100 Central Park South

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Overview

Donald Trump acquired a building at 100 Central Park South in the early 80s and immediately began a campaign of harassment intended to drive out occupants of the building's many rent-controlled units. In 1982 and 1983, Trump tried to fill the vacant units of the building with homeless people in an effort to hasten the departure of the preexisting tenants. When city officials rejected Trump's proposal, a charity that provided transitional services to Soviet dissident refugees sought access to Trump's vacant units. Trump refused to provide shelter to the residents, many of whom were members of the Polish Solidarity movement. One of his assistants told a reporter, "we were talking about people who live in America now - not refugees."

Donald Trump tried to pack a building with homeless people to drive out rent-controlled residents

  • August, 1982: Donald Trump proposed housing homeless people in his building at 100 Central Park South in an effort to encourage tenants to voluntarily leave their rent-controlled apartments inside the building. “All sorts of suggestions for housing the city's many homeless men and women have made their way to Robert Trobe, the Human Resources Administration official responsible for these lost souls. […] None of the ideas have appealed to Mr. Trobe, and now he has yet another offer to contemplate. It comes from Donald Trump, the developer, who wrote to the city agency that he would make apartments in one of his buildings available for the homeless at no cost to the city. This building, it might be noted, is at 100 Central Park South - not a run-of-the-mill location for shelters. Ten of the 100 rent-controlled or stabilized apartments are vacant, Mr. Trump said, and he hopes to empty the entire building within two years, to remake it into a hotel. ‘Multimillionaires’ live there, he said, and ‘I do not believe multimillionaires should be protected in rent-controlled apartments.’ But until renovations can begin, he added, why not give shelter to the more unfortunate? Mr. Trump agreed that putting these people there could measurably speed the emptying process, but he asserted, ‘I don't care.’ Meanwhile, Mr. Trobe said that while he would give the letter thought, ‘it hardly looks like something we would be interested in.’” (New York Times, August 7, 1982)
  • May, 1983: Trump renewed his offer to house homeless people in the vacant units at 100 Central Park South, having increased the number of vacant units from ten to fourteen. “New York City was seeking to shelter hundreds of homeless people last year. Donald J. Trump, the realty developer, had a suggestion: put some in 10 vacant apartments in his building at 100 Central Park South. He offered to let the city's Human Resources Administration house the homeless at no charge. […] Robert Trobe, an H.R.A. deputy administrator, has refused the offer, a spokesman says, because ‘it did not seem appropriate to house clients in a building slated for demolition.’ Mr. Trump says that 14 of the building's 100 apartments are now vacant and that his offer stands. ‘The apartments are there; they're heated; they've got hot and cold water; they have the most beautiful views,’ he says, adding that if city officials ‘were really doing their job, they would have taken us up on it, because it's a totally serious offer.’” (New York Times, May 29, 1983)
  • Trump openly acknowledged that he was working to hasten the departure of his building’s rent-controlled tenants, but denied his illegal intention was related to his offer to house the homeless in the building’s vacant units. “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. […] 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.’” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, June 4, 1983)
  • Trump accused his residents of beings “millionaires” who were abusing rent control, but many were in fact elderly tenants living on fixed incomes from pensions and Social Security. “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. […]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.” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, June 4, 1983)
  • Trump’s plan to pack the building with homeless residents was part of a larger program of harassment against tenants in the building’s rent-controlled units. “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.” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, June 4, 1983)

Donald Trump rejected an alternate plan to house Soviet dissident refugees in his building's vacant units

  • A charity requested use of Trump’s vacant apartments at 100 Central Park South to house Polish refugees who had been exiled for opposing Soviet domination of their home country. “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. […]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.” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, August 2, 1983)
  • Trump ignored repeated requests from the refugee resettlement agency to use his vacant units at 100 Central Park South to house Polish refugees. “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.” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, August 2, 1983)
  • While Trump refused to personally explain the basis for his refusal, an assistant told a reporter that “we were talking about people who live in America now - not refugees.” “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.’ […] 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.” (New York Times, Sydney Schanberg column, August 2, 1983)