Councilman Wants to Evict Trump Organization from Central Park Attractions


Photo by Andy Ihnatko.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Local City Council Member Mark Levine has been determined to get The Trump Organization out of Central Park ever since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign on July 16, 2015, with a speech saying Mexico was sending “rapists” to the U.S.

“Mr. Trump’s racist comments are despicable even by his already low standards,” said Levine, who has a substantial Hispanic constituency, at the time. “Our parks are public spaces where everyone should feel welcome and an association with Mr. Trump directly contradicts this spirit.”

Back then, Levine, then chairman of the Council’s parks committee, was stymied in his attempt to break the city’s contracts with The Trump Organization to run three cherished Central Park concessions — the Carousel and Wollman and Lasker Rinks — by the First Amendment.

“They can’t do it,” prominent civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel weighed in. “There’s a thing called the First Amendment, and the city of New York can’t cancel a binding contract because they don’t like the political views of Donald Trump.”

But they can cancel one if The Trump Organization is found to be involved in criminal activities — as it was by Michael Cohen’s recent plea deal, Levine says. There is a precedent for such terminations. Levine is therefore renewing his call to immediately end all Trump Organization contracts with New York City. On August 23rd, he released the following statement:

“The Trump Organization’s ongoing contracts to run four businesses in New York parks (Trump also runs the Ferry Point Landing golf course in the Bronx) have long been deeply problematic for our city —- with outrageously high fees to users, unfulfilled promises of public benefits, declining city revenue earned, and significant reputational harm for our city.

“Now, revelations in the Michael Cohen plea deal make the case for termination of these contracts stronger than ever, with evidence that the Trump Organization has been deeply entangled in a criminal conspiracy.

“This is exactly the [reason] used for cancellation of a similar concession agreement with another company in 2011, when the Parks Departments terminated the contract of East Coast Golf, Inc., to run a golf course in Marine Park, Brooklyn, because of alleged ties to organized crime.

“It’s time for the City Parks Department to sever ties with the Trump Organization once and for all. We must free Wollman Rink, Lasker Rink, the Central Park Carousel, and the Ferry Point Landing golf course (another Trump-run City property) from the grip of a company which harms the interest of New Yorkers and violates the law. The precedent for taking such action is clear. The Trump Organization’s Parks Concessions contracts should be terminated immediately.”

The day after Levine made his declaration, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that he was launching an investigation into The Trump Organization as well, which, Levine told WSR, “only adds to our assertion that this is an enterprise that is entangled in a criminal conspiracy, which we firmly believe provides grounds for voiding these contracts, and further strengthens our case.”

President Trump has previously touted his company’s success in restoring Wollman Rink after the city had failed to do so. And the contracts have been lucrative for him. He has made $59 million through concessions with the city in three years, including $35 million from the two rinks since 2015, according to financial disclosure forms reviewed by the Washington Post.

The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 48 comments | permalink
    1. nyc10023 says:

      yes please and thank you

    2. JS says:

      Very interesting and informative article Carol.

    3. Terri says:

      Godspeed, good sir!

    4. 10023Gal says:

      Literally Snowflake central.

    5. Marty says:

      No good deed goes unpunished.

    6. Debra says:

      Thanks. The less I have to see his name, the better.

    7. Sarah says:

      Best news I’ve heard today.

    8. Jerome B says:

      Mark Levine is a tool. Worry about more important stuff like fixing mass transit. And forget about trying to cancel legal contracts. The chances of Trump being convicted of federal or state crimes will in office are nil. Typical pandering politician.

      • Aj says:

        Bingo. Thanks for the common sense here.

        • Jen says:

          Totally agree. I don’t have respect for Trump and his ways and am a democrat. But if we continue spending so much effort on something so unimportant such as canceling contracts even though they deliver as agreed, and ignore much bigger issues such as gun violence, mass transit issues, the city will be in much worse shape. If it is ok for some as long as they don’t see much Trump name, it is sad.
          I hope Levine finds a better issue to tackle. If not, he shouldn’t be occupying his position.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Jerome B is confusing Trump as a person with the trump Organization, a business. this is understandable as Trump himself has conflated them for years.

