Thanks to a newly elected Democratic majority in the New York Senate, members of the Legislature are attempting to rename New York’s most controversially-named property: Donald J Trump State Park.
Donald J Trump State Park: derelict and abandoned
The 434 acre property in New York’s Westchester and Putnam counties was bought by President Trump in the 1990s for around $2 million. After failing to get local approval to develop the land as a golf course, Trump donated it to the State of New York in 2006.
“I have always loved the City and State of New York and this is my way of trying to give something back,” Trump said in a 2006 press release. “I hope that these 436 acres [sic] of property will turn into one of the most beautiful parks anywhere in the world.”
Governor George Pataki was just as enthusiastic about the donation at the time, saying, “On behalf of the people of the Empire State, I express our gratitude to Donald Trump for his vision and commitment to preserve the natural resource of this property for the benefit of future generations.”
Soon afterwards, Trump claimed a $100 million tax write off for the donation. His vision of the site becoming one of the most beautiful parks in the world never materialized, however.
Today Donald J Trump State Park is derelict, and has been closed to the public since 2010 following budget cuts. An attempt the same year to redevelop part of the park as a community dog walking area revealed that one building inside the park is riddled with asbestos.
During a 2017 visit, journalist Emily Guendelsberger even discovered an abandoned swimming pool on the site.
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Blue Wave in New York empowers anti-Trump Democrats
Two Democratic members of the New York State Legislature recently introduced legislation to rename Donald J Trump State Park. Previous renaming attempts, including a 2015 initiative called the “Anything But Trump Act,” failed because of Republican control of the Senate.
After significant Democratic gains in the Senate in the midterm elections, the odds of success have risen sharply. Assemblywoman Nily Rozic has proposed naming the park after Heather Heyer, the woman run down by a car during the Charlottesville protests. Senator Brad Hoylman’s bill would leave the decision up to the state parks service.
Can Donald J Trump State Park be renamed?
There remains a possible legal obstacle for the proposed change, however. Part of the 2006 negotiation between Trump and the New York authorities was a commitment to keep the name Donald J Trump State Park.
A February 2006 letter from attorney Henry Hocherman makes the use of Trump’s name a condition of the transfer. It states: “the name will be prominently displayed at least at each entrance.”
Confusingly, the name condition is not mentioned in the deed itself, which Trump did sign as part of the transfer. In fact, the deed says that Trump relinquishes all “right, title and interest” to the property.
In December 2015, not long after first announcing his candidacy for president, removing Trump’s name from the park was first floated as a possibility.
Trump’s response was more direct. “If they want,” he said, “they can give me the land back.”