Archive | Donald Trump

Sydney Schanberg chronicles the brash, outrageous and often phony offers made by Donald Trump in New York City throughout the 1980s and 90s.

New York; No Foreigners Need Apply

Donald Trump, 1983, Time Magazine via Beyond the Killing Fields

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in The New York Times, August 2, 1983

When last we left Young Donald Trump in this space, a couple of months ago, I had praised him – tongue in cheek – for his revolutionary plan to solve New York’s homeless problem.

He had made the Koch administration an offer to house — free of charge, with heat, hot water and grand views of Central Park — some of the city’s sidewalk people. He wanted to put them into 14 empty apartments in a building he owns on fashionable Central Park South, across from the Cafe de la Paix.

The offer was only temporary, unfortunately, since Young Donald plans to demolish the 15-story building and erect in its place a larger and much more lucrative luxury hotel or condominium.

City officials were naturally suspicious — as was this corner — and declined the Trump magnanimity. They thought he merely wanted to implant the derelicts as a scare tactic to drive out the remaining paying tenants faster and thus start making his big profits faster.

While Young Donald has certain talents and is likable (somewhat in the manner of Old Ronald), and while the city will always need brash and hustling developers, his proposal was a lot of eyewash. Put simply, it was obscenely condescending to the homeless, using them as pawns without feelings, callous to the tenants and devious to the city agency for the homeless, which said no thanks instantly. In my earlier column, I used lampoon rather than harpoon to skewer the Trump tomfoolery. But then something happened to make me take tongue out of cheek. Charles Sternberg, executive director of the International Rescue Committee – a laudable organization that since 1933 has been helping refugees settle and find jobs in this country – wrote me a letter asking if I thought Mr. Trump would offer the same free apartments to Polish exiles from the Solidarity movement who are seeking a haven in the U.S. The Trump offer was perfect for them, since they need only temporary housing to give them time to find permanent apartments. Moreover, none of the suspicions justifiably raised about placing the homeless in these apartments could attach to the Polish refugees. I suggested to Mr. Sternberg that he write directly to Mr. Trump. His plea to the developer, dated June 21, spoke about Mr. Trump’s ”generous offer” toward the homeless and ”about a problem we are facing with regard to Polish refugees who are now arriving in New York and for whom we are looking rather desperately for affordable housing.”

Mr. Sternberg’s letter went on: ”They are homeless in the sense that as newcomers they have never had a home in the United States. And they are quite desirable tenants, having been exiled from their native country for their active participation in the Solidarnosc struggle. . . .” No response came, so after two weeks, someone from the International Rescue Committee called the Trump office, spoke with an assistant and ”was told that our suggestion was not really what (Mr. Trump) had in mind.” But the assistant said they would ”get back” to the I.R.C. When there was still no word, Mr. Sternberg – last Thursday, five weeks after his initial appeal – wrote a second letter to Mr. Trump. In it, he talked about the growing number of Poles being released from detention on condition they leave Poland and noted that the housing shortage here was not limited to Polish refugees. The I.R.C. in recent years has been helping thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and others. ”Your readiness to assist us,” Mr. Sternberg wrote, ”would not only alleviate this problem . . . but, hopefully, would serve as an example to other landlords and open up similar opportunities in other buildings (set for conversion to co-ops or condominiums). ”Impressed with the spirit of your initial offer, I thought of you as the initiator of a trend which would be of major humanitarian significance in a city which has never been oblivious of the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.”

After receiving a copy of the second letter, we called the Trump office to find out the reason for his coolness to this idea. Young Donald was said to be out of town, but a secretary explained: ”That wasn’t the intention of our offer. We were talking about people who live in America now – not refugees. I don’t think this is something he would consider.”

Let’s all urge him to reconsider. Otherwise, some people around town are going to start calling him a phony.

Unless the Trumps are direct descendents of the Onondagas or the Sioux, their ancestors must have arrived in America in need of a home.

And just when did Young Donald become xenophobic? He has no objection to foreigners buying multimillion-dollar condominiums in his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue or to having foreigners gamble their money at the casino he is building in Atlantic City.