        The trump Organization might very well be found guilty of malfeasance, and then would have problems passing a Vendex review, which is required to do business with the city. Apparently it was TO which was making all these hush money payments. Is that the way you think a business should use money? Probably illegal.

        Unless you want to have a double standard for trump businesses.

        • gs says:

          I don’t even know if it’s true, but even if there’s something, it doesn’t even compare to the illegal activities of the non-profit (different than private) Clinton Foundation, of which you’re no doubt a supporter.

        • Dissident says:

          Imagine, hypothetically, that everything here were the same, save for one key difference: The President, instead of being the overwhelmingly unpopular and even hated figure that he is in these parts, were very much the reverse; that Mr. Trump were a wildly popular and beloved figure among the constituents of Councilman Levine and DA Vance.

          If that were the case, do you think that Messrs. Levine and Vance would be assuming the same posture in this matter that they are presently?

    9. Joan says:

      Let’s make our parks Trump-free.

    10. Catherine Arcure says:

      Great idea.

    11. Janet David says:

      Yes for getting rid of trump signs in Central Park. I volunteer near the skating rink and it’s annoying to see his name there

    12. speakupnyc says:

      let’s make our country Trump free and soon.

      • Dissident says:

        Let’s free ourselves from pernicious Invade the World/ Invite the World/ In-Hock-to the World policies before we no longer have a country. The President may not be the man to do that but as best as I can see, anyone who would replace him at this point would only accelerate such suicidal-homicidal folly.

    13. Mark46 says:

      Let’s make the entire New York Trump-free.

    14. gs says:

      What nonsense…Donald Trump is not a racist, a misogynist, islamaphobe, etc., etc., etc. He’s made great strides in undoing the damage of the last eight years (can you say government dependency anyone, identity politics, “leading from behind”). Many liberals don’t work in the real world of the private sector, so they don’t appreciate the difference between a good economy and a bad one (i.e. they’re paid regardless with your tax $$$). MAGA!

      • Madd Donna says:

        Seems the Russian trolls have even found there way on this site!! Stop insulting the intelligence of Upper West Siders with your crap. The economy is doing well, but the stock market is. The rich are making millions a day while the majority of Americans maybe saw a .3% wage increase. You all make me sick with your greed and support of the biggest con man that ever existed.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        well said gs! Obama was so destructive to this country (and the world), it is great having someone who actually LOVES AMERICA as POTUS.

    15. Rob G. says:

      Trump may be an unhinged, petulant child who is unfit to be President, but that doesn’t give Mark Levine the right to shirk his own responsibilities as a CM. His district is rife with crime and gang violence, homeless shelters, and mentally disturbed people roaming the streets. His hobby of resisting Trump is just a deflection from his inability to manage the failing quality of life in District 7.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        is it Rob G’s opinion that an individual City Council person has that much control over what goes on in their district? that is silly. it doesn’t rise to the level of a substantive comment.

        Levine’s district includes Morningside Heights, Manhattan Valley, and a fairly big swath of still poor West Harlem. I don’t think Morningside Heights is “rife with crime and gang violence”, but the poorer portions of the district most likely have more crime. So does that mean Levine is doing a great job in Morningside Heights?

        it is easy to aim spitballs at elected officials. How about taking a serious look at what they stand for and how they have been spending their time. Levine is a serious guy, and deserves that basic courtesy.

        • Rob G. says:

          Bruce, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my non-substantive comment.

          I’m really not sure what you believe a CM should be doing if not working for the betterment of his district, which yes, includes having some aspect of control to be able to do so.

          Mark Levine is marching, lemming-like, in step with the reckless idea that “resisting Trump” is more important than advocating for the well-being of the tax-paying constituents in his district.

          And yes, it is easy – and iour responsibility, really – to aim spitballs at elected officials when they take their eye off the ball and don’t do their job.

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            reply to Rob G:

            RobG said:

            “Mark Levine is marching, lemming-like, in step with the reckless idea that “resisting Trump” is more important than advocating for the well-being of the tax-paying constituents in his district.”

            you don’t seem to understand that resisting Trump’s attacks on democracy, civil and human rights, and economic rights such as health care are of a piece with the well-being of the vast majority of Levine’s constituents. Most of his constituents would agree with that statement.

