Donald Trump, state kill Jones Beach catering hall project

Donald Trump on the empty lot near the

Donald Trump on the empty lot near the Central Mall flagpole on the Jones Beach boardwalk. (Sept. 14, 2011) (Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile)

Donald Trump and state parks officials have killed the developer's proposed and controversial $24-million Jones Beach catering hall-restaurant because of extensive damage to the park from superstorm Sandy.

Trump and parks commissioner Rose Harvey said Wednesday that they agreed to cancel Trump on the Ocean because its design, including a full basement, no longer made sense on the beachfront with the prospect of future storms like the one that hit Oct. 29.

The decision wipes out hope of what Trump had predicted would be 500 permanent jobs, as well as rent payments the state estimated would total $13 million over his 40-year lease. It also ended a six-year saga of litigation and renegotiation. Trump and the state agreed in June to a compromise that ended the court battle, and construction was slated for 2013.

Parks officials still hope to build something on the site of the former Boardwalk Restaurant at the Central Mall, but acknowledge they will have to start from scratch after repairing the storm damage.

"Sandy has opened everyone's eyes to the potential risks of building directly on the oceanfront," Harvey said in a statement.

"As we face sea level rise and the threat of future damaging storms, we have concluded that building a major new facility directly on the oceanfront, on the scale of the Trump project, is not prudent policy," she said.

The excavation for the 86,000-square-foot, two-story building above a 14,000-square-foot basement "was entirely flooded and experienced battering waves during superstorm Sandy as well as during [Tropical Storm] Irene and Tropical Storm Lee," Trump and Harvey said in the statement.

The boardwalk was twisted and undermined. The snack bar across the mall from the Trump on the Ocean site was badly flooded and damaged, even though it has no basement. The fence surrounding the excavation of the site was demolished. The hole remains filled with water.

Trump and Harvey said Sandy "was unprecedented in the storied history of Jones Beach State Park."

The Central Mall "experienced tens of millions of dollars of damage to its boardwalk and park buildings" and will remain closed for many months for repairs, Harvey said.

The catering hall's controversial basement was the subject of extended litigation until the state and the developer reached a compromise in June allowing work to proceed.

After losing several rounds in court, Trump agreed to abide by state building code regulations that prohibited the basement from being used for anything other than equipment and storage. In return, the state agreed not to charge him back rent and to restart his lease.

"I think it would have been a wonderful project," Trump said in an interview, adding he spent millions of dollars on planning and litigation. But he said "the state parks department and myself felt it was an inappropriate time to be building a luxury catering facility-restaurant when so many people have been wiped out from their homes."

Asked whether he would be interested in building on the site later, he said, "It's possible," adding, "I think you'd do something different."

The decision to pull the plug on the project did not surprise opponents or supporters.

Garden City South activist Patricia Friedman, who had fought the project in court, called the proposal a "monster" and said, "I'm very, very happy for the sake of the people who go to Jones Beach."

Rafe Lieber, founder of the group Alliance to Revitalize Jones Beach, which advocated for construction, said, "I'm disappointed, but I understand it considering the scope of the damage."

Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a development group, said, "It was a logical decision taking into consideration the destruction and devastation to the South Shore." He added anyone looking to build a business in the flood zone there "would have to reconsider."

 

THE TRUMP ON THE OCEAN SAGA

 

1936: First restaurant is built on site, at 19,363 square feet. Burns down in 1964.

1968: Replacement restaurant, at 49,800 square feet, is built. Demolished in March 2004.

January 2004: State parks department requests proposals for a replacement.

September 2006: Plans announced for Trump on the Ocean -- 75,000 square feet on a footprint of 37,291 square feet and a height of 28 feet. Includes 26,710-square-foot basement with offices and kitchens.

December 2007: A state review board rejects variance required for basement.

March 2008: Variance is denied a second time.

March 2008: Trump proposes two new plans quickly rejected by state: one totaling 72,000 square feet on a 37,700-square-foot footprint, 43 feet high and no basement; the second for 81,200 square feet, all at ground level with a height of 32 feet.

March 2008: Trump files lawsuits against state seeking a variance for a basement including a kitchen/workspace and $500 million in damages. State prevails in appeals.

June 29, 2012: Trump and state reach agreement on 80,000-square-foot building with 14,000-square-foot storage-only basement as allowed by building code. Restaurant would accommodate more than 400 people, catering areas up to 1,250 people. Trump's 40-year-lease would be restarted.

Dec. 26, 2012: Trump and state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey announce project has been canceled because of damage to Jones Beach from superstorm Sandy and prospect of future severe storms.

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