Now’s his chance to prove that he was sincere the first time around, that he wasn’t just trying to scare his tenants out of attractive 100 Central Park South – for profit only.

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Tracking Donald’s Raging Hormones

Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2013 Gabrielle Isler of Venezuela - Vanity Fair via Atticmag

Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2013 Gabrielle Isler of Venezuela. Photo: Vanity Fair

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in New York Newsday, July 2, 1991

The sound to be heard these days from the Trump wallow is — not surprisingly — oink. Donald Trump has finally removed the last shred of his disguise and revealed a creature who talks publicly of his women companions in language no sailor would dream of using about those who have shown kindness to him.

I mean no disrespect to our snouted barnyard friends when I say that Donald has descended into public swinishness. First he dumped his wife, flaunting his new friend in her face on the ski slopes. Now he dumps the friend, but lets her find out from the newspapers. Then he laughs and jokes about her front-page humiliation chortling over how naive she was to believe his pledge that the diamond ring was an engagement bond, when all he was doing was throwing some business to his friends at Tiffany’s.

It is one thing to observe that the age of chivalry seems to be in decline and quite another to believe that therefore it is now acceptable to engage in caddishness so snickeringly brutish as to suggest the unraveling of a mind.

Of maybe what it suggests is a form of hormonal imbalance yet to be studied by medical science. Could Donald be suffering from all those characteristics that men have cited over the generations as peculiar only to women, citations designed to keep men in their privileged, ruling place and to keep women in indentured thrall? Has he not become a classic exhibit of shrillness, cattiness, shrewishness?

Does this not add up to a clinical case of emotional instability? Are we supposed to excuse his conduct by saying, delicately, that this vulgarian is experiencing a change of life?

No, Donald hasn’t changed. He has always been a vulgarian. but before any of you nod and smile in smug superiority, let us remember how many among us contributed to the creation of this negative cultural totem.

Way back at his beginnings, when he was razing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower and decided to demolish the valued Art Deco friezes that graced the Bonwit facade, how loudly did we hiss and boo that he had broken his word to save the stone carvings and give them to the Metropolitan Museum? No, this is New York, where macho and bravado are honored and celebrated, so we privately envied his raw, nose-thumbing posture — and the fact that he got away with it. And what did he say when some criticized him for reneging? He of the hormonal imbalance said, with a sneer: “Who cares?”

And what of all the lawyers and money men who strut around pretending to be the brilliant collossi of this town? What did they do when this carnival baker came to them for hundreds of millions of dollars to build his house of cards? Why, the gave it to him, and then they turned to us and told us how smart a deal it was because this shallow boaster was going to to wondrous things for New York and its economy. Now of course, as the Trump empire tumbles, these inspired financiers at Citicorp, Chase et al are panicking.

And then, alas, there’s the press. Donald could never have risen so quickly without the huzzahs of the star-struck media. Magazine cover stories, admiring newspaper profiles and air-headed television puff pieces all fed his hubris and grandiosity. Reporters clamored for invitations to his yacht and to his casinos. Not a word in print about his raging hormones. No hint of his testosterone attacks.

The conviction that money makes its own rules holds too strong a grip on the power mythology of New York. The so-called shakers and movers who should have clung to at least a shred of their critical judgment were instead awed and transfixed, even when this con man announced that he was a P.T. Barnum resurrected. He was hollow but somehow he was what the big boys wanted to be when they grew up.

Donald imagined himself Robert Redford, the dream of every woman. No matter that he looked like Chubby the Chipmunk and was said to have had himself redone by liposuction and hair transplants. The makeover didn’t help much, but that didn’t slow his self-admiration. His mirror still told him he was the fairest of them all.

“You know,” he said to a magazine reporter, “it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” The reporter put it in his notebook. Donald wanted him to print it. The true cad knows no self-consciousness, only self-hypnosis.

