Tag Archives | 100 Central Park South

It’s Time For Trump to Leave Havelot for Camelot

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, October 23, 1987

Some people think it was bad taste for Donald Trump to announce that he had just made $175 million on the stock market and gotten out early, before Monday’s great crash. It was callous and unfeeling, they said, to boast about your high-rolling profits while little people, small investors, were holding their heads and watching their modest nest eggs shrivel and fade into painful puniness.

These critics just don’t understand Donald. He wasn’t rubbing it in. Sure, he asked his public relations representative, Howard Rubenstein Associates, to call all the newspapers and tell them Donald had been smarter than the rest, that he had not only avoided loss but had walked off with a fifth-of-a-billion gain. But all Donald was trying to do by bringing his good-fortune story to the attention of the media was set an example. That’s all he ever wants to do. He wants to show us what brains and competence can accomplish.

Just follow my lead, he keeps saying to all of us. Heaven knows we need role models. I have only one beef. We would have appreciated this stock market escape a lot more if he had told us about it while he was bailing out, when we too could have grabbed a bailing can, instead of after the fact, when we were no longer afloat.

But this probably never occurred to Donald, what with all the foreign affairs and social issues that are on his mind. Last month, when he took out full-page ads in The New York Times and other major papers to criticize American foreign policy for its lack of “backbone,” a Trump aide explained: “Donald is drifting toward a greater social role, that’s why he purchased the ads. It’s that perfectionist thing in him. He sees things that could be better and asks why not.”

Could it be that Donald, the builder of castles, is dreaming of leading us back to Camelot? Or is it Havelot?

You see, as outlandish as this may sound, there are people who think Donald behaves ostentatiously and crassly, flaunting his wealth, boasting about his deals, asking the public to measure his self-worth by his net worth. Then, too, he throws major tantrums when he doesn’t get his way — suggesting an errant child more than an incipient national leader.

Yesterday, he was in New Hampshire, the state of the first presidential primary, addressing a group of Republican leaders on cosmic issues — the trade deficit, the Persian Gulf, etc., etc.

But in New York earlier this week, his lawyers were in court trying to evict an old lady from one of his buildings. He’s been trying to throw her out since he bought the place in 1981. There’s nothing very cosmic about a landlord trying to force a tenant out; it’s known as good old greed. The two bedroom apartment at 100 Central Park South falls under rent control, so the monthly rent is only $203 — and Donald, if he gets the woman out, can sell it as a condominium for a very large amount. 

It’s hard to reconcile $175-million scores on the stock market with grubby attempts to evict old ladies. I guess that’s why the Howard Rubenstein public relations company didn’t mention the eviction proceeding when it called the newspapers to report Donald’s Wall Street winnings.

For the record, the tenant’s name is Suzanne Kaaren Blackmer. She’s 74. She’s been in the apartment since 1945. She is the widow of the actor Sidney Blackmer and was an actress in her own time. She says her income is mainly from Social Security and a small pension from the actors’ union. She is represented by a lawyer from a legal services office for senior citizens.

Trump contends that her primary home is in North Carolina; she says the apartment has always been her home. The case will be decided in the courts, but one wonders why Donald, with assets maybe as high as $3 billion, engages in such petty pursuits. Is it because he can’t stand losing, no matter how small the issue? Or is it because he thinks we are so blinded by the rays from his piles of gold that we simply won’t see the seamy side of his activities? Given the state of national manners and our worship of profit and those who amass it, maybe he’s right. The cover stories that lionize him would suggest this.

My guess, however, is that Donald Trump’s almost desperate search for public approval will have no lasting result until he actually does something of social value. People may envy a Midas, or even someone who has built a Midas image through hype, but envy does not necessarily carry respect or liking with it.

Donald has passed up all sorts of opportunities to win the respect of New Yorkers. For example, he expresses constant distress about the homeless problem, but makes no move to build housing for the homeless, or even low-income housing. 

But he has not run out of chances to be remembered positively forever. Right now, on the largest undeveloped tract in Manhattan, a 76-acre stretch along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side, he wants to erect the world’s tallest building at 150 stories, plus 11 other skyscrapers, plus a hotel and a giant shopping mall. The project — with the thousands of people and vehicles it would draw — would quite simply drown the surrounding community.

