There’s widespread agreement that the former Trump Plaza, empty since closing in 2014, should be torn down. There is no interest in acquiring and repurposing it, and it’s headed for eyesore status in the heart of town in the expressway entrance area.
The state has suggested the Plaza be demolished and a natural access to the Boardwalk and ocean be created.
So when the plan to implode it was announced at the start of last month by Mayor Don Guardian, that was good news.
The Greater Atlantic City Chamber said clearing one of the city’s best locations could increase development interest in it.
The former Holiday Inn tower and 2,658-parking-space garage would remain, the mayor said, which is better for the city.
But then owner Carl Icahn said he wanted to use $5.6 million of the former Plaza’s Investment Alternative Tax payments to help cover the $13.2 million cost of the demolition.
Guardian said Icahn should pay the whole cost himself, since he had already gotten the courts to reduce the city’s tax assessment on the property repeatedly.
He and an Icahn rival, Caesars Entertainment Regional President Kevin Ortzman, as members of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, voted against allowing the Plaza to use the IAT money for demolition.
A week later, Icahn’s longstanding union boss foe, Senate President Steve Sweeney, urged the CRDA to reject the request.
The argument that Icahn should pay because he’s got billions is silly, since that’s never been and never could be a criteria for determining the use of such funds.
Sweeney’s continuing desire to punish Icahn for not giving unions and their political allies what they wanted when he owned the Trump Taj Mahal is pointless. He wants something better for the site, but that possibility begins with demolition of the existing building. If he manages to delay the inevitable, the Plaza would stand as an ugly reminder that companies better play ball with union-dominated New Jersey — but the corporate world already knows the state has the worst climate for business.
CRDA rejection of Icahn’s request wouldn’t lead to any better outcomes that we can see.
For starters, the request seems ordinary and similar to many proposals previously approved for casino hotels to use IAT money to upgrade their facilities. In the Plaza’s case, the best and perhaps only upgrade possible is its demolition. If the CRDA bends to political pressure, perhaps Icahn would ask the courts to make it follow the law and past practices.
If Icahn isn’t able to use the Plaza’s IAT money, he could leave the Plaza standing, waiting for a buyer who will probably never come.
Politicians should remember that the public’s interest is in removing this white elephant and getting this key property to make a significant contribution to the city’s economy. Whether that’s through investment by Icahn or someone else, it begins with the demolition of the Plaza, the sooner the better.