The newspapers continue to record his every swinish act. They see no choice. They, like so many others, were in at the beginning, playing Dr. Frankenstein, stitching Donald together, bringing him to life with bolds of headline lightning. Thus they must follow him until the end. So still he stalks among us, giving the male species a name even worse than any we have legitimately earned.

It probably falls now upon medical science and psychoanalysis to fully explain the Donald phenomenon. Will his body offer up the revelation that hormonal imbalance is just as much a male thing as it is a female one? What role will the scientists find that the moon and the tides play?

Or in the end will they perhaps discover something entirely more pedestrian? Could it be that this is just a case of Trump the Tramp?

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The Self-Importance of Being Donald

btkf-trump-1986.com

Photo: cbsnews.com

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in New York Newsday, May 20, 1986

Donald Trump likes to get his way and when he doesn’t, he sues people. I don’t have a complete list, but recently he has sued New York State, he has sued real estate competitors and he has sued Chicago Tribune because the paper’s architecture writer said some unkind things about Donald’s taste in design.

When he loses a case—which he does with some frequency—he simply changes lawyers and tries again. One gets the feeling he doesn’t care much for lawyers.

In fact, his most recent court suit is against a law firm that had the effrontery to represent some tenants who Donald Trump was trying to evict.

He has accused this firm—Fischbein, Olivieri, Rozenholc & Badillo—of engaging in acts of wickedness, usually depicted only in headlines about the mob: harassment, coercion, attempted extortion and obstruction of justice “in furtherance of this illicit scheme of commercial blackmail.” And he is seeking $150 million in damages from them.

What the tenants’ lawyers actually did—one learns from the court history of the case—was get Donald angry by frustrating his desire to drive the tenants out of 100 Central Park South so he could tear down the 15-story building and put up another Trump tower or palace or hanging garden.

Donald wasn’t just angry, he was livid. The tenants had won; they were staying. He had lost and he still faces serious charges, now being heard both in court and before a state agency, of having abused and harassed the tenants.

Not one to stay on the defense, Donald went after the lawyers. His latest suit against them was filed last week in state Supreme Court. Donald tried out his act first in federal District Court some months ago; he got nowhere.

It was thrown out there with unusual celebrity by Judge Whitman Knapp, whose language was blunt. The federal Court of Appeals was equally curt, not only affirming the Knapp decision but sending it back to the lower court to consider whether Donald should pay damages for having brought a frivolous lawsuit.

The gist of Knapp’s decision was that the tenants’ lawyers had done nothing more than represent their clients in vigorous and effective fashion. Being a man of civility, the judge fell just short of laughing at the charges, which were brought under the federal law against racketeering, known as RICO. He did refer to them, however, as “ludicrous” and deserving of “short shift.”

Having failed in federal courtrooms, Donald changed lawyers and is now clogging the state calendar with this foolishness.

His old lawyer on the case was A. Richard Golub, whose failure in the racketeering field has nonetheless not disqualified him from other of Donald’s litigious activities; there is so much to sue about. Donald’s new representative on racketeering is the law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, etc., whose reputation for serious endeavor seems jeopardized by the humorous papers the firm filed against the tenants’ law firm last week.

It’s not that anyone has to feel sorry for the tenants’ law firm or for the three partners who are names as individual defendants—Richard Fischbein, David Rozenholc, and Herman Badillo, the last being a former Bronx borough president, congressman and deputy mayor. They are not pussycats; they are tough, savvy, aggressive lawyers and can look after themselves.

But it’s a lousy precedent to fill up the court dockets with suits by losers against the lawyers who represented the winners. Just because Donald hates losing—and who doesn’t?—shouldn’t give him the right to misuse the justice system. Donald, however, sometimes behaves as if the normal rules that apply to others don’t apply to him.

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Trump for Mayor

btkf - Donald Trump, in the mid 1980s, in front of a building - Town & Country via AtticmagBy Sydney H. Schanberg

First published as an Op-Ed column in The New York Times on June 4, 1983

It was only a small item in the paper. About a year ago. And then a small follow-up item last Sunday. They were so unremarkable in size that you probably missed them both. But they contained stunning news.

