Tag Archives | Donald Trump

Trump the Money Man Is Just No Fun

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, May 25, 1990

When is Donald Trump going to realize that money isn’t everything? Money’s not why we love him. Why is he going around now saying that when he grows up he wants to be the “King of Cash”?

I liked him better when he wanted to be in charge of nuclear arms negotiations for the United States and said it would take him no more than “an hour and a half” to master the subject. That’s the Donald who wormed himself into our hearts.

He just doesn’t understand. We loved him for his adorable self. That goes for all of us, from Marla to Leona to Ivana. Everybody loves a lover. A moneybags, on the other hand, commands only fear and awe and envy.

Donald, boychik, your mind has become clouded. I know things aren’t going so well, and you’re mortgaged to the hilt and you need some pocket money. But, remember, you’re our national soap opera, and in the soaps, when things are looking bleakest — when your wife, Rona, comes back from the doctor to tell you she has only six months to live, when your old flame Meredith shows up right then with a cripple teenager she says is yours, and the phone rings and it’s your lawyer saying you’re being indicted for tax fraud and you’re facing six years in the slammer — that’s when the violins build and the sun breaks through the clouds, and you realize that money isn’t everything and that only character will see you through.

So why then, Donald, are you running around protesting that you’re worth billions when the truth is closer to $400 million or $500 million? Yes, Forbes magazine and Business Week annoyed you by saying your assets were overvalued and your father had cut back on your weekly allowances, but that’s no reason to throw a tantrum and get Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. to fire the securities analyst who studied your books and reported that your empire was a bit rocky, founded as it is on junk bonds that are growing junkier.

And then you threatened a libel suit against a Wall Street Journal reporter if he even hinted in his story that you’re suffering from cash-flow blues.

Cripes, Donald, if you need a few bucks to tide you over, just ask around. But don’t get yourself into an uproar. You’re beginning to sound like your late friend, Roy Cohn, who was the world’s highest-living deadbeat. Anytime a store or a limousine garage tried to collect the money Cohn owed them, he sued them for harassment and defamation of the Jews.

Now, Donald, you’re refusing to pay your bill, and your story is that it’s the other guy’s fault. Take the contractors who built your Taj Mahal casino. You owe them $30 million and you choose to call it a billing dispute. Is that any way to treat the guys who made you the kind of the principality of High Tack?

And what about the stretch limousine manufacturers, Executive Coachbuilders, who made 35 custom vehicles for the Taj? You accused them of making four of them too short, by two to four inches, and you’ve refused to pay for them or even return them. That’s no way for a really big fella to behave, Donald. A big fella would bend a little and then I’m sure he would shoe-horn himself into those cabin cruisers.

People are not unsympathetic about your being a little tapped out. It’s not as if we haven’t been there ourselves a time or two. And we know why you’d rather hush it up. The sharks out there, if they smell blood, aren’t going to pay top dollar for the trinkets you’re trying to sell off for cash. But why fight it, Donald? It’s kind of obvious that a guy’s flat when he’s trying to sell an airline less than a year after he bought it and painted his name all over the planes.

The thing that bothers me most is the prospect of losing you. If you go down the tubes and become just another parvenu has-been, columnists like me are going to have one less tush to kick around. By being so outrageous and behaving like a world-class horse’s patootie for a decade, you’ve provided instant fodder for us. To be honest, I probably owe you maybe 2 percent of my salary for all the columns you’ve unselfishly served up to me over the years. Don’t try to collect, though. I’ll countersue and call it a billing dispute.

What got me worrying about losing you as a meal ticket were the gossip items about you souring on New York and moving your hustle to Los Angeles. Cindy and Liz say you’re going to buy yourself a movie studio with a stable of starlets.

Say it isn’t so, Donald. They’ll never love you in La-La-Land the way we do. Here, you’re an exotic species; out there you’ll be just another paper moon in a Barnum and Bailey world. 

Out there, you won’t get any headlines when you raze a building and destroy a valued bas-relief that you had promised to an art museum. No one will even notice when you throw widows out on the street in order to build yet another tower of glitz. It’s Hollywood and they’ve seen movie sets before.

In California, you’ll never find a mayor who’ll call you “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy”; they’re too laid back. And when you offer them the exclusive on your latest messy divorce, they will yawn — for messy divorces are a dime a dozen on Malibu Beach. 

Out there, Donald, you’ll be just another pretty face. Stay home where you belong. After all, who loves ya, baby?

