Donald Trump bragged in “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” that the conversion of a faded railroad hotel on 42nd Street into the sleek, 30-story Grand Hyatt, was a triumph from the very beginning.
However, that book, and numerous interviews over the years, haven’t mentioned that the deal to get the hotel built included an extraordinary 40 year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million so far in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980.
Since then, Trump has reaped at least $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York, according to city tax, housing and finance records. The subsidies helped him lower his own costs and sell apartments at higher prices because of their reduced taxes.
It’s impossible to assess how much Trump pays in personal or corporate income taxes, because he has refused to release his tax returns, but an examination of his record shows how aggressively he has fought to lower the taxes on his projects.
Trump successfully sued the administration of Mayor Edward Koch after being denied a tax break for Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. A 2001 lawsuit that spanned the administrations of Mayors Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, won a similar tax break for Trump World Tower with some of the city’s highest-priced condominiums. The tax breaks for those two projects alone totaled $157 million. The tax break for the 44 story Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle came to $15.9 million.
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Trump lined up for a $150,000 grant for one of his buildings near ground zero, and took advantage of a program to help small businesses in the area recover, even though he had acknowledged on the day of the attacks that his building was undamaged.
By seeking those subsidies, Trump isn’t much different from most other developers, but claiming them seem to be at odds with his boasting that he’s an outsider candidate who has denounced the pay-to-play culture of politics and a “rigged” system of government.