Tag Archives | Ed Koch

This Little Piggy Went Nyah-Nyah to the Moron

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, Jun 2, 1987

Just when it looked as though the garbage-without-a-country was going to be the only story to keep the press alive during the summer doldrums, along came The Mayor and The Mogul to deliver their gift to the hungry hyenas of the Fourth Estate. They gave us the multiple, continuous, floating mega-tantrum.

The Mogul, whose parents had named him Donald Trump, was rechristened by The Mayor as “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy.”  It’s not clear whether this came before or after The Mogul called The Mayor, who used to go by the moniker of Edward Koch, a “Moron.”

What a boon for the headline writers — “Mayor Moron Blasts Mogul Piggy.” It’s almost enough to restore one’s faith in the high-mindedness of our celebrities and in their selfless commitment to keeping us entertained.

We’ve seen hair-pulling by inflated personalities before, but this one is special — a pluperfect specimen. After all, it’s not often that two of the biggest hustlers, con men and self- promoters in town turn on each other in their sandbox and throw a conniption fit.

This town isn’t big enough for both of us, nyuh-nyahed Piggy the Mogul. “Koch is a disaster. He should resign from office. He can’t hack it anymore.”

Mayor Moron snarled back that if The Mogul “is squealing like a stuck pig, I must have done something right.” And then, to make sure everyone got his meaning about the swine epithet, he jeered: “Greedy, greedy, greedy.”

You’ve got to admit, this is mud-slinging at its best. I can’t wait for the next installment.

And there’s bound to be more. Because this particular chapter in the saga of The Mayor and The Mogul is not only about towering egos but towering bucks as well.

The Mogul, you see, wants to build a mini-city on 100 acres he owns along the Hudson River and the poor thing wants The Mayor to give him all sorts of subsidies to lure the National Broadcasting Co. to the site as the prime tenant, occupying nine of the 100 acres. NBC, it seems, looking ahead to when its leases expire at Rockefeller Center in the 1990s, is considering a move to New Jersey, where taxes and other costs are lower.

The Mayor said he will give tax abatements and other incentives to NBC to keep the communications giant in New York City, but he will not give these goodies to Piggy’s whole 100-acre project to help him amass a windfall profit. Piggy wants this handout, The Mayor says, because he is, well, greedy.

“Common sense,” said The Mayor, citing a trait rarely demonstrated before in his dealings with real estate developers, “does not allow me to give away the city’s treasure to Donald Trump.” This is what probably drove Donald to call him a Moron: for forgetting that he has been giving away the city’s treasury to builders for the past 10 years.

Mayor Moron didn’t stop at smearing The Mogul. He had an insult left over for New Jersey as well, as he explained why NBC should understand that being in Gotham, center of the entire world, was a premium all by itself. “People want Manhattan,” he said. “This is bedrock country. This is not mudflats.”

And besides, you don’t get spitting matches like this in New Jersey. 

While it’s true that The Moron was forgetful about his giveaway policy to developers — it seems to be the style of the ’80s to have memory losses about important things, as with the president’s arms sales and secret bank accounts for rebel armies — Piggy also seems to deliver a self-serving version of history when he listed The Mayor’s failures and said that he should therefore spare us further fiascos and fade into retirement.

For example, Piggy noted — shedding crocodile tears — that, under Koch, “the homeless are unnecessarily wandering the streets.” This is true — as far as it goes. But it fails to mention that the only thing that Piggy has done for the homeless, as their numbers have swelled, is to build more and more super-luxury apartments.

In one instance, when Piggy wanted to empty a building so he could convert it from middle class to regal class, he offered to house a few of the homeless temporarily in the building’s vacant apartments so as to scare out all the other tenants.

Trump and Koch have feuded before, but never as Piggy and Moron. Usually it’s been over who gets the credit for something and who gets to stand in front when the cameras start taking pictures. This time, it’s no different, except that it involves more money as well as a valid policy issue about how large the concessions to entrepreneurs should be to spur the city’s economy.

The problem, though, is that the behavior is that of little boys throwing tantrums because they can’t get everything their own way. It’s my bat and ball, so we’re playing by my rules. Who sez? I sez, what are you going to do about it? You’re a piggy. Yeah, well you’re a Moron.

