Why Is Cash-Strapped NYC Blowing Nearly $100 Million in Taxpayer Money to Help Donald Trump Build a Golf Course in the Bronx?

Donald Trump, whose name gleams from gilded real estate developments across Manhattan, will now turn the Bronx into his personal billboard in the form of a an 18-hole golf course at Ferry Point Park. And the city is coughing up $97 million to help him do it. The public course, which will open in 2014, will be run by Trump National and International Golf Clubs.

Trump belongs to a political party that rains contempt on public facilities and expenditures every time a microphone is nearby. But behind closed doors, moguls like him are ready to line their pockets at public expense at every salivating opportunity.

One in five residents of the Bronx is living in poverty, and the borough is New York City’s poorest.  Every now and again you hear buoyant announcements that gentrification is coming and that the Bronx will be the new Brooklyn. But developers tend to find that it’s not so easy to erase decades of neglect, racism, and crushing poverty with the wave of a magic wand. Unlike Staten Island and Brooklyn, the Bronx has seen nothing of recovery from the recession. Average household incomes have dropped approximately $1,000 per year since 2008.

Residents of the Bronx need a lot of things. Jobs, for example. Affordable housing. Basic social services.

But now, if they can afford the green fees, which are to be higher than what is normally charged at a municipal course, they can play golf on Donald Trump’s course and look forward to breathing in methane gas, which has been detected at the site, a former landfill.

Mayor Bloomberg’s office says this is just what residents desire. Their proof?  A letter sent from Ferry Point residents dated 1977, according to the New York Times.

The construction saga has all the elements jaded New Yorkers would expect from such a deal: scheduling delays, ballooning budgets (up $40 million since 2008), a contracting company, MFM, one of whose principals pleaded guilty to bribery two years ago, and a lack of oversight. Controller John Liu is reexamining the construction and will reopen a 2007 audit. We're not holding our breath on what comes of that (though we will be holding our breath if we're ever near that methane-plagued golf course).

Enthusiasm for golf is on the decline both in New York and nationally for a decade. 5 million fewer 18-hole rounds were played in the U.S. in 2011 compared with 1990. Could that be because most people do not have hours to spend in leisurely pursuits that require expensive equipment? We might argue that they should, but they don't, especially not in the Bronx. Green spaces set aside for jogging and frisbee would no doubt be welcome. But those sorts of mundane activities do not enrich gazillionaires, so never mind.

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