Donald Trump, with all his winnings, could donate the land to the city as a great park. It could be an extension of historic and important Riverside Park. New York hasn’t seen a gift like this in ages. A grateful city might even name it Trump Park.

Talking about his material successes in his forthcoming autobiography, Donald Trump writes: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, more more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form.” 

Do the biggest deal of your life, Donald. Create a work of art, create a great park.



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.


Donald Humbug

Lobby of 100 Central Park South where owner Donald Trump harassed tenants - 100centralparks via Beyond the Killing Fields

Entrance to Donald Trump’s 100 Central Park South.

By Sydney H. Schanberg

This first appeared as an Op-Ed column in The New York Times on February 7, 1984

Donald Trump is everywhere these days – putting together a pro football team with multi million-dollar contracts, hinting at stepping into the huge Lincoln West housing development, telling the Governor and Mayor where they ought to build the projected sports complex, talking about erecting the world’s tallest building. And, oh yes, he also spent some time trying to obstruct a group of his tenants from putting up a Christmas tree in their lobby.

It’s very hard to understand why young Donald — busy as he is making cosmic decisions — would bother himself with a matter this petty. But the mogul-statesman has become so upset at the tenants of 100 Central Park South — because they’re not too keen about his desire to throw them out, tear down the building and put up a bigger and glossier structure – that he has lapsed into tantrum and been behaving like a slumlord.

Ever since he bought the nice 15-story apartment house (across from the St. Moritz Hotel, views of Central Park) two and a half years ago, he has been bedeviling the tenants, with a view to eviction.

He brought specious lawsuits against some of them, and judges have thrown these out, charging him with ”bad faith,” ”harassment” and ”intimidation” — in one case ordering young Donald to pay the tenant’s legal fees. Also, he proposed putting some of the city’s homeless people into the dozen or so apartments he has already emptied in the building. The city smelled a scheme to use the derelicts to scare out the rest of the tenants, so it correctly declined the offer.

Then Young Donald’s bluff was called. A well-known refugee organization, the International Rescue Committee, asked him, since the homeless idea had been rejected, if he would instead take in Polish exiles from the Solidarity movement on a temporary basis. His office said no – the offer was only for ”people who live in America now, not refugees.”

Meanwhile, Donald was not treating his tenants who live in America very well. He hired a new company with a tough reputation, Citadel Management, to run the 100 Central Park South building. Services began to decline, repairs weren’t made. The luxury building turned shabby. He has tinned up the windows of vacant apartments that face Central Park, giving the facade a grotesque look. Young Donald says this is for security, but the back windows of the same apartments, easier to break into, are not tinned up. Moreover, under Citadel Management, the building’s security has been porous, with several burglaries – very rare before Trump ownership – in the last couple of years.

Which brings us to the Christmas tree. Young Donald and his agents had not allowed either a tree or any other decorations for the first two Christmases, but the tenants decided to try again last December.

They wrote a letter to Citadel asking permission to put a tree in the lobby – stressing that all costs would be assumed by the tenants. A sour letter came back, saying that tenant ”activities” had ”made it quite difficult for Management to feel that a relaxed, ‘holiday season spirit’ relationship exists at the building.” But Citadel said it would not block the project if the tenant spokesman, John Moore 3d, would sign a bizarre legal document in which he would have agreed, among other things, to have the decorations ”comply with applicable governmental regulations” and to take them down should any tenant complain that they ”infringe upon his or her religious beliefs.” This document never got signed because, fortuitously, Citadel’s maintenance employees in the building got some signals crossed and put up the tree while the negotiations were still in progress. Citadel’s front office fumed but could do nothing.

Young Donald keeps saying – as recently as two Sundays ago on television – that his attempts to get the tenants out are justified because the building is occupied by ”many multimillionaires” paying rents of $250 a month. Only a handful of the tenants can be described as rich; most are either average working people or elderly men and women on fixed incomes, such as Social Security, who have lived there many years. And although the rents are either rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, the average is several hundred dollars higher than $250. In any case, Young Donald knew all this when he eagerly bought the building in 1981.

”Were we multimillionaires,” one of the tenants wrote me recently, ”we might have moved by now, because ever since Donald Trump bought this building, we have been living under a state of siege.”