            RobG said:

            “I’m really not sure what you believe a CM should be doing if not working for the betterment of his district, which yes, includes having some aspect of control to be able to do so.”

            You very transparently switched the frame of reference. Of course a CM works for betterment pf the district. That doesn’t mean the CM has more than a very limited amount of control over conditions in the district, especially in poorer areas.

            your sentence was garbled so i’m not even clear on exactly what you are saying. but as i pointed, you can’t claim Levine is “responsible” for conditions in the poorer parts of his district without also claiming he is responsible for better conditions in Morningside Heights. Axctually, he has little control over either, though of course he works for betterment.

            RobG said:

            “And yes, it is easy – and our responsibility, really – to aim spitballs at elected officials when they take their eye off the ball and don’t do their job.”

            Your point here seems to be that Levine is “taking his eye off the ball” in trying to get the trump Org. removed as the administrator of the skating rinks.

            this shows insensitivity on your part towards a large section of his constituents. Many are Hispanics, immigrants, non-citizens (both documented and undocumented). trump has been especially racist and stirred up hatred towards Hispanic immigrants. Having the rink named that way causes pain and sends a message. I wonder how Jewish people would feel if the rink was named after a notorious anti-semite. You are saying to many of Levine’s constituents: “you don’t matter.”

            finally, as to your claim that this is all Levine is doing, i say, do your research. Even a 5 minute perusal of his web site will show his involvement in funding parks, fighting against tenant harassment by landlords (this latter might be something you don’t like), supporting mom and pop stores, and other issues. He is particularly active on the issue of affordable housing, the key issue in his district and throughout NYC.

            http://www.marklevine.nyc/

            you can like him or dislike him, but Levine is a serious elected official. Your criticisms don’t rise to the level of seriousness.

    16. Karen Bruno says:

      No wonder NYC is declining when this is what the politicians are concerning themselves with..how about solving the housing crisis or the homeless crisis or the traffic crisis!!!

    17. UWS lady says:

      You may not like the man but he got a lot of good stuff done when no one else could ie. Wollman Rink. Politicians need to do something positive ie. Work on the subways rather than tearing down someone else’s positives just because it is a good political sound bite.

    18. robert says:

      1 Part of his companies contract to fix in WEEKS things the city could/would fix in DECADES in the parks state his name stays on for good or until he oks an alteration.
      2 There is no “ongoing contact” that can be renegotiated and/or changed for any reason. The deal was I will get it fixed and my name goes on it for good – full stop. not for s period of years and then needing a renewal.

      Should we remove MLK from every where as he was not a support of gay rights and a registered republican? Should we remove FDR’s name from everything because he interned the Japanese in WWII?
      Pick any leader public and private and people will complain, what if a town in Mississippi wanted to remove the street named after Obama because people nearby were unhappy with it, would you support that?

      We all need to spend our time and money trying to fix somethings. We are spending $$$ on goodies like bike lanes and halogen street lights when our streets are in terrible shape and a bridges are crumbling.
      Lets stop whine and get something done, not just a cheap political stunt to make news on the peoples republic of the uws.

      Now that the primaries are done and the Dem party has nominated far left candidates in the Midwest the blue wave is gone. Its now expected that the rep will pick up at least 4 to 5 seats in the senate, lose a couple of gov and hold the house. The dems need to pick up 24 the best internal dem polling puts their best case pick up of 6 to 10 seats. This is not from media driven polls, but their own internal no public info. That is why they have been very public about telling there members to shut up about Trump & impeachment. Outside of Cal & NYC the pubic doesn’t want to hear it anymore. People are going to vote based on pocket book issues. GOP turnout in primaries is up sharply, in Fl for example a toss up senate race GOP turnout was several hundred thousand more than Dems. No blue wave there anymore, which is a reversal of earlier this year.

      • dannyboy says:

        I’ll take this as your report to the “people’s republic of the uws”.

