Wantagh, Long Island


Trump Restaurant at Jones Beach
by Laura Schofer

Originally published in the 2006 September 21 edition of The Wantagh-Seaford Citizen.
Published online with kind permission from our friends at The Citizen.

Donald J. Trump is planning on developing an oceanfront restaurant and catering facility at Jones Beach. Plans for the new $30-million facility, to be called "Trump on the Ocean", were announced at a press conference on Thursday, September 14, in the central mall of Jones Beach State Park.

Conceptual rendering of the new restaurant and banquet hall that Donald J. Trump and Steven M. Carl have proposed to develop at Jones Beach State Park

The new restaurant will offer indoor seasonal dining as well as outdoor beachfront dining and provide facilities for special, large-scale events. According to the governor’s office, the building will comply with the state’s Green Building Initiative for energy efficiency, and the building’s design and materials will be compatible with its historic surroundings. The total project site is approximately five acres within the footprint of the restaurant comprising 33,600 square feet.

New York Governor George Pataki, New York Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro and other officials were on hand to lend their support to the new project. But not everyone thinks the new project is right for the South Shore and especially not for the Wantagh School District, who will be out of $1.4 million a year in additional property tax revenue, from a for-profit business on state land.

“The practice of allowing for-profit entities to operate in public state parks without paying any property taxes must come to an end,” said Assessor Harvey Levinson, chairman of the Nassau County Board of Assessors. “The private catering facility does not serve a public purpose and the governor and state parks commissioner should not be selling the state’s tax exempt status at the expense of homeowners who struggle to pay some of the highest school property taxes in the country.”

The practice of allowing for-profit entities to operate in public state parks without paying any property taxes must come to an end.

Harvey Levinson
Nassau County Board of Assessors

“Plans for the new Trump on the Ocean restaurant and catering facility will certainly add to the legendary visitor experience at the renowned Jones Beach State Park,” countered Governor Pataki. “This latest public-private partnership builds on the unprecedented investment and improvements the state has made at parks here on Long Island and across New York for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. This new facility will provide park patrons with an array of unique dining opportunities in a spectacular ocean front setting.”

The proposed project will entail the construction of a building on the site of the former Boardwalk Restaurant, reconfiguration of existing park areas and the construction of a new parking area on the western end of the Pitch and Putt golf course, which will be upgraded and renovated as part of the project. The construction will be located between the main boardwalk and Ocean Parkway in an area that is already developed.

The previous facility, the Boardwalk Restaurant, was constructed in 1968. It replaced the original structure that was built in 1936 and later destroyed by fire. Following decades of exposure to the marine environment, the Boardwalk Restaurant was demolished in 2004. At that time, State Parks issued a Requests for Proposals to select a private sector business that could develop a new restaurant. Steven Carl, who also operates Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park, was the selected bidder to redevelop the restaurant site. Mr. Carl and Mr. Trump have formed a business partnership for the restaurant project.

The previous facility did not pay any tax revenue to the Wantagh School District. Still, Assessor Levinson believes legislators should pass legislation to require the state to compensate the Wantagh School District for property taxes revenue not paid at Trump on the Ocean.

While Assessor Levinson has yet to see a copy of the state’s lease agreement with Donald Trump and Steven Carl, he has directed his senior counsel to determine whether the lease falls within the guidelines under one of the exceptions to the general exemption for state property. “Regardless of the outcome of our review of exemption law, state lawmakers should make it clear that property tax exemptions should only be granted on state land when the project or facility is for a valid public purpose,” said Assessor Levinson.

But local legislators support the project. Senator Charles Fuschillo, in a press release from the governor’s office, said that “Jones Beach is one of the crown jewels of the state parks system and this new waterfront facility will make it even more attractive destination for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who visit the beach each year. This public-sector/private-sector partnership should greatly benefit local residents.” Assemblyman David McDonough, added that “This partnership between Donald Trump and New York State at the site of the world’s largest public bathing beach will add to the unique prestige of Jones Beach.”

Pending final approval by the office of the attorney general and state comptroller, the contract’s terms include a 40-year lease with state parks receiving annual lease payments and a percentage of the gross receipts as well as a designated portion of receipts required to maintain the facility. Additionally, while the lessees will be responsible for all of the design, development and operational costs, State Parks has approval of the final design and will own the new facility. The new restaurant is expected to open in 2008.

In April, Governor Pataki announced a gift to the state from Donald Trump of 436 acres in Putnam and Westchester Counties for a new state park. “Donald Trump has never been shy about placing his name on his many real estate holdings,” stated Assessor Levinson. “Hopefully the state lawmakers will make every effort to make sure that the Trump name is placed on a check made out to the Wantagh public school district for his fair share of property taxes.”

In closing, Governor Pataki said that “Donald Trump continues to distinguish himself as a visionary entrepreneur committed to excellence and this new environmentally-friendly dining facility will provide park patrons with an array of unique dining opportunities in a spectacular oceanfront setting.”

Copyright © 2006 The Wantagh-Seaford Citizen & LI Dot. All rights reserved.