Before he shot to international prominence as self-professed Best President and everyone-else-professed Worst Person, Donald Trump was mostly a property developer -- by his reckoning, of course, Best Property Developer. But as with everything else that comes out of his mouth, that claim comes with more more caveats, misleading footnotes, and damning untruths than your cable bill. Let's look back at a few of his more underrated shenanigans.
I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but it seems like Donald Trump might have an ego. As a possible example, consider the time he tried to build an actual fucking castle, like a deranged king of old, in the middle of Manhattan.
Christened "Trump Castle" (natch), the development would have comprised "six cylinders of varying heights with gold-leafed, coned and crenelated tops," built to a height of 60 stories, complete with a drawbridge and moat. In an interview, the chief architect for this project described Trump as "mad and wonderful," and while I can't vouch for the latter, he's far from the only one to vouch for the former. Despite initially teaming up with the Trump Organization, the owners of the site, Prudential Insurance, backed out of the project after they realized that the estimated $200 million cost would leave them with the most expensive square footage in the city. As one executive explained, "We didn't want to do a deal that depended on selling apartments for $1.5 million each to break even."
It's not all bad news, however. He eventually managed to make Trump Castle a reality ... in New Jersey. And it was truly a property fit for a king:
When you imagine Trump properties, you probably don't picture beautiful rolling vistas, glorious sunsets, and lush greenery -- just hideous gold-plated carbuncles with zero redeeming features, much like their owner. And then there's Donald J. Trump State Park, a 400-acre park outside of Westchester, New York, which has all of these beautiful features and much, much more!
Or it did once, before the garbage people moved in.
Back in the '90s, Trump bought the land in order to convert it into a golf course, but thanks to some pesky red tape that said rich assholes can't buy up acres of woodland for vanity projects designed to attract other rich assholes, the town where the park sits denied his request. That left Trump with a big tract of land that he couldn't do much with except his favorite thing in the world: get a tax break. He donated the land to the state of New York, netting a tax write-off estimated at $100 million.
As great as this worked for Trump, it was terrible for New York, which was left holding a big chunk of land it didn't want. They tried to make it look nice (they really did), but they could only afford $2,500 for annual upkeep, and having no full-time staff, the park soon turned into a nightmare zone of dilapidated buildings, moldy swimming pools, and other scenes that make it resemble a post-nuclear wasteland.
Trump's business interests tend to stick to the cities -- not just because that's where the money and fast food restaurants are, but also because that's where he's liable to get the most attention, a commodity he values more than oxygen. So you're probably wondering why he owns, for no apparent particular reason, a random quarter-acre lot of woodland in Florida. The lot isn't anywhere near Mar-a-Lago, and contains nothing of any value, like roads, pavement, buildings, or even utilities. It is completely inaccessible without, as one local put it, "a Jeep, a helicopter or a parachute."
He clearly has a reason for owning the property. Via the Trump Organization, he pays the $69.82 taxes for the lot every year without fail -- something that he can't even be bothered to do for his other properties. And besides, do you know how much this guy doesn't like paying taxes? If he didn't want to pay taxes on this lot, he wouldn't.
Highlands County Property Apraiser
So what's the deal? Nobody knows! But there are plenty of ... suspicions. In 2005, the property was gifted to Trump for the grant total of $1 by Nazeema Carrico, a local woman who operated a photography studio specializing in "adult lingerie shoots." She deleted all of her social media profiles when reporters tried to ask her about it. You know, like all normal people do when they have nothing to hide.
Now how 'bout that time a notorious scam artist gifted Trump a mansion for the sweet price of absolutely nothing?
In 2008, The Apprentice moved to the West Coast, and Trump needed some cool digs he could use to grab some (relative) beauty sleep. At the same time, quite coincidentally, an Egyptian man by the name of Mokless Girgis bought a 10,000 square foot mansion on Rodeo Drive for a cool $10.3 million. Six weeks later, he transferred the property to a shell company run by one Donald "Julio" Trump.
According to filing made by Mr. Girgis, there was a perfectly innocent explanation for all of this: His name was put on the deeds to the property by mistake, when in actuality it was Trump who bought it all along. He was but an innocent bystander in all of this, a situation that happens all the time, or so we've heard. Of the five real estate lawyers who reviewed the deal on behalf of Reveal and the Center for Investigative Reporting, none of them had ever witnessed anything like this. Misspellings of names, yes. Improper punctuation, yes. Deeding the house to some rando like the rejected plot of an '80s comedy? Hell no.
According to the broker who sold the property, Igor Korbatov: "Human error is not implausible and happens all the time." That's the thing, though. These "human errors" happen an impressive amount around Trump, and always to his benefit -- or at least, that's my takeaway from the fact that the following year he sold the mansion for $9.5 million.
Interestingly, the lawyer who not only handled the shell company that initially received the property, but who also managed its sale? That'd be now-convicted criminal Michael Cohen.
Judging by the way Trump eagerly cuddles up to despots, it's not a huge leap to suggest that his love of burly gun-toting men possibly drove him into the arms of the mob in his pre-presidential years. There's a surprising amount of evidence for that conclusion, but here's one that few talk about. He bought a nightclub for $1.1 million from a dangerous Philadelphia mafioso.
In 1982, Trump wanted more land (specifically, more room to expand the parking facilities of the Trump Plaza casino hotel in Atlantic City, NJ), so he decided to buy up a neighboring property, a dilapidated nightclub known as "The Bistro." The thing was, that club was owned by two local mafiosi, Frank Narducci Jr., and Salvatore Testa -- the latter known as the "Crowned Prince of the Philadelphia Mob." On account him on being a hitman. In the years following the sale, Narducci would be sent to prison, while Testa was shot to death.
Philadelphia Police Dept., F.B.I.
So what's a local businessman to do? If you're Trump, you reroute the deal through an associate under the guise of stopping the mob from identifying the prospective buyer. ("If Testa had known who was buying his nightclub, 'the price they asked could conceivably have been $2 million to $3 million.'") This little legal maneuver also meant it was harder to link Trump to funding the fucking mob. This was, of course, before the days of Twitter, when he'd straight-up brag about it online, then call it "fake news" when anyone reported it.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!
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