View From New York: Trump set to construct a pillar of strength

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It swayed so much people would actually get motion sickness,' explains one executive of Paramount Communications, the entertainment company acquired last month by Viacom. 'The pictures would sway on the wall while you watched.'

A Hollywood war story from the LA earthquake? A stormy crossing on the Staten Island ferry during one of the 18 blizzards New York suffered this past winter?

No, the testimonial is from a marketing executive who worked until recently in the firm's 40th floor executive suite in the Gulf and Western Tower. Once the very symbol of corporate conglomeration - Paramount is the last vestige of the sprawling G&W empire built by the legendary Charles Bluhdorn in the 1960s - it now seems the over-sized silver and black pillar on Columbus Circle is to be converted to condos when the group moves in with its new parent a year from now.

The building, completed in 1970, has never been stable, suffering from engineering defects that cause it to twist in the wind, and for the past few years it has been the object of a messy bankruptcy. It is, however, far taller than anything that could be built on the same site today, looming as it does over the south-western corner of Central Park. A proposal for a similar-size tower across the street - intended as the headquarters of Salomon Brothers - has been repeatedly rejected by planning authorities.

So the tower is to be stripped to its steel skeleton, reinforced and reclad, its 44 office-height floors compressed to make a 60-storey apartment house. And who better to oversee its makeover than Donald Trump, the unreconstructed property developer who has himself emerged from no fewer than three bankruptcy proceedings with his stature more or less intact.

'It'll be a superluxury condominium tower,' Mr Trump told the New York Observer this week, adding characteristically: 'It will be the most luxurious building anywhere in the world.'