Fred Trump’s last project fails, destroys Coney Island landmark

The Trump Timeline

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Fred acquired Steeplechase amusement park on Coney Island in 1965 and began lobbying his political circles to change the zoning laws so that he could build real estate on the property.

His efforts failed, though, because his political co-conspirators were falling out of power and locals wanted the park to become a landmark. In a last ditch effort, Trump demolishes the Steeplechase amusement park on September 21, 1996, before it can be named a city landmark, and the city turns on him. Without many political connections or public support left, Fred Trump is never able to follow through on a construction project again.

In October, the city announces that it plans to buy the property back from Trump, which eventually happens. Even though his plan fails, Trump still pockets a $1.4 million profit.

Years later, it comes out that Fred Trump had planned to demolish other structures in Coney Island, too.

In 1999 I was recording an interview with Jerry Bianco, the former Brooklyn Navy Yard welder who built the Yellow Submarine on Coney Island Creek, when the Trump name popped up in an unexpected way. We were discussing the Parachute Jump, and Bianco stopped me and said, “ I had the contract on that.” I was surprised and asked him if he had been hired to restore it. “No,” he replied, “to tear it down.” He then revealed for the first time that in 1966 he had been approached by Fred Trump to demolish the venerated structure.

Fun fact: when entering his bid to buy the Steeplechase property, Fred Trump used the pseudonym Jimmy Onorato. Like father, like son.


Photograph: Jack Smith/NY Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

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