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Advertisements of Malice Promote Uncivil Conduct

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, May 9, 1989

It used to be, in communities that considered themselves civilized, that when somebody scrawled hate messages on building or took out hate ads in the local newspapers, they either got arrested or ostracized. People would be offended, ashamed, outraged.

Not in New York. In New York — where the ruling class considers itself urbane, cosmopolitan and large-minded — hate peddlers are apparently good company. Donald Trump has proved that.

A week ago, on Monday, May 1, Trump took out full-page ads in New York City’s newspapers calling upon all of us “to hate.” Oh yes, he was careful to say in the ads that the people he wanted us “to hate” were the “roving bands of wild criminals [who] roam our neighborhoods.” His ads were in response to the terrible group rape and beating of a young woman in Central Park on the night of April 19, and Trump was counting on the feelings of shock and even vengeance in the community to give his message a friendly reception. He also knew that all the young men accused of the crime were black or Hispanic.

To think that such a hate ad would not carry a racial message would be stupid. And Donald Trump the Gambling King, Donald Trump the Stock Market Manipulator, Donald Trump the Potentate of Self-Publicity, may be a troglodyte — but he is not stupid.

So he knew, when he spent his $85,000 to take out these ads calling for reinstatement of the death penalty and calling for more cops with greater powers on the streets, that he was saying something racial. He worded the ads skillfully to avoid overt racial language, but when he said he wanted more “law and order [to] keep up safe from those who would prey on innocent lives to fulfill some distorted inner need,” anyone who could read knew he was saying he wanted protection against “them.”

And we also know that he took out no ads in 1986, when “roving bands of wild criminals” attacked three black men in Howard Beach and chased one of them into traffic to be killed by a car.

Those who brutally assaulted the young woman three weeks ago in Central Park should be punished severely, after being found guilty at a trial. But that’s not the issue in Donald Trump’s ads. For they are lynch-mob ads and nothing else. Then why is it that the only group in our society to condemn the ads was a coalition of black clergy? They took out their own ads to say that Trump’s message was a “thinly veiled racist polemic” — and they were right.

The black ministers added: “The crime committed by those young boys was wicked and abominable. In due course they will get what they deserve. But we will broach no indictment of us as a race over one incident. And we will not offer our youth up as sacrifice to appease false gods like Mr. Trump.”

Why did no one else stand up and speak out? Mayor Ed Koch disagreed with Trump but spoke without true censure. “He had a right to express his opinion,” Koch said. “He’s expressing hatred and I’m expressing anger. There’s a big difference.” Koch didn’t say we should shun people who issued calls for hate and lynching bees. He said they had a right to their opinions.

Before anyone leaps up to remind me of the Constitution’s protection of freedom of expression, let me refer you to Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote the Supreme Court’s opinion in Schenck vs. United States in 1919, a precedent that still stands. He wrote: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Donald Trump knew that there is racial tension in this city, where half the population is non-white and power is held predominantly by whites, and therefore he knew that he was throwing kerosene on smoldering coals. And yet in the white community, where invitations to Donald Trump’s yacht are coveted, little or nothing was said of his inflammatory conduct.

Over this past weekend, Gov. Mario Cuomo — who has striven to be a national symbol of humane leadership — joined hands with Donald Trump in Albany to help promote a bicycle race named after Trump. At the photo opportunity on the Empire Plaza mall, Trump called the governor “a great guy, who is a great friend,” and Cuomo smiled.

Is Mario Cuomo so desperate for publicity that he must embrace a man who takes out hate ads in the newspapers? This is, curiously, the same Mario Cuomo who has staunchly opposed and vetoed the death penalty and who said just a few weeks ago: “We the people of New York ought now in this hour of fright to show the way. We should refuse to allow this time to be marked forever in the pages of our history as the time that we were driven back to one of the vestiges of our primitive condition because we were not strong enough, because we were not intelligent enough, because we were not civilized enough to find a better answer to violence — than violence.”

And what about Rudolph Giuliani, mayoral candidate, who’s first big campaign fundraiser, later this month, will be co-chaired by the very Donald Trump of the hate ads? Could this be why Giuliani said last week that Trump’s ads had contributed to “a healthy debate”?

It appears that we now live in a city where hate ads pass for “healthy debate.” Yes, and no neighborhood should be without its very own lynch mob.

 

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Poor Ed Now Has to Deal With the Trump Card

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, April 22, 1988

The mind grew so heavy from the darkness of the primary campaign that it pined for something optimistic or at least diverting to write about.

