Trump’s Ravitch Attack: The Back Story


Anyone wondering about the real source of Donald Trump’s venom for newly-minted lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch might want to take a peek in the city’s back pages.

Trump’s blast at Ravitch made state-wide news Monday when he gave New York Post political editor Fred Dicker a copy of his two-page letter to Governor Paterson blasting Ravitch as a bad choice, calling him “extremely weak, ineffective” and a push-over for unions.

And that was the nicer part. The Apprentice-Master added: “The only thing he’s been good at is getting appointments and convincing the press he’s done a good job.” Then, the Comb-over King gave the state’s new number two the nastiest shot that one real estate tycoon can give another: “He was always looking to appease as opposed to making a good deal.”

Yikes! Tough stuff!

You’d never guess that back in 1976, when Ravitch was the head of the Urban Development Corporation, he was the only state official to question the sweetheart terms awarded Trump and his then lawyer, Roy Cohn, for his deal to renovate the old Commodore Hotel on East 42nd Street. As the Voice’s Wayne Barrett told the tale in his book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” Ravitch had the temerity to tell city officials – in writing! – that Trump stood to make a windfall courtesy of a 40-year tax abatement granted on the property.

Fast forward four years, and Ravitch did it again – -this time as chief of the MTA when he agreed at a 1980 City hall hearing with then city councilman Henry Stern that Trump had gotten another sweet deal with his 20-year lease of the tennis club at Grand Central Terminal, across the street from Trump’s then-brand new Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Trump’s lease for the courts called for a whopping one yearly increase of less than one percent a year, capping out at $95,000, a rate that also infuriated Republican state comptroller Ned Regan. Trump’s deal had such a charmed life that he won out over a competitor – a top-ranked tennis player – who offered $100,000 a year for five years, plus ten percent of gross receipts over $200,000. At the time, members were paying Trump $2,000 to $3,000 a year for an hour’s worth of court time a week.

Ravitch, who had no part in the original lease agreement, said he would “press Trump” to renegotiate.

But Trump’s political pull apparently won the day again. When the Daily News‘ William Sherman reported this spring that the sweet midtown tennis deal was finally coming to an end, he found that the Trumpster was charging $170 an hour for court time, while still paying a mere $4 a square foot – compared to $99 a foot paid by retail shops.

This must be why Trump, who wrote a book called “The Art of Deal,” thinks Ravitch is a lousy negotiator. He trumped him – twice. Photo (cc) flasporty.