The company has a long history of intolerant housing practices
“My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy,” Donald Trump told The Washington Post last year. Now, with only 70 days until the country’s presidential election, the New York Times has decided to look into what Trump’s claim really means. What they found is a history of discrimination that excluded blacks and other minority populations from Trump-managed properties.
The legacy of discrimination started with the Donald’s father, Fred C. Trump, a prominent developer of middle-class housing in New York City and beyond. The Justice Department lobbed its first discrimination lawsuit at Trump Management in 1973—nearly a decade after the Civil Rights Act was signed—for discriminating against blacks. Both Fred and Donald, then 27 and the chairman of Trump Management, were named as defendants.
The Times elaborates on the outcome,
Rather than quietly trying to settle—as another New York developer had done a couple of years earlier—[Donald] turned the lawsuit into a protracted battle, complete with angry denials, character assassination, charges that the government was trying to force him to rent to ‘welfare recipients’ and a $100 million countersuit accusing the Justice Department of defamation.
Any of this sound familiar? How about now: when the suit wrapped up, the younger Trump called it a victory, claiming that the consent decree he signed was not an admission of guilt. The Times admits there’s no evidence that Donald Trump himself put in place any of the discriminatory practices (nor has any evidence of racial bias been uncovered toward prospective tenants of his luxury properties), but the real estate scion was complicit in their use within the company his father managed.
In the mid-1960s, civil rights groups began to take aim at Trump Management. A black woman named Maxine Brown who was denied an apartment in the Wilshire, a Trump-developed building in Jamaica Estates, filed a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Only after that was Brown offered an apartment in the Wilshire, where she said she was the only black tenant for a decade.
Complaints alleging discrimination and racial steering continued to be fielded against Trump Management. In 1973 the government lobbed another lawsuit at the company for violating the Fair Housing Act. Donald retained Roy Cohn, council to notorious demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy, and soon countersued the government. During the case, a former Trump superintendent testified that “multiple Trump Management employees had instructed him to attach a separate piece of paper with a big letter ‘C’ on it—for ‘colored’—to any application filed by a black apartment-seeker.”
The Trumps then filed a contempt-of-court charge. Both the countersuit and contempt-of-court charge were dismissed by the judge. The Trumps eventually signed another consent decree, and again Trump declared victory. But a few years later the government accused Trump Management of violating the decree, citing “an underlying pattern of discrimination [that] continues to exist in the Trump Management organization.”
The original consent decree expired before the Justice Department accumulated enough evidence to push forward, and by this time the population of New York City was shifting away from the white working class these discriminatory (unofficial) policies thrived under, making it harder to turn away non-white tenants.
Maxine Brown still lives in the Wilshire. Donald Trump still faces accusations of racial bias, and has expressed general apathy toward minorities.