When you live in a multi-racial and multi-ethnic city where the mayor plays with racial and ethnic matches, you sorely need a break in the clouds. So yesterday, when Donald Trump, the entrepreneur, offered to renovate the falling-down Williamsburg Bridge, it was something to seize upon.

It goes without saying that Donald Trump has his own self-serving reasons for making the offer. He loves being the king of the hill, the master builder, gambling potentate of Atlantic City, the solver of problems that daunt all other mortals, the cover boy on every glossy magazine.

But in this case, I decided, so what.

The bridge was in such calamitous shape that it had to be shut down completely last week. And when it was, thereby imposing hardship on the 240,000 people who used it every day, Mayor Edward Koch announced that it was in no way his fault because although he has been in office more than 10 years, the crumbling started before that. It was the mayor’s familiar Teflon speech.

If one’s elected chief executive not only sets uncivilized behavior as the desired standard but also disclaims responsibility for every new deterioration in municipal services and the quality of life, it becomes pragmatically necessary to welcome help from unorthodox sources. In parlous times, one cannot be took picky about one’s benefactors.

I have no illusions about Donald Trump, but this city needs all the help it can get. I have in fact over the years poked and jabbed at the foibles and tall stories of this impresario of tall buildings and money and glitz. I have prodded him to take a little time off from building castles for the rich to create modest abodes for the homeless and working poor. He has disdained all such suggestions, for they are without glamour or gain.

Thus, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Donald Trump likely does not regard me as a contributor to the image he prefers. And yet, all that notwithstanding, I am happy to have him around today, happy to put my disappointments aside for the moment and to welcome his offer to make the Williamsburg Bridge whole again. We need the bridge. We need to keep the city from falling apart.

We mustn’t let it distract us that Donald Trump is doing this in some measure to show up his old nemesis, Edward Koch. He has upstaged the mayor before, you will recall. Two years ago, he stepped in to put Central Park’s Wollman Skating Rink in working order again, after the city had wasted $12 million and six years in a futile effort to do it. Trump did it in a few months for under $3 million.

Koch simmered and stewed over that humiliation as Trump posed for pictures in the winner’s circle. Now the mayor is looking at a mortification of much greater proportions. The skating rink was a country cottage, the bridge is a pyramid. And bridges have always excited the imagination like no other construction project.

On more than one level, the mayor invited this erosion of his rule. First, he let the city run down — taking credit for balancing the budget but refusing credit for the service slashes that made the balance possible. And second, in his earlier jousting with Trump, he dared the developer to do more things for the city.

Although Koch was talking about housing for the homeless when he issued the dare, the words he used when he threw down this gauntlet must be haunting him now. He said tauntingly: “Why don’t you come in, Donald, and show us how good you are.” And now Donald has come in and asked the mayor to hold his cashmere coat while he converts the Williamsburg Bridge from a slum dwelling into, if not a luxury condominium, at least a renewed high-rise.

Koch, of course, could snarl and refuse Trump’s offer, but he knows that by doing so, he would run the risk of alienating the ordinary people who rely on the bridge and have come not to rely on the mayor’s ability to keep the city’s infrastructure functioning. And the mayor knows he cannot afford to lose any more of his waning popularity.

What all of this signals — Koch’s unacceptable behavior in the primary, his failures as a manager, the widening awareness among voters of his weaknesses — is that, along with new bridges and roads and housing, we need a new mayor.

That’s what the people often referred to as the shakers and movers have been talking about in New York City this week. Some who have been quiet before are now saying of Koch that enough is enough. The questions that cannot as yet be answered is whether this disaffection will take root and solidify, or whether the mayor will song-and-dance his way through it once more, as he had for three terms. The clamorous and tricky process of finding a consensus candidate — many will offer themselves — has only just begun.

Meanwhile, we will have the temporary fun of watching the giant egos of Koch and Trump bang into each other. The last time they went at it, the mayor christened the developer as “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy,” and Trump called him a “moron” and “a disaster [who] can’t hack it anymore.”

Anyway, it might take our minds off the primary, for which we have to be thankful. Not to mention the relief we’ll get from seeing the bridge repaired.

 

 

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How Big of a Bundle Does Trump Require?