Yesterday he had his lawyers harassing the tenants again, bringing the rent-stabilized group before the city’s Conciliation and Appeals Board in another specious attempt to evict them – even though he knows that on April 1 this board’s duties will be taken over by the state and its proceedings in this case will be meaningless.

In an interview in this newspaper a month ago, Donald Trump said of his work and his style: ”You have to give quality. And I’ve always gone first class.”

What he’s doing at 100 Central Park South shows no class at all.


Doer and Slumlord Both

Donald Trump, 1985 - Press of Atlantic City via Beyond the Killing Fields

Donald Trump in 1985

By Sydney H. Schanberg

This first appeared as an Op-Ed column in The New York Times on March 9, 1985

Donald Trump, the developer, is in the newspapers almost every day for one thing or another. If he isn’t building a skyscraper castle or a football team, he is trying to harass some tenants out of one of his properties.

It’s strange for a young man who so craves achievement, recognition, respectability and acceptance to mix into his master-builder activities the petty act of abusing tenants. Yet, though hard to explain, there seems little doubt that it has happened. Both the city and the state, in detailed papers, have brought actions against him for mistreatment of tenants — the state in an administrative proceeding and the city in a lawsuit seeking heavy fines.

The case involves the rather nice 15-story building at 100 Central Park South, overlooking the park. He bought it in 1981 with the intention of tearing it and the adjacent building down (the Barbizon Plaza, which he also owns) and replacing them with another of his mega-luxury towers. The curious thing about his plans is that he knew that the building was pretty much fully occupied and that the apartments were protected by either rent control or rent stabilization.

The city and state papers allege that Mr. Trump and his agents proceeded to try to force out the 60 or more tenants by the following tactics: ”threats of imminent demolition,” ”spurious litigation,” ”drastic decreases in essential services,” ”persistent delay in repairing defective conditions with life-threatening potential,” ”instructing employees to obtain information about the private lives (and) sex habits of the tenants,” and ”engaging in a psychological tug- of-war to wear the tenants down which has had a deleterious effect upon the health and well-being of said tenants, many of whom are elderly and are particularly vulnerable to defendants’ persistent course of conduct.”

In sum, the city’s lawsuit, which was filed last week, says that ”defendants have harassed daily the occupants of said units” and that ”defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions continue to date.”

This legal action is like the ones the city brings against slumlords because – unfortunately – Mr. Trump in this instance is behaving like one.

He contends that he is the victim of wily, wealthy millionaire-tenants who are trying to extract exorbitant buyout money or other financial concessions from him. Yes, there are some well-to-do tenants in the building who have a very good deal living there at low, controlled rents. But most of the tenants are either average working people or elderly pensioners living on small fixed incomes, such as Social Security, who have lived there many years. Mr. Trump, the preponderance of the evidence suggests, tried to force these people out on the cheap. This is a man whose net worth was recently estimated at $400 million. He says he’ll fight the case all the way.

”Trump is not going to be harassed,” he told a Times reporter. Mr. Trump’s friends and supporters say he’s done a lot for the city with his developing and deal-making skills. There’s truth in this, for his Hyatt hotel and his Trump Tower have created jobs and economic activity. But does his contribution to the city’s economy excuse him from civilized behavior? Is he exempt from obeying the city’s laws? Though the press has not exempted Mr. Trump, it has generally treated him in a kindly fashion.

His behavior on Central Park South has received but sparse coverage. Though it would normally be defined as substantial news when the city sues one of the biggest developers in town, only one of the three daily newspapers carried the story.

Mr. Trump’s other activities and lavish life style get a lot of space in the press, local and national. A recent profile in The Washington Post quoted him as saying he was ready to take on new, world-sized tasks — referring to his heretofore unrevealed wish to become the nation’s negotiator on arms limitation with the Soviet Union. He says he’s a master negotiator, and could do a better job on arms talks than ”the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past.” Becoming an expert on nuclear weaponry would be easy, he said. ”It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles,” he explained. ”I think I know most of it anyway. You’re talking about just getting updated on a situation.”

Maybe Mr. Trump should take the afternoon off to study up on missiles and leave the tenants of 100 Central Park South alone.


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