Day 6

Atlantic City plans on saying goodbye to Trump Plaza with a bang — literally 

The City of Atlantic City, N.J., is holding an auction to press the button that will formally detonate Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino — and put an end to Donald Trump's legacy in the coastal resort town.

'This is not about being disrespectful to Trump,' says Mayor Marty Small, Sr.

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was one of four casinos to close in Atlantic City, N.J., in 2014. The 600-room hotel had been in business since 1984. About 1,000 people lost their jobs when it shut down that September. (Wayne Parry/The Associated Press)

Ask Atlantic City, N.J., mayor Marty Small Sr. about the auction to detonate the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino building, and he'll tell you flatly: It's not about politics, it's about fulfilling a promise he made to the people of Atlantic City. 

"As mayor, ultimately, I'm responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all people in the city," Small told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "It was an eyesore. So the best thing was to take it down."

The idea of detonating the property was proposed by Icahn Enterprises, the company that, in 2018, gained control of the land on which Trump Plaza sits. 

But the choice to turn detonation into an auction to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City? That was all thanks to Small. 

"At the first demolition meeting, I said that I wanted to do something for charity for the Atlantic City youth," he said. "[Now], we're well on our way to getting that building down and hopefully raising a lot of money for charity."

The auction to detonate Trump Plaza concludes on Jan. 19, and to date, the auction has raised approximately $175,000 US across 15 bids. The detonation itself is expected sometime in February 2021.

Marty Small Sr. has been mayor of the Atlantic City, N.J. since October 2019. He's the one who came up with the idea to hold an auction for charity, after learning that the owners of the land on which Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino sits planned on imploding the property. (Marty Small Sr./Facebook)

Proud past, ignoble present

Though the property now enjoys a reputation as a hazard to the Atlantic City boardwalk when the wind blows off the ocean, Trump Plaza was once a gem among Donald Trump's personal real estate portfolio, as well the countless crowds drawn to its then-opulent pedigree. 

"[It] was the epicentre of major events — the Tyson fights, Wrestlemania, you name it," Small said. 

Over the years, largely due to Trump's own recorded history of financial mismanagement — and competition from the Trump Taj Mahal, which would serve as the crown jewel of his properties in Atlantic City — the Trump Plaza's revenues declined sharply, ultimately leading to its closure in September 2014. 

For six years, the building remained empty, literally falling to ruin, until an implosion was commissioned by Icahn Enterprises. Physical demolition work on the structure began in 2020.

Demolition on the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino began in 2020 after Icahn Enterprises took control of the property in 2018. (Wayne Parry/The Associated Press)

Trump's tenure in Atlantic City ended in "total disaster," says mayor

Small might be diplomatic about the decision to demolish the first property that marked U.S. President Donald Trump's then-boardwalk empire, but he's clear that there's no love lost between him and the businessman who became one of the most contentious presidents in U.S. history. 

"We know Donald Trump very well, and his tenure here in the great city of Atlantic City ended in total disaster," Small said. 

"You can't take away [that] he developed a lot of casinos. Some of the most major events in the great city of Atlantic City came under his promotional watch … but toward the end, his properties were dilapidating. They didn't want to take care of workers, and we get the final result that we have now."

Trump's Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., is now home to the Hard Rock Cafe. (Wayne Parry/The Associated Press)

Not about being "disrespectful to Trump"

Small has previously expressed disappointment over some of Trump's published comments about his tenure in Atlantic City — especially comments he has made about his financial successes.

"I said in 2016, that the great city of Atlantic City unfortunately knew all well how [Trump's presidency] would end, because it ended the same way that it ended in Atlantic City, when he made a mockery of Atlantic City on national television, saying that he made a lot of money in Atlantic City and he got out," Small said. 

Nonetheless, Small is clear that the detonation and demolition of the Trump Plaza complex is not out of disrespect toward anyone. 

"This is not about being disrespectful to Trump, the disrespect is the condition of the building," Small said. 

The Atlantic City mayor added that he believes in the officers of the Atlantic City Police Department, saying that "the city will be more than prepared and will take necessary action," when it's time to detonate the building. 

"For someone to say that it's disrespectful to do that to Trump, obviously they're not living on the planet Earth."

Written and produced by Sameer Chhabra.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.