No, they don’t get this kind of big-time entertainment in the mudflats on New Jersey. Think how dull their newspapers must be.

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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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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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Here’s a Chance to Be the City’s Hero, Trump

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, March 10, 1987

Over the years, I have written a number of columns critical of Donald Trump — for his harassment of tenants, for his self-promotion, for his fibbing, for his glitz and hype, for his grandiosity and for his expressions of concern about the homeless while doing nothing to help them.

I have tweaked him, cajoled him, satirized him and just flat-out berated him. And still he doesn’t seem interested in using his considerable talents on behalf of the homeless or in amelioration of any of the other social problems that he says trouble him. So now it’s time to challenge him.

I say let’s dare Donald Trump — real estate developer, impresario of tall buildings and taller publicity — to be as successful at helping the city as he has been at helping himself. And I want to make clear at the start that this column is not written tongue in cheek or as a putdown.

Virtually everyone — not just Donald Trump — says that he’s a world-class deal-maker. There are those who point out, with some justification, that he has engineered a very large number of headlines out of only a small number of major projects, but even these non-cheerleaders acknowledge that he is someone who can put big things together and bring them to completion.

Just take a look at your favorite newspaper or television station on any given week. There’s Donald Trump announcing something, winning something, being asked his opinion on something.

Last Thursday night, for example, he appeared on national television in the miniseries, “I’ll Take Manhattan,” playing himself and helping out poor little Valerie Bertinelli (who needed some cash in a hurry) by buying back her apartment in Trump Tower for $6 million. Later that evening, he appeared on “Nightline” giving his thoughts on what it will take to put the Reagan presidency back together again. (He said the president had to “be very assertive, be very strong, be very open.”)

Yesterday, he bought another gambling casino in Atlantic City, Resorts International, to add to the two he already has there, Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza. The price tag was $79 million, but that was no problem. He had the money virtually hanging around — because he had made clear, swift stock profits of about $70 million in two recent takeover attempts aimed at other casino companies in Atlantic City.

And when he’s not making money on real estate of casino deals, he’s sponsoring a parade for the Stars and Stripes yachting crew who regained the America’s Cup trophy this year from Australia. Or he’s being mentioned as a potential political candidate or as a kingmaker for another candidate. Or he’s upstaging Mayor Edward Koch — by taking over the botched Wollman skating rink project and restoring in a few months this ice arena in Central Park that the city had floundered for six years at a waste of $12 million.

That’s the way it’s done, Ed, said the 40-year-old builder to the mayor, who did not take kindly to having his place in front of the TV cameras usurped.

Thereupon has followed a sniping war between Koch and Trump, with the developer saying he could run this or that city protect better and the mayor answering first with critical personal jabs and then, interestingly, by inviting Trump to prove his stuff by building housing for homeless people. 

“Donald,” the mayor said rhetorically at a forum, “right now I’m giving you an offer: Build us housing — residential or interim — for the homeless. Why don’t you come in, Donald, and show us how good you are.”

Donald Trump’s piqued response was designed as an offer the mayor had to refuse. Trump said: “When Ed Koch admits he is unable to build housing for the homeless, when he totally admits, when he totally concedes his inability to do this, then I’ll be glad to get involved.”

What you have here is the sound of two huge egos crashing into each other. The sour sound of stalemate.

But the idea is a terrific one. Donald Trump could step in, build the housing for the homeless or the apartments for low-income working people that other developers say can’t be built because of present costs — and he would walk away a hero. For he not only would have delivered a boon to the city but in the same stroke would have polished his reputation for all time.

The man who made his name by brashly and boastfully erecting towers to house the super-rich would have produced a breakthrough for the homeless and the working poor. It would confound his most tenacious critics.

Better still, if Trump were to do this, lead the way, the other master builders in this town — Zeckendorf, Macklowe, Silverstein, Kalikow, Tishman, Lefrak et al — would have a very hard time hanging back. They would have to either duplicate his effort or admit he is better than they are.

So, Donald Trump, that’s about it. We know you’re not really interesting in getting into the mess and hassle of low-income housing. There’s no profit, no glamour.

But what a coup it would be — for you and for the rest of us.

 

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