Trump Lands State Accord on Jones Beach Restaurant
Originally published in the Wall Street Journal – June 29, 2012 – by Will James
New York state and Donald Trump reached a deal for the real-estate magnate to build a restaurant and catering hall on Long Island’s Jones Beach, ending a legal battle over design issues that began in 2006.
The Trump Organization plans to invest to cover the entire cost—estimated to be at least $24 million—of building the restaurant on the boardwalk, which will seat 400 guests in its restaurant and accommodate 1,250 in its catering facility. The building will have about 80,000 square feet of floor space in a 38,560-square-foot footprint, Trump representatives said.
“We’ve broken the logjam and ended the lawsuits that have stalled this project for five years,” Rose Harvey, the state’s commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said in a statement. The project “will create hundreds of jobs, provide a boost for Long Island’s economy, and bring back a much-needed amenity to Jones Beach State Park,” she said.
The new facility, called Trump on the Ocean, will be built where a restaurant called the Boardwalk Cafe had stood. It was torn down in 2004 after operating since 1964. For the last eight years, the site has been vacant and fenced off from the public.
Mr. Trump was personally involved in the project, appearing at a rally last year organized by advocates of the development. He has fond remembrances of Jones Beach and has long admired Robert Moses, the powerful urban planner who designed the state park, which opened in 1929, Trump associates said.
“He had been there as a kid, and absolutely loved what Robert Moses created,” said Ron Lieberman, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president for management and development.
“This is a settlement that is good for everybody, especially the state of New York, and will lead to the creation of the finest facility of its kind anywhere in the country,” Mr. Trump was quoted as saying in a news release. He called it a “facility that the late great Robert Moses would have been proud of,” notable for its design and “the tremendous number of jobs created.”
The main issue of contention between Mr. Trump and the state was the building’s proposed basement. Under the agreement, it will be downsized to 14,000 square feet from 26,710 square feet and won’t include kitchens or work areas, as previously planned.
State officials had opposed building the basement in a flood plain and refused to grant Mr. Trump a variance, prompting him to sue. The basement will now only contain storage space and “minor equipment,” parks officials said.
Pat Friedman, the president of the Community League of Garden City South Inc. and an opponent of the development, said she wasn’t satisfied with the settlement because, she claimed, Mr. Trump’s project didn’t go through the state’s competitive bidding process.
“This project has been illegal from the beginning,” Ms. Friedman said.
Dan Keefe, a state parks department spokesman, said the proposal was one of two received as part of the regular process, and the competitor dropped out.
Ms. Friedman also said that opponents were against the scale of the facility Mr. Trump was planning.
“This is the people’s historical beach,” she said. “This is not Trump’s historical beach. We don’t want 2,000 people coming in at all different days, weekends.”
David Schwartz, a spokesman and attorney for the Alliance to Revitalize Jones Beach, a community group that supports the development, said concerns were overblown.
Because Mr. Trump is involved, “they think it’s going to be a high rise of some kind or a casino,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This is a three-story building, really beautiful, in keeping with the neighborhood.”
Builders will probably break ground on the project early next year, and the restaurant will open two years later, Mr. Lieberman said. After construction is complete, the facility will employ “several hundred permanent workers,” parks officials said.
As part of the settlement, the state agreed to restart Mr. Trump’s 40-year lease for the site, backing off on its previous demand that Mr. Trump pay back rent for the years that the project was stalled.
Mr. Trump will pay an estimated $13 million in rent to the state during the lease period, officials said.
A version of this article appeared June 30, 2012, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Trump Lands State Accord On Jones Beach Restaurant.