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, May 8, 1987

Chutzpa (noun) — Gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible “guts”; presumptions-plus-arrogance such as no other word, and no other language [but Yiddish] can do justice to. The classic definition of chutzpa is, of course, this: Chutzpa is that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. — Leo Rosten, “The Joys of Yiddish”

Nice try, Donald. Gotta hand it to ya. You had the brass to offer to sell the government your version of the Brooklyn Bridge. You say that for the price of one thin dollar, you’ll give us your whole 100-acre Television City tract on the Upper West Side. All you want in return is a 30-year tax abatement, a 99-year lease and a clause that says you get ownership of the land back after 30 years. What a steal for the community! Or should we say a steal from the community?

You would get tens of millions of dollars in tax forgiveness and, because government would be the landowner, you could build any megalopolis you wanted on the huge site — without having to go through zoning review or public scrutiny.

What would we call this gargantua of concrete on the Hudson? You’ve already used Tower and Castle and Parc. Maybe you could call it Trump’s Kingdom — that has a nice ring. Myself, I prefer Trump’s Dump.

Before I say anything else, Donald, I want to offer you my sympathy on your orphanhood and wish you the best of luck in this attempt to snooker the city. You realize, of course, that while Mayor Edward Koch has been generous to real estate titans like yourself who have contributed big bucks to his campaigns, he is nonetheless not a schnook.

So, as you’ve noticed, Donald, City Hall has responded to your delicious scam by saying that the proposal “appears to go well beyond what’s necessary” and that although “we’re willing to put city assistance on the table, we’re not going to subsidize a private developer” to that extent.

The city assistance they’re talking about has to do with the nine acres of the 100 that you’ve hopefully set aside for the National Broadcasting Co. in order to induce the network not to move its headquarters and operations to New Jersey when its leases at Rockefeller Center expire in 1997. 

These big companies are always talking about moving to Jersey or Connecticut. Some of them even do it. It’s got something to do with country clubs and golf courses. For example, General Electric, which bought NBC a while ago, moved its headquarters to Connecticut back in 1974.

Just recently, the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., only a few short years after receiving a $40-million-plus tax abatement to put up its new headquarters building on Madison Avenue, announced that it was moving most of the 1,300 headquarter employees to leafy Basking Ridge, N.J., and would rent out the vacated office space. Koch exploded at this ingratitude and threatened to sue for the return of the abatement. AT&T then modified its stance and said it would put the decision on hold pending negotiations with the city. What AT&T didn’t tell us was that a number of headquarters people, maybe a substantial number, had already been shifted to New Jersey before the announcement was made. Asked about this, AT&T will not comment.

So you see, Donald, while you’re the premier chutzpanik in this town, you’re not the only one. 

Maybe your critics are being unfair to you. Could it be that you’re just a big-hearted, civic-minded robber baron who wants nothing for himself but the warm feeling he’ll get from doing the good deed of bring GE back to Gotham and staying its child, NBC, from leaving? That’s why, you said, you needed those tax abatements and the rest of the sweetheart deal for Television City: because then you could pass on the goodies to GE/NBC in the form of low rents and other subsidies.

City Hall says that it’s not interested in subsidizing you, Donald, but that it does want to provide “what is necessary” to NBC to keep the network here. It’s a little confusing. If the city gives concessions to NBC, the company you’re wooing to be your “anchor tenant,” doesn’t this help you get the entire megaproject moving? In short, won’t you profit handsomely from this subsidy?

I know it’s tasteless to discuss money matters, but do you really need this handout? Haven’t you been cleaning up lately with manipulative trading on the stock market? Didn’t you make $80 million last week when you sold your stake in Allegis Corp.? And wasn’t that in addition to the $70 million you rang up in stock profits a few months ago in takeover attempts involving Atlantic City casinos?

Isn’t that enough dough to get Television City off the ground? Or is that a questions only a churlish critic would ask? Let me ask another: How much money does one person require to get by on? I can see you needing a little something once in a while to tide you over a big weekend at your manse in Palm Beach, but why not just hit up one of your flush friends for a short-term loan? They know you’re good for it. Asking the city for welfare is just not seemly. And I know the thing you most desire not to be, Donald, is tacky.

The last time I wrote to you in this space, I suggested that you could put all the unkind talk to rest with one simple act: Build some housing for the homeless or for low-incoming working people. I agree that the rich are blesses and wondrous tenants, but they don’t need your help or your subsidies anymore. They’ll understand if you don’t build another glitzy castle for a while and shift your talents instead to those who really need them.

Come on, Donald, put your money where your chutzpa is.

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