National News

New York City Will End Contracts With Trump Over Capitol Riot

Posted January 13, 2021 10:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2021 10:18 p.m. EST

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address virtually from The War Room at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool)

NEW YORK — For the last several years, the tumultuous arc of President Donald Trump’s relationship with New York City has been on a steep decline.

His name was stripped from private properties. Part of his reelection campaign focused on characterizing New York as an “anarchist jurisdiction.” He even changed his legal residency to Florida.

Then Wednesday, the city announced it would terminate its contracts with the Trump Organization after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio was another blow to Trump’s prestige in New York and hammered home the depths to which the president — once viewed as a mischievous real estate celebrity — has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.

De Blasio said he was severing ties with the Trump Organization because Trump had incited violence at the Capitol.

“Inciting an insurrection against the U.S. government clearly constitutes criminal activity,” de Blasio said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday. “The city of New York will no longer have anything to do with the Trump Organization.”

The city is moving to cancel contracts at two ice-skating rinks at Central Park, the Central Park Carousel and the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a city-owned golf course in the Bronx. The Trump Organization has had profits of about $17 million a year from the contracts, de Blasio said.

While the city has considered canceling the contracts before, de Blasio said the violence in Washington qualified as criminal activity under which New York City had the right to sever ties with a company. The loss of the golf course would be a huge blow to the Trump Organization, which had agreed to spend $10 million to build a clubhouse.

De Blasio, a Democrat with roughly a year left in office, said he expected the Trump Organization to challenge the city’s decision in court.

“We’re on strong legal ground,” the mayor said.

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller, vowed to fight the decision.

“The city of New York has no legal right to end our contracts and if they elect to proceed, they will owe the Trump Organization over $30 million,” she said in a statement. “This is nothing more than political discrimination, an attempt to infringe on the First Amendment, and we plan to fight vigorously.”

Many companies and institutions have moved to cut ties with the president and his family after the riot, including the 2022 PGA Championship, which will no longer be held at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Trump’s name had already been stripped from private properties, including the Trump SoHo hotel, now the Dominick, and some former Trump Place condominiums in Manhattan.

De Blasio appeared to relish waging a high-profile battle with Trump, who has become the mayor’s favorite political foil as his own popularity has dropped in the city. The mayor announced the decision on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and started his daily briefing with a slide of the president looking downtrodden that had the word “CANCELLED” across it.

The mayor compared the Trump family to the mafia or an organized crime syndicate, and repeatedly called Trump treasonous.

“He has dishonored New York City by his actions,” de Blasio said.

The widespread shunning of the Trump brand after the deadly assault on the Capitol has left the president’s company reeling. The scenes of rioters looting the Capitol in Trump’s name, some of them armed and dressed in fur, undermined the image of stately luxury that the Trump Organization has built over decades. The president’s five-star hotels, already struggling amid the pandemic, are now expected to lose bookings and group outings.

Trump won accolades in 1986 when he refurbished Wollman Rink, near Central Park’s southern edge. The Trump Organization operates that rink and Lasker Rink, in the northern end of the park, in agreements that were set to expire in April.

De Blasio said the city could act quickly to terminate the ice skating and carousel agreements, which could take effect within 30 days, and it would find new vendors for the sites. But he said the 450-page contract for the golf course, which the city built at a cost of $127 million, was more complex and could take months to void.

Under that contract, if the city’s parks commissioner terminates the contract “at will” and not for default, the city would have to pay the Trump Organization an expensive “termination payment” for money the company invested in the site.

The city is contending that the Trump Organization was in default on the golf course contract, arguing that the course had not attracted a major tournament — the contract included a letter from the Trump Organization boasting that Trump could bring “first-class” tournaments — and was unlikely to do so after the PGA announcement, according to James E. Johnson, the city’s corporation counsel. Johnson said he was unconcerned about a possible First Amendment defense, citing the example that someone cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.

“The First Amendment doesn’t protect your ability to incite wrongful, harmful and lethal conduct,” Johnson said.

The decision to oust the Trumps from Ferry Point is particularly damaging to the president’s eldest sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who championed an overhaul of the course and made it their own.

In June 2018, they opened a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse with much fanfare. Landing on the course in a Trump helicopter that day, they cut a ceremonial ribbon alongside Dustin Johnson, one of the world’s top players, and Jack Nicklaus, the golfing legend whose company designed the course alongside the East River.

Any blows to the Trump golf business also strike hard at the president’s ego. President Trump was said to be “gutted” by the PGA decision, according to a person close to the White House, as he had worked personally for years to push the tournament executives to hold events at his courses.

At Wollman Rink on Wednesday, the Trump moniker remained on a sign showing admission prices and was emblazoned in bright red on a Zamboni. Roughly two dozen skaters glided past signs reading “Operated by The Trump Organization.”

At Lasker Rink, the only hint of the Trump name was on a sign near the entrance. One skater, Carri-Ann Gay, who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and works at Columbia University, said she was glad the city was cutting ties with the Trump family and should have done it sooner.

“I’m fine with every possible thing cutting ties with him,” she said. “I want him to be as isolated as possible.”

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