The Real Deal New York

Look back at Donald Trump’s ’70s-era power-brokering

Political machinations and family connections documented in vintage series

July 21, 2015 02:50PM

Young Donald Trump and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the West Side

Young Donald Trump and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the West Side

Donald Trump has dominated headlines as the Republican party’s most reckless and entertaining 2016 presidential candidate. But even in 1979, the public was sufficiently interested in his persona to justify a three part series in the Village Voice, which the newspaper is republishing now.

The series documents Trump’s apparent leveraging of powerful family connections to the mayor and the governor to secure development rights to build the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

It also traces Trump’s threats to sue the reporter and his offer to put him up in a Midtown apartment. Before Wayne Barrett, the story’s original reporter, ever contacted Trump, he received a phone call saying, “Wayne, it’s Donald! I hear you’re doing a story on me!” Barrett remembers.

“This is a guy whose wealth has been created by political connections,” Barrett told the Village Voice recently, calling the idea that he is an antidote to the quid-pro-quo world of politics “ludicrous.”

In the late 1970s, Trump was also working to convince public officials to kick in taxpayer dollars for a Hyatt hotel.

“The Hyatt project drew a great deal of attention to him,” Barrett recalled. “It was really the first time that the city and state had used the kinds of tax incentives that we all now, not just in New York but around the country, regard as almost inseparable from these kinds of projects.”

Louise Sunshine, founder of Sunshine Group, which merged with Corcoran to form Corcoran Sunshine, is also featured prominently in the series, having served as a director of special projects for Trump.

Trump recently declared a net worth exceeding $10 billion, though a Wall Street Journal article today chronicled the mogul’s habit of artificially inflating his wealth. [Village Voice] — Tess Hofmann