WASHINGTON — Decades before President Donald Trump and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) fought over access to troves of Trump administration documents, the two native New Yorkers feuded bitterly in public over Trump’s development plans on Manhattan’s West Side.
Trump tweeted about their long-standing rivalry dating back to the 1980s on Tuesday, noting that Nadler, as a state assemblyman and later as a congressman representing the Upper West Side, fought Trump’s plans to build a massive “Television City” overlooking the Hudson River.
“Congressman Jerry Nadler fought me for years on a very large development I built on the West Side of Manhattan,” Trump tweeted. “He wanted a Rail Yard built underneath the development or even better, to stop the job. He didn’t get either & the development became VERY successful. Nevertheless, I got along very well with Jerry during the zoning and building process. Then I changed course (slightly), became President, and now I am dealing with Congressman Nadler again. Some things never end, but hopefully it will all go well for everyone. Only time will tell!”
In the mid-1980s, Trump pitched plans to develop the Penn Rail Yards into an expansive “Television City” of residential towers, television studios, a shopping mall, parking garage and what he hoped would be the country’s tallest skyscraper that would stand 150 stories.
Residents in Nadler’s Upper West Side assembly district staunchly opposed the plan, labeling it “tacky” and “overbearing,” according to news reports at the time, and argued it would increase traffic and drive up housing costs.
Nadler fought against the project alongside allies such as then-Mayor Ed Koch, who sought to kill the development by offering generous tax abatements to NBC in order for the network to remain at Rockefeller Center. Trump had sought to woo NBC over to his West Side project, according to news reports at the time.
Trump eventually scaled back his proposal, scrapping plans for the skyscraper, and rebranding the project as “Trump City,” and later “Trump Place,” but he struggled to secure financing for the project in the 1990s. Trump sought a federal loan guarantee designated for low- and moderate-income housing that would have enabled him to borrow money at a lower interest rate. Nadler, who was elected to Congress in 1992, lobbied federal housing officials, including then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, against granting Trump the guarantee.
Nadler had an ally in the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who argued against Trump’s loan request at a September 1996 Senate hearing.
“I certainly have nothing against luxury apartments nor do I have anything against very successful project developers, including Mr. Trump. I do object, however, to asking the taxpayer to bear the risk of a development for one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the country, to help finance a project that will predominantly benefit upper-income Americans,” McCain said, according to a congressional transcript of the meeting.
McCain, who would later emerge as one of the most vocal Republican critics of Trump’s presidency, said at the hearing: “Congressman Nadler, who represents the area in the House and who is a member on the other side of the aisle, does not consider the area around the development site to be blighted and he opposes the project.”
Nadler also blocked an effort by Trump in the mid-1990s to move the West Side Highway at a cost of $350 million in taxpayer funding, to make room for his sprawling development. Nadler called the project “a sin against taxpayers” and successfully passed legislation that blocked federal funding for the project.
Trump, in an August 1995 New York magazine article, was quoted as taking aim at Nadler’s weight at the time, saying: “Fat Jerry Nadler is doing me a favor. He's too stupid to realize it. He's making me a lot of money.”
After Trump was elected in 2016, Nadler in a post on his congressional campaign website wrote: “We cannot wait four years to vote Mr. Trump out of office … we must do everything we can to stop Trump and his extreme agenda now.”
Trump and Nadler have most recently squared off as Nadler, in his capacity as House Judiciary Committee chairman, has requested a range of documents from more than 80 of Trump’s political and business associates as part of what Nadler describes as a widespread probe into “alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump.”
“This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts,” Nadler said in a statement last month.
Trump, when asked about the request, called it a “hoax” and has vowed to push back. So far, Nadler has said a “large number” of Trump associates have complied with the Judiciary Committee’s request, turning over “tens of thousands” of documents, but he has not detailed which of Trump’s aides and relatives have not cooperated.
Last week in the Oval Office, when asked about Nadler’s push to view an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, Trump told reporters: "Jerry Nadler … he’s been fighting me for half of my life, in Manhattan, and I was very successful, thank you.”