        I am sure the report is as accurate as your characterization. But thanks anyway.

        • robert says:

          My sourcing is from a source VERY close to me and that helped them gather, analyze and the set up spin on this issue and others on Dem local & federal Dem levels. Think Schumer & Gellibrand, he is desperate as if they don’t take the senate Durbin (Il) has been talking about challenging him fore the minority leader post as he did the last time around. He and the Dems thought this would be a cakewalk, but its not working out.

          • dannyboy says:

            My source doesn’t write about the “people’s republic of the uws” and “spin” and…

            But you lean to inflammatory sources, I guess.

    19. Jerome B says:

      One of the great moments of the 1980’s in NYC (damning with faint praise) was Trump fixing Wollman after Koch’s administration could not. There was this brief feeling that things could get done on budget and on time by someone.
      He deserves to run these concessions as long as he runs them well. And being a skater, I can tell you that Wollman and lasker in the winter are run well. Worry about more important things!

    20. Destroy Trump says:

      Get them out of this park… we don’t want him or his kind in New York City… i’m throwing black ink every time I see trumps name on the W. Side Highway at 79th St. And the highway department keeps on replacing the sign. Doesn’t the highway department get the hint this guy and his family are taboo. I will continue destroy anything with his name on it in my power…

      • robert says:

        He and “his kind” are keeping the MTA going
        There is a real estate tax the goes right to the MTA on any transaction
        So the more developments the better the MTA should be re cash to fix things. Oh but that’s right Cuomo has by executive order siphoned over $5 million of that money last year and again this year to build new ski lifts at the state owned ski mountains upsate

    21. Denton says:

      I am not a fan of Trump. Having said that, in this case, the rink, Trump made the city look stupid. He sent the chief engineer of Trump Tower, Joe Morrisey, a real gentleman, to take charge of the project and fix the rink. And they did, in record time. For all we know it might have been a rusty mess had Trump bot decided to make an example of the rink.

    22. LCC says:

      Great skating for many years now! Congratulations to Trump and all his employees for getting the job done (way back when) on time and on budget –

    23. Mark says:

      It reads like a sick whitch hunt. My family is Spanish from NYC and we never heard our President make a single racist remark.

    24. Anon says:

      I’ve always found it odd that Wollman and Lawler are cash only. At Wollman it is $18 for an adult to skate, more for rentals and snacks. Thousands of people are their on weekends. Does anyone believe all that cash is being reported?

      • Woody says:

        Are you equally as concerned about any other businesses that accept only cash? Your comment comes off as nitpicking in search of bad behavior.

    25. Chris says:

      These same folks are going to be in need of medical attention when Trump get 4 more years.

    26. Melissa Hurwitz says:

      About time. Get rid of him! And fix up Lasker Pool finally. He’s a racist deadbeat.

    27. Katherine O'Sullivan says:

      The concession with Manhattan River Group running La Marina should also be terminated

    28. Laura Leipzig says:

      No place for racist organization in Central Park. In the name of John Lennon –

    29. Dissident says:

      Councilman Mark Levine is burning with righteous indignation at what he characterizes as the President’s “racist comments” and “low standards”. DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. wants to be sure everyone knows that he will be investigating the Trump Organization for alleged violations of the Law.

      Compare and contrast the respective records of both of the aforementioned elected officials– to say nothing of that of their fellow Democrats (including both Barack Obama as well as Bill de Blasio)– when it comes, to take a particularly salient example, to Al Sharpton. Sharpton is an individual with a rich history that includes libel (Tawana Brawley hoax); incitement to murderous riots (Crown Heights, 1991); incitement to lethal arson (“We don’t need any white interlopers…”– Freddy’s Fashion Mart, 1995); and tax-evasion. Sharpton’s trove of charming, candid comments include such gems as “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” and “We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them [sic] Greek homos [sic] ever got around to it.”

      Even if we accept Councilman Levine’s characterizations of President Trump and even if the worst allegations against the Trump Organization prove to be true, would any of those be worse than even a fraction of Sharpton’s record? (To say nothing of Louis Farrakhan and his ties to Democrats, including Barack Obama…)