The company that offered the most money to take over the Bronx golf course run by Donald Trump says it wasn’t picked because the city refused its demand to protect it against any lawsuits from the ex-president.
Morningstar Golf & Hospitality LLC, a New Jersey-based outfit, promised the city more than double the amount proposed by the now-defunct team of Bobby Jones Links and CORE, which runs homeless shelters, documents obtained by THE CITY show.
Morningstar’s package would have guaranteed $8.5 million to the city Department of Parks and Recreation over 13 years, versus $3.9 million from the CORE/Bobby Jones partnership.
But Morningstar had one condition it refused to budge on: that the business be shielded from any lawsuit the Trump Organization might bring against the company — a stipulation the city’s legal department wouldn’t agree to, Morningstar CEO Matthew Galvin said.
“I initially asked the city for an indemnification because I don’t want to get pulled into their lawsuit with Trump,” Galvin told THE CITY. “I simply didn’t want to get dragged through the mud between him and the city, and so I’d asked for an indemnification from the city for that. And they indicated they could not give it.”
The Trump Organization sued the city in June to maintain control of the public course, and later threatened Morningstar for its interest in the greens — telling executives they’d “proceed at their own peril,” according to court filings.
The legal fight ignited when Mayor Bill de Blasio moved to boot Trump from the 18-hole course in the shadow of the Whitestone Bridge, citing the then-president’s role in provoking the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
De Blasio has set a Nov. 14 deadline for a management switchover at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point. But Trump’s lawyers insist that even if they lose the legal battle to stay, the former president will maintain control of the operation pending an appeal.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization told THE CITY its legal team has “made clear that we will continue to fight vigorously to defend our right to possession and control of the property for the remainder of our 20-year term.”
“Despite the lack of transparency in this flawed process, we have acted professionally and with integrity in absolutely every aspect, which is much more than we can say for some of the elected officials involved,” said the spokesperson, Amanda Miller.
Documents show that Morning Star offered the city a minimum of $500,000 a year, or 15% of earnings, for the first five years of the contract, whichever is higher. The proposal increased the floor to $750,000 annually after five years.
CORE and Bobby Jones Links proposed a $300,000 annual concession fee, or 5% of revenues, whichever was higher. The firm also offered $900,000 for capital improvements.
The contract ultimately approved Oct. 13 by de Blasio’s appointees to the Franchise and Concession Review Committee upped the revenue figure to 7% in the first eight years and rising up to 10% in the final year.
The CORE/Bobby Jones venture also requested indemnification against any legal action by Trump, but did not receive it, documents show.
Parks Defends Deal
Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said in a statement that the agency “engaged in lengthy good faith negotiations with both Bobby Jones and Morningstar.”
“However, [Parks] was only able to come to a mutual agreement regarding the terms and conditions of the license with one of these entities, Bobby Jones, by the deadline set by the city to get a new operator,” she added.
Lalor did not respond to Galvin’s contention the Morningstar deal broke down over the lack of an indemnity clause.
Galvin said his firm didn’t “want to spend a million bucks on legal fees” without indemnification, but toured the facility as recently as early September in hopes the city would make an offer anyway.
The city informed Morningstar around Sept. 24 that it was going with Bobby Jones Links and CORE, Galvin said.
The city “called me for the courtesy call to let me know it was not going to be our firm, and that the issue was the indemnity, that that was the primary issue,” he added.
The city published a notice the following Monday stating that CORE and Bobby Jones Links won the bid. But CORE later pulled out of the project after reporting by THE CITY revealed the surprise partnership.
The New York Times later published an investigation revealing that CORE was under city audit for steering city funds to related for-profit security, food service and building maintenance companies — earning its CEO, Jack Brown, a million-dollar annual payday.
A Vow to Outdo Trump
Bobby Jones Links is now going solo on the deal. The firm’s co-founder recently told THE CITY that CORE approached his Atlanta-based firm earlier this year about putting in a bid to take over the Bronx golf course.
The homeless-services provider didn’t have any experience running a golf course, but pitched a joint-venture that would focus its role on local hiring. Bobby Jones Links would operate the golf course, while CORE would work on the clubhouse operation, restaurant concession and facilities maintenance, joint proposal obtained by THE CITY shows.
In a presentation submitted this summer to the Parks Department, the unlikely partners touted CORE’s for-profit entities as key assets, part of a “service model” that “creates job opportunities for clients rather than waiting for them to appear.”
By then, all three of those companies were the subject of the city audit — as well as to orders to CORE to reinvest any profits from the entities into services, a corrective action plan signed between CORE and the city’s Department of Social Services in April 2020 shows.
In September 2021, as Parks was readying to award the golf course to an LLC registered by CORE Services Group head Brown, the city’s Department of Homeless Services ordered him to dissolve or restructure those companies, according to the city and New York Times.
“To ensure CORE’s compliance with city procurement policy, we’ve required a forensic audit, directed a salary study, disapproved their subcontractors, and required them to dissolve or restructure those subs,” Isaac McGinn, a DHS spokesperson, said in a statement.
The directive followed the company’s failure to comply with the corrective action plan, according to DHS.
A spokesperson for CORE said the firm is “exploring the future role of its subsidiaries.”
Last week, Whitney Crouse, founding partner of Bobby Jones Links, said the firm didn’t know of any issues with CORE when it teamed with the homeless service provider on the proposal.
Crouse promised to bring more diversity — and better maintenance — to the Bronx golf course.
“We’re going to spend more on golf maintenance than Donald Trump did,” he told THE CITY.