Humanitarian Donald Trump Tried To Open A 'Homeless Shelter' To Drive Out Tenants. What a Guy!
Ah, the good old days!
Way back in 1981, before there was Trump the Candidate, or Trump the Reality Show Guy, or even before there was a Spy magazine to name Trump the "short-fingered vulgarian," there was Trump the Asshole Real Estate Developer.
Mother Jones takes us back to a little-remembered moment in Donald Trump's infamy, when he was already widely despised in New York and just starting to be known as a colossal jerkwad on a national scale. Having already destroyed New York architectural history, Trump found himself with a dilemma: He'd bought a whole bunch of old luxury buildings overlooking Central Park and wanted to tear down the lot of them to put up another goddamn glass monstrosity with "TRUMP" all over it, but there were some stubborn tenants in one building, 100 Central Park South, who not only didn't want to vacate, but were actually protected by New York's fascist/socialist/unfair to rich developers rent-control laws. What's a budding real estate baron to do when people get in his way and think they have "rights"?
The problem was of his own making. "I didn't fully understand until much later...that it's almost impossible to legally vacate a building filled with rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments," he noted in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal. But that didn't mean he didn't try. He sent eviction notices and cut off heat, hot water, and other services, according to lawsuits filed against him. None of that worked, so he tested another solution.
"By the summer of 1982 -- about a year after I took over the building -- the problem of the homeless in New York was beginning to get a lot of attention," he recalled in the book. "One morning, after passing several homeless people sleeping on benches in Central Park, I got an idea. I had more than a dozen vacant apartments at 100 Central Park South. Because I still planned to demolish the building, I had no intention of filling the apartments with permanent tenants. Why not, I thought, offer them to the city for use by the homeless, on a temporary basis?"
In his own mind, Trump was a freakin' Albert Schweitzer in this episode (assuming he knows who Albert Schweitzer is -- if someone asks, he might think it was a teacher at Trump University and deny ever hearing the name). He was going to be a generous, selfless humanitarian, offering the city some spaces for smelly homeless people with mental and substance abuse issues. And it might help a little bit with nudging those troublesome tenants out of the building, not that he had that in mind, perish the thought! Besides, it's not like he was hurting anyone who couldn't afford it. Trump described the tenants he wanted to evict as "multimillionaires living in rent-controlled apartments" who were taking advantage of him by getting in his way:
As he put it, "I'm not going to pretend that it bothered me to imagine the very wealthy tenants of 100 Central Park South having to live alongside people less fortunate than themselves for a while."
New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg was skeptical, proving that the Big Media have always been unfair to Donald Trump. He noted that when Trump took the idea to the city, they suspected, like a bunch of meanies, that Trump had "Machiavellian" motives, if you can imagine that, and that he was offering to help the wretched refuse of the teeming park benches "for the sole purpose of driving out the rest of the tenants so he could demolish the building and put up another Trump pyramid." Not so! Trump insisted to Schanberg. Sure, he did want to tear down 100 Central Park South, but his motives were purely humanitarian!
''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.''
As for those "millionaires living in rent-controlled apartments," Schanberg did a little digging, and learned that in reality,
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.
Imagine that! Would you believe that even back in the 1980s, Donald Trump was a pathological liar? Yes, we too are shocked, gentle readers. Ultimately, the city turned down Trump's beautiful plan for a benevolent place where homeless people could be housed until they drove out the troublesome existing tenants, because city government was full of Mexicans, no doubt, or at least short-sighted functionaries who didn't appreciate the Art Of The Deal. And that was the end of what Schanberg dubbed the "Trump Chateau For The Indigent." You can see why Donald Trump hates politicians.
We also learn that Trump was an asshole toward non-beautiful Eastern Europeans even back then:
Trump's offer didn't extend to others in need. When Polish refugees came calling in desperate need of housing in 1983, Trump refused to let them take the same empty units "We were talking about people who live in America now—not refugees," his secretary told Schanberg. "I don't think this is something he would consider."
As it turns out, Trump never did get to kick out the elderly folks (or the millionaires) living at 100 Central Park South. Instead, the 1920s building still stands; after losing multiple court fights to evict them all, Trump eventually turned the non-rent-controlled apartments into condos, renamed it "Trump Parc East," and everyone was happy. Even Donald Trump, who now says he got exactly what he wanted, because reality is always reshaped to conform with Donald Trump's wishes.
As far as the tenants are concerned, Mr. Trump lost that contest.
“Oh, absolutely, we won,” said Ms. Rubinstein, sitting in the one-bedroom apartment where she still lives. “He wanted this whole corner to be one big Trump building.”
But Mr. Trump refuses to admit defeat.
“A great deal,” he said, without hesitation, when describing 100 Central Park South — now known as Trump Parc East — during a phone interview last week. “It was a long battle, but it was a successful battle. As usual, I came out on top.”
We can hardly wait to see how he spins his eventual settlement or loss (seriously, you know he'll settle) in the Trump University lawsuits. Huge success. Art of the Deal. America is Great Again.
[Mother Jones / NPR / Portland Press-Herald / NYT / NYT again / NYT one last time]
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