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Curbed Cuts: Oculus retail is slumping, Trump’s childhood home is a mess, and more

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Three things you need to know today

An aerial view of a building structure surrounded by other various buildings. Max Touhey

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Retail woes at the World Trade Center

It’s been nearly a year since the Westfield mall within the World Trade Center Transportation Hub opened, and despite the fact that Oculus itself is a popular tourist draw, the retail component isn’t faring quite as well. According to the Real Deal, “roughly 20 percent of the space remains empty and unopened,” a number that could potentially grow when the second phase of the mall (located at the base of 3 World Trade Center) opens in the coming years.

So what gives? TRD posits that a few factors—construction delays, lawsuits, and even issues with retailers themselves—are keeping these storefronts empty. (A Michael Kors store, for example, was planned, but ultimately didn’t move in due to that company’s own retail woes.)

The design of the space could be a factor, too: While some critics have blasted Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus for feeling too much like a very expensive subway stop with a mall tacked on, retail experts have the opposite complaint. “Skeptics said that retailers wouldn’t want to be underground, and questioned the likelihood that commuters would be interested in shopping at high-end luxury shops after getting off the train,” according to TRD.

Trump’s childhood home is in disrepair

Neighbors of Donald Trump’s onetime childhood home in Jamaica Estates are fed up with the home’s poor condition, per a DNAInfo report. They claim that the house has fallen into disrepair since allegedly selling to a Chinese buyer for $2.14 million in March.

“It’s been left unkempt and anyone who sees it is going to consider it abandoned,” the home’s next-door neighbor told DNAInfo. The five-bedroom home allegedly has knee-deep grass that hasn’t been groomed since March, attracting stray cats and a multitude of pests.

“This is what $2 million gets you — an abandoned house and a foreign investor in your neighborhood,” the same neighbor said.

It’s been speculated that the home will eventually be converted in to a library or a museum. But for now, it looks like the only thing it will serve as is a neighborhood eyesore.

Mandatory audits for Midtown air rights sales proposed

The City Council will consider a bill proposed by City Council member Dan Garodnick that would require the city to audit all air rights sales in Midtown once the neighborhood is rezoned. The Real Deal reports that the call for mandatory audits could be a way to do away with the controversial $393/square foot floor price that is currently in the Midtown East rezoning proposal.

However, Garodnick says that isn’t necessarily the intention of the bill. “We are exploring ways to protect the integrity of the air rights transfer process in East Midtown, and an audit could be one way to do that,” he said in a statement.

The Council will consider the proposal at a Wednesday meeting.