All of our presidents did things in their youth that they were not particularly proud of: George Washington chopped down that cherry tree; Bill Clinton famously didn’t inhale, but Barack Obama did. And when he was 30, George W. Bush was caught driving under the influence. (He quit drinking for good ten years later.)
Donald Trump has been a teetotaller from the jump, but when he was 33, his company evicted a 74-year-old widow from her Queens apartment. As Joe Conason reported in the May 5, 1980, edition of the Voice, the Trump Organization sent “three big fat men” to Mary Filan’s apartment to clear both her belongings and her bedridden body out of the building on Barclay Avenue in Flushing.
Filan, who had recently suffered a stroke, told Conason, “They said they’d come to put me on the street because I owed four months rent. I don’t owe back rent. The last thing I got from Trump was a bill for $10.20, about two weeks ago, and I sent that. They just want me out because they can get twice as much rent.”
Well, Trump couldn’t give up drinking, because he never started. Maybe he should’ve given up evicting tenants who had never done anything wrong instead. —The Voice Archives
“Trump Evicts Stroke Victim”
May 5, 1980
For more than 30 years Mary Filan — widowed, 74 years old, and half-paralyzed from a recent stroke — has lived in apartment 6B, 143-15 Barclay Avenue in Flushing. Last Friday afternoon, she answered the insistent doorbell, only to be pushed aside by the henchmen of city marshal Norman Katz, who proceeded to cart her belongings out to an idling truck. Taped to her door was an eviction notice from her landlords, the Trump Organization.
They took Filan’s sofa, chairs, TV, jewelry, dishes, and silverware, leaving nothing but a hamper for her to sit on. The marshals and the police tried to convince her to leave, but she refused to go until a neighbor, Bob Hennessy, convinced her to stay in his apartment until she could get help.
“She was distraught,” said Hennessy, and by Monday afternoon he was still unable to ascertain where her belongings had been taken. Thanks to her doctor and the Human Resources Administration, Mary Filan is resting in a bed at Parsons Hospital.
“They rang the bell,” recalls Filan, “and I was still in bed. I don’t get up much unless I have to. They rang and rang, and when I got to the door they pushed it open, and walked in, these three big fat men. They went right in the kitchen and started pulling out drawers, turning ’em upside down into one of these big cartons.
“They said they’d come to put me on the street because I owed four months rent. I don’t owe back rent. The last thing I got from Trump was a bill for $10.20 about two weeks ago, and I sent that. They just want me out because they can get twice as much rent.” Mary Filan currently pays about $200 a month for her apartment. Her income — from Social Security and a telephone company pension — is under $500 a month.
The Trump Organization is one of the biggest landlords in this city, a dynasty passed from father Fred to son Donald. Like most dynasties, it has flourished through the exercise of power; in earlier time, mostly through the Brooklyn Democratic machine; now, through Donald’s liaisons with the governor and a variety of state agencies, particularly the Urban Development Corporation, which paid Donald Trump more than $800,000 for brokering its convention center deal. He has used political clout to obtain more than $160 million in tax exemptions for his renovation of the old Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street. Donald Trump is a very successful 33-year-old dealer and developer. So why did Trump evict Mary Filan?
“The Trumps don’t get involved in any of that,” said a spokesman at their Manhattan office. “The management corporation handles that kind of thing. It’s part of the company, but the Trumps don’t get involved with individual cases.” He didn’t know why Mary Filan had been evicted. She doesn’t give loud parties, or cause property damage, or threaten her neighbors, who are actually fond of her.
“The Trump Organization doesn’t evict people indiscriminately,” he said at last, and suggested another number to call for specific comments on the Filan case. There was no answer at that number; nobody seemed to care about the details.
Two thoughts persist: How would Donald Trump feel if some corporation evicted his ill and aging parent, without notice or compassion, removing all possessions to some unknown location? And how does Trump manage to have the taxpayers subsidize so many of his enterprises? Mary Filan’s hospital stay is being paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.
Trump Evicts Widow, Part II
May 12, 1980
The Trump Organization has made Mary Filan an offer she can refuse. After having Filan — a 74-year-old widow semi-paralyzed from a recent stroke — evicted from her Queens home of 31 years on April 25, a Trump official visited her last week at Parsons Hospital. Perhaps because the brutal eviction had received unfavorable notice in the Voice and on TV news programs, the Trump representative offered Filan a different apartment — in Orange, New Jersey.
In the meantime Filan’s social worker, Mickey Ridlon, and her neighbor, Bob Hennessy, have managed to locate Filan’s possessions. They found her furniture, clothes, dinnerware, and personal items — most of them damaged beyond repair — at the Sanitation Department depot in Woodside, where they were unceremoniously dumped by the movers hired by Trump for the eviction.
“They ruined practically everything,” said Gary Isko, an aide to Manhattan Councilman Tony Olivieri, who has taken an interest in the Filan case. “There were broken glasses, broken plates, and broken pictures all piled in boxes. All of her furniture was broken.”
“It’s just a complete horror show,” added Ridlon angrily. “Her furniture has been mutilated beyond belief. Her clothes I
are crawling with roaches from the warehouse. This is 31 years of building a home destroyed in a couple of hours.” Ridlon said that a number of items were missing, including an expensive watch left to Filan by her late husband, a pair of silver candlesticks, and most of her personal records. Among those records were her rent receipts, which might have proved that she had been evicted unlawfully.
One official at the Department of Social Services who is familiar with the Filan case said he had never seen an eviction like this one in 25 years. Ordinarily, he said, evictions don’t take place on Friday afternoons or in inclement weather, nor are bedridden tenants evicted in this fashion. The ill Filan was thrown out, in the pouring rain, on a Friday — at 5 p.m.
Filan’s congressman, Ben Rosenthal, is also looking into the case. And Filan, as of now, hasn’t decided whether to accept the Trump offer or to look for residence in an adult home.