013, was charged with cyberstalking by federal prosecutors last month. The other, Adam Neumann, the delusional former chief executive of the doomed WeWork empire, is most recently the subject of the book “Billion Dollar Loser.”

Ms. Trump has long maintained connections to the worlds of art and fashion, but those paths to re-entry seem to have run dry. Should she and her husband return to New York, they would be coming back in the age of cancel culture. Though the couple are known collectors, art galleries might turn them away rather than risk landing their names in the news for selling to them, Mike De Paola, a collector of contemporary art and member of various museum boards, observed. “I know many galleries that would go out of business before they would take Trump money,” he told me.

From the very beginning, members of the art world protested the Trump regime. Four years ago, they began a social media campaign under the handle @dear_Ivanka, which petitioned her to recognize the fears her father’s looming presidency inspired. At a candlelight vigil the group organized in SoHo one night, the artist Marilyn Minter told a reporter for The New Yorker that she and others were appealing to Ms. Trump because “we think she is potentially one of us.”

As the Trump era progressed, Ms. Minter abandoned hope that Ivanka was any different than her father. She would never sell her work to Ms. Trump, she told me, nor would her dealer, the prominent gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. “There have to be consequences for behaving so abhorrently,” Ms. Minter said. “How do you forgive that level of cruelty?”

The fashion industry, too, will present obstacles. Batsheva Hay is a young independent designer roughly Ms. Trump’s age who is favored by awards committees and celebrities and magazine editors. “The fashion world is pretty ready to shun her,” Ms. Hay told me. “No one is going to lend Ivanka clothing — she’ll have to buy it covertly at retail.”

And what of Mr. Kushner’s real-estate empire, which he ran for his family after his father was sent to prison? That landscape, too, is very different, devastated by the pandemic. Just this week a Brooklyn judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit claiming that Kushner Companies bypassed rent stabilization guidelines on a building it owns in Brooklyn. A lawyer for the firm called it baseless and accused the plaintiffs’ “enablers” of acting out of political motivation.

The problem with the fever dream that has the Trump-Kushners consigned to lawyers’ offices, shopping at Macy’s and eating in chain restaurants adjacent to Times Square is that it overlooks the power of transactionalism inherent to the city. This was obvious from a recent piece in Vanity Fair looking toward the couple’s post White House future. Most of the sources quoted were unnamed, which suggests the wariness even those dismissive or hostile to the Trumps still have about alienating them.

The dispiriting truth is that you can always eat lunch in this town again. When I spoke with Eric Ripert, the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, he told me that his policy is to welcome everyone, and if Ms. Trump and her husband came to the restaurant, he would treat them as he would anyone else. He has sat dictators and other public figures of ambiguous moral distinction, his own views be damned, and they have nearly always been left alone.

When I asked a publicist for Vogue whether Ms. Trump would ever be invited to the Met gala going forward, she told me that the magazine never comments on potential guests, which is to say that she did not deliver an emphatic “no,” even as Vogue and its editor Anna Wintour have spent the past few months desperately trying to persuade the media that they are staunchly aligned with the millennial left.

In the wake of Covid, cultural institutions in New York are suffering financially, and such pain often and inevitably leads to compromise. Dubious Saudi families collect art all the time, after all. Excuses and accommodations are made.

Dirk Wittenborn a novelist and chronicler of the wayward upper classes, laid things out forthrightly. He knew Ms. Trump years ago when she appeared in an Emmy-nominated documentary, “Born Rich,” which he produced with his nephew, Jamie Johnson, an heir to the pharmaceutical fortune. “How Ivanka is welcomed back depends on how much money she really has and how much money the Trumps have,” he said. “If she gave $40 million to any of the principal museums in the city, she’d get on the board.”

While that would most likely be the case, it is also true that the Trumps don’t seem to care about the traditional status signifiers of Manhattan society. Going to the opera, engaging in high-end philanthropy, living in Rosario Candela buildings on Fifth Avenue — these are not the goals that move them forward.

Several days ago, an agent at Warburg, a prestigious Manhattan real estate brokerage, declared on Twitter that Ms. Trump and her husband would “never pass a coop board,” which gleefully presumes that they would try in the first place. Trumps live in Trump towers, not prewar buildings with discriminating gatekeepers who might find them vulgar.

In “Born Rich,” Ms. Trump seemed self-aware in ways that the other heirs and heiresses in the film did not. “Sometimes I think about what I would say to Ivanka if I ran into her now, and I think I would ask her if she is ashamed,” Mr. Wittenborn told me. “All of this is going to be a real litmus test for New York. When do we say, enough is enough? You are not welcome. This kind of behavior kills people.”

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