Officials in Atlantic City have filed an injunction in New Jersey Superior Court in an attempt to hasten the demolition of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. The Martin Stern Jr.-design property, completed in 1984 and now owned by billionaire hedge fund manager and Donald Trump ally Carl Icahn, closed in September 2014 and has remained unoccupied since. Icahn took control of the blighted building in 2016.
In a press conference held on Thursday, officials deemed the 39-story building an “imminent hazard” due to the fact that chunks of the building’s concrete and stucco facade are actively raining onto nearby streets. Some falling debris has almost reached Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, as per the Philadelphia Inquirer. The city’s court filing claims Tower Plaza poses “an actual and immediate danger to life” and needs to be demolished without delay.
“A part of my vision is to have a clean city and a safe city,” Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said in a news conference. “Right now, Trump Plaza isn’t clean or safe.”
“Today we’re saying to Carl Icahn, we want this building torn down,” Small told reporters. “We are negotiating in good faith. But it changes when we have to dispatch emergency police and personnel 24 hours a day around the building.” As the Inquirer notes, Small opted to hold the conference at Boardwalk Hall in lieu of the crumbling hotel because “we didn’t feel safe enough to stand near Trump Plaza.”
As the Inquirer details, fire and public safety officials recently carried out an emergency inspection in which a drone was used to pinpoint the source of the structural shedding. During the inspection, five large holes in the facade of the hotel’s tower between the 15th and 19th floors were identified as was damage to the seams of the structure caused by unchecked water damage. Further up, soffits on the penthouse level have been deteriorating and falling to the street.
— Amy S. Rosenberg (@amysrosenberg) March 12, 2020
“These buildings need to maintained, and they need to be kept safe,” Scott Evans, chief of the Atlantic City Fire Department, said. “The most important thing for us is public safety. We need to ensure that the owners of these buildings do not create a situation that is going to pose a threat or risk to the city, or to any pedestrians for that matter, that are within the vicinity of this building.”
However, as the need for a court order demonstrates, razing this gone-to-seed former Atlantic City landmark won’t be easy.
Despite a longstanding desire by Atlantic City officials to demolish the Trump-branded architectural blemish, the city can’t take action and demolish Trump Plaza itself, and condemning it comes with exorbitantly high costs. Previous attempts to raze Trump Plaza in 2018 never came to fruition largely because Icahn failed to receive state funding via the Reinvestment Development Authority that would have been used to cover the cost of the demolition, a cost currently estimated to be in the ballpark of $14 million according the Inquirer. And so, demolition permit deadlines came and went much to the chagrin or local officials and residents alike. As local daily The Press of Atlantic City wrote in 2018, many believe the shuttered building to be “responsible for stifling growth and contributing to a negative perception of the city from visitors.”
“My administration’s goal is to tear Trump Plaza down,” Small said at the beginning of this year. “That’s not accepted in any other city but Atlantic City. It’s an embarrassment, it’s blight on our skyline, and that’s the biggest eyesore in town.”
In this week’s press conference, Small explained that Icahn is now on the same page regarding the building’s demolition. He said, however, that the city and Icahn have “different paths on how we get there.”
“We are puzzled by the city’s actions,” Hunter Gary, president of Real Estate for Ichan Enterprises, said in a statement in response to the city seeking injunctive relief. “In fact, we have already decided to demo the building and have commenced the process including finalizing contracts. If the mayor had simply called us instead of holding a press conference, we could have updated him too.”
Once upon a time, Trump Plaza, opened as Harrah’s at Trump Plaza, was the Trump Organization’s flamboyant flagship Atlantic City development with 906 guest rooms, 86,000 square feet of gaming space, and regularly held wrestling matches. But following decades of legal issues and financial failures including a 1992 bankruptcy filing, Trump Plaza was “finally put out of its stained-carpet, squeaky-revolving-door, no-room-service, center-of-the-Boardwalk misery” in 2014. Another Trump property in Atlantic City, the Trump Taj Mahal, went belly-up in 2016 and reopened two years later under new ownership as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City.
In the meantime, city officials have enlisted an around-the-clock police detail to stop pedestrians from using a particularly perilous sidewalk next to Trump Plaza. The Press also reports that there are plans to erect fencing around a section of the Boardwalk in order to keep people safe from falling debris.