A city panel approved a new operator Wednesday to take over a Bronx public golf course run by ex-President Donald Trump’s company — but two members cast “no” votes, citing concerns about what one called a “rushed” process.
Also objecting: a lawyer for Trump, who told the board that the course’s designer, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, ultimately gets to decide which firm meets his exacting standards.
THE CITY broke news of the new no-bid deal last month and the Parks Department’s unusual choice of concessionaire: a homeless shelter operator with a blemished record.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered Trump’s concession to run the Ferry Point Park golf course canceled as a result of Trump’s role in fanning the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
An Atlanta company, Bobby Jones Links, is now entitled to take over starting Nov. 15, after shelter operator CORE Services Group pulled out of their partnership under scrutiny. Members of the city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee voted 4 to 2 to grant Affiniti Ferry Point LLC a 13-year contract to operate the 18-hole golf course.
The former president told the Daily News this week in an email that the mayor wanted to “CONFISCATE the project from me for no reason whatsoever, and terminate my long-term arrangement with the city. De Blasio wants to take it away after all of the work was so successfully done, and so much money was spent.”
While fighting in court to block the Parks Department from ending his 20-year contract, Trump’s lawyers say their client is entitled to $30 million as a cancellation fee.
Franchise board representatives for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Comptroller Scott Stringer both voted no, after unsuccessfully requesting that the vote be delayed.
The representative for Diaz, Mirtha Camille Sabio, said that “concerns abound” and that the borough president could not “in good conscience” vote for the concession.
Diaz’s office cited concerns about the Parks Department’s original choice of CORE Services Group and the fate of jobs for current staff, many of whom live in The Bronx. Sabio also encouraged Bobby Jones Links to engage more with elected officials.
The comptroller’s office, meanwhile, said a too-speedy process left little chance for scrutiny.
“Today this Committee finds itself reviewing, yet again, another rushed award of a concession agreement from the Department of Parks and Recreation without full transparency about how the agency made its determination to select the proposed concessionaire,” John Katsorhis, a representative for Stringer, said at a public-hearing on the vote Tuesday.
“This shortened time frame is a situation created by the city when it terminated the prior agreement without having a proper plan in place for the concession’s continued operation.”
He said the Parks Department didn’t provide all necessary documentation about the future concessionaire until Tuesday morning, leaving insufficient time for review.
A representative from the Department of Parks and Recreation said at the meeting the new operator would retain most, if not all, of the current staff. And they said the lawsuit filed in June by Trump’s team looking to block the new concessionaire shouldn’t impact anyone’s vote.
“The fact that this matter is in litigation should not impact our process to move forward,” the representative said.
‘Lame Duck’ Decision
At a hearing Tuesday ahead of the vote, lawyers for the Trump Organization said that the Jan. 6 insurrection didn’t hurt business at the golf course — a point they’re also pressing in court.
“Year after year, leading golf-industry publications have praised Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, and ranked it as one of the premier public courses in the country,” lawyer Kenneth Caruso said in prepared remarks.
Calling de Blasio a “lame duck,” he asked the committee to consider the long-term impact and cost of switching operators of the golf course.
“We submit, the taxpayers of this City should not be required to pay $30 million, or some amount (in the City’s calculation) even approaching $30 million, just to get rid of the name ‘Trump’ at a golf course,” he said.
And he claimed that Nicklaus retains veto power over who runs his Ferry Point links. Caruso said Nicklaus “approves only a professional who will operate the course to Jack Nicklaus’ level of quality; who will not tarnish or dilute the Jack Nicklaus name and brand.”
Nicklaus was not immediately available for comment. A spokesperson for the Department of Parks and Recreation, Crystal Howard, said: “All relevant parties are engaged in an ongoing dialog on the matter.”
Caruso told THE CITY in a statement Wednesday that “the city’s position has no legal merit and we will continue to vigorously defend our right to possession and control of the property for the remainder of the 20-year term.”
He added that the Trump Organization shared the comptroller’s sentiments “and are deeply concerned with this process, the future of Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point and the lengths that this mayor will go to in order to retaliate against the Trump name — even if it means writing a check from taxpayers’ pockets for $30 million.”