Donald Trump: Turning Garbage Into Gold


Mar 7, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Donald Trump sits in a golf cart during the second round of the WGC – Cadillac Championship golf tournament at TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us don’t think about Golf and the Bronx in the same conceptual frame, but Donald Trump isn’t like most of us.  As a general rule I’ve been content in the knowledge that I don’t think like Donald Trump.  So when I think about the Bronx I think about poverty, unemployment, crime, drugs.  To my way of thinking this complicated seamy underside of modern urban life is the antithesis of Golf.

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Following my logic, the Bronx needs massive urban renewal, an influx of jobs coupled with intensive job training, a revitalization of the community from the bottom up that addresses the housing, education, social and economic deficiencies that have plagued the Bronx for decades.

Where I saw a garbage dump that screamed for clean-up Donald Trump saw a golf course.  To be fair, Trump wasn’t the first New Yorker to see a golf course on Throg’s Neck.  Robert Moses, that most controversial of urban planners and the architect of New York City’s current infrastructure, characterized by Robert Caro as The Power Broker, envisioned that golf course more than half a century ago.  New York’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani saw it too and in 1998 actually rolled the first ball, in the form of a $22 million city budget allocation, intended to make that vision a reality.

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  • But under Giuliani’s administration the Throg’s Neck golf course project stalled in a quagmire of public works bureaucracy and corruption and when The Donald talked the city into contracting the project to him in 2011 the massive cost overruns were already into millions of dollars.

    Trump knows golf courses — just look at Doral and Dubai — and he knows how to spend money.  So he called in Jack Nicklaus and the toxic waste clean-up began in earnest and even as the nay-sayers shook their heads a world class, public access golf course with a spectacular back nine view of the New York City skyline began to emerge right there in the middle of the City’s most impoverished borough.

    Trump Links at Ferry Point is finally open for play with a $10 million clubhouse and state-of-the-art practice area to back up the links style track Trump’s cost-benefit analysis projects will generate sufficient revenue to make it an economically sustainable enterprise.  But is it affordable to the average weekend golfer?

    Do the greens fees feel a little bit pricy for a public course? Perhaps so, if measured against a Golf Channel survey that determined the median price of an 18-hole weekend round on an average US public course to be $60.55.

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  • But a prime-time 18-hole weekend round at Torrey Pines in San Diego is $229.  The same round at Poppy Hills is $210 and at Pebble Beach, just down the road from Poppy Hills, that same round will run about $495.  To be clear, those fees don’t include carts and caddies.  Ferry Point looks to be on the low end of the public access elite tracks.

    So, yes, Ferry Point is affordable, in a relative sense.  But what about the neighborhood?  Has The Donald simply created a playground for New York City bankers and lawyers stock brokers or has he set the cornerstone of a new agenda for the Bronx?

    In a conversation with Vanity Fair’s Danny Lawson, Kenneth Kerns, the chairman of the local community board, had this to say about Ferry Point:

    "“We’ve waited 30 years to have it. The entire neighborhood has grown up anticipating this. It’s going to be an economic engine. We have Zagat-rated restaurants, an interesting mix of retail. People are going to come here and play golf and go out for dinner afterwards. Maybe they’ll fall in love with the neighborhood and buy a condo, too.”"

    Trump’s management estimates that 90% of the Ferry Point employees live in the Bronx.  There are plans on the drawing board for free youth golf clinics and a job training program that will bring local youth to Ferry Point as caddies.

    It’s just possible that Trump’s vision of a public access, championship-level golf course and my notion of what the Bronx needs to reverse decades of economic and social decay may intersect at Ferry Point, that a garbage dump has been transformed into a golf mine.

    Next: An Interesting Next Couple of Weeks in Golf