What these few paragraphs said was that Donald Trump — master builder, real estate impresario, accused by many of caring only about glitter and money — had offered to house some of this city’s downtrodden homeless in a building he owns on posh Central Park South where he has 14 empty apartments.

The city government reacted suspiciously to his offer. These misguided officials believed — heaven forfend — that Young Trump’s purpose was Machiavellian. Endowed with distrustful natures, they thought he wanted to install the down-and-outers at 100 Central Park South (across from the St. Moritz Hotel, full views of Central Park) for the sole purpose of driving out the rest of the tenants so he could demolish the building and put up another Trump pyramid.

Donald Trump acknowledges that he does indeed want to get the present tenants out in order to put up a new luxury building, but he insists that’s not why he’s offering shelter for the homeless.

”Some people think I’m just doing a number on the people in the building,” Mr. Trump told me. ”That’s not true. I just want to help with the homeless problem. It’ll take two or three years to get everybody out, and in the meantime I’ll have more and more vacant apartments for the indigent.”

The city’s response came from Robert Trobe, a deputy administrator at the Human Resources Administration. He wrote to Mr. Trump: ”While we greatly appreciate your offer, it does not seem appropriate to house clients in a building slated for demolition.”

Mr. Trobe was more candid in a later interview: ”In light of the temporary nature of his proposal and his interest in moving out some other people, I’m left with an uncomfortable feeling and therefore am not pursuing it.”

I don’t think these bureaucrats grasp the full extent of the Trump good will. When Young Trump initially made his offer, he mentioned only that the free apartments would have heat, hot water and ”beautiful views.” Officialdom never gave him a chance to elaborate.

Now, he says, ”I’ll also pay for nurses. And I’ll pay for any medical supplies that are needed.” It’s enough to sweep you off your feet. But still the city, Scrooge-like, says nothing doing.

Consider the possibilities. There’s the dazzling Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and soon there’ll be a brilliant Trump casino in Atlantic City. And now he’s offering us the Trump Chateau For The Indigent overlooking Central Park. A place in the sun for the forgotten.

Young Trump says the building in its present status, because its apartments are rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, is being misused by ”people of great wealth” who are paying minuscule rents for ”the best location in the city.” ”I have multimillionaires living in rent-controlled apartments.”

This building, says Trump, is a symbol of the bizarre anomalies imposed on the city’s critical housing supply by the rent-regulation system. He contends that if we could abolish the system, at least for the plutocracy, and charge fair market rents to all those with a net worth of over $1 million, buildings throughout Manhattan would produce significantly higher tax revenues for the government — and instead of pinched city budgets, we would have bulging surpluses. ”We’d have money for cleaning our streets,” he promised. ”Money for more cops. The city would be healthier.” Maybe if he weren’t so busy emptying and putting up buildings, he could run for mayor and save us.

Before we allow ourselves to rejoice, however, there seem to be several nagging problems with both his specific proposal for 100 Central Park South and his larger solution for the city.

For example, while some of the tenants in the 15-story Central Park South building are quite rich, many are elderly people living on fixed incomes, such as Social Security checks, who have made their homes there for 20 years or more.

Further, although he is right that the building-as-is produces little if any profit and generates only a modest property tax check annually for the city, Mr. Trump knew all that when he bought the place two years ago. He didn’t mind then, because he thought he could empty it swiftly and erect a big profit-maker in its place.

His several court suits to get tenants out have so far failed — one judge suggested that his case was frivolous — and the tenants have accused him in turn of harassment and cutting of the building’s services.

And finally, if this young P.T. Barnum of real estate is so concerned about our pinched city budgets, why is he then suing the city for a $20 million tax abatement for the Trump Tower, a building on which he has already turned a profit of over $100 million — with more to come?

Yes, one can see there are hitches. But shouldn’t we look at the larger picture? While other landlords — just the bad apples, of course — bring in goons and dogs and arsonists to drive out tenants, Donald Trump is only bringing in derelicts. ”I am sincere,” he says. ”I just want to help get some of these people off the streets.”

We should be grateful. We should consider him for mayor.

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