The separate locales of Thursday’s two biggest pre-primary events are richer in symbolism than even those on hand may know.
The state Republicans’ annual $1,000-per-plate, black-tie gala takes place in the Grand Hyatt Hotel just steps from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. GOP contenders Ted Cruz and John Kasich are due, but as they arrive, the main focus will be fellow guest and rival Donald Trump.
Not only will he be the target of demonstrators outside, but the hotel is a landmark in Trump’s life — the result of his first big real estate deal.
He partnered with the Hyatt chain and it opened in 1980, replacing the 1919-vintage Commodore Hotel. Like the Trump campaign of the moment, the construction project created a measure of political controversy.
“Rarely — if ever — had anyone with so limited a track record and no actual cash invested been entrusted with so much by the city,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio wrote in his book “Never Enough,” published last year.
D’Antonio describes the systemic dealings that brought Trump massive tax breaks at a time when the city was going bankrupt, carried out with the help of powerful Democratic Party figures. By the time the new hotel rose, other private firms were already revitalizing the Grand Central area — without subsidies.
Also of historic note: State GOP Chairman Edward Cox, who’s running the dinner and has not endorsed a primary candidate, is a son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon. Thirteen years after his resignation from the White House, the former president famously wrote Trump a letter.
“I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me you were great on the Donahue show,” said the typewritten missive, dated Dec. 21, 1987. “As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner! . . . Sincerely, RN”
The pre-primary Democratic debate Thursday will take place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which like the old Commodore Hotel fell into disuse in the latter half of the last century. For a long time, it symbolized lost jobs in shipbuilding.
Now the site of various private commercial enterprises, and of Steiner Studios, city dignitaries tout the place as part of the borough’s economic revival. The Duggal Greenhouse, where the debate takes place, also has hosted private parties full of 1 percent waterfront glitz, in a venue that boasts of its environmentally conscious construction and maintenance.
Departed manufacturing jobs, environment and waterfront, 1 percenters. Sounds like the place for a debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.