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Small says no Trump Plaza implosion auction, but Icahn will donate $175,000
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Small says no Trump Plaza implosion auction, but Icahn will donate $175,000

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Demolition of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino

Demolition continues Thursday on the former Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.

A fundraising auction for the right to push the button to implode the former Trump Plaza was called off Monday, a decision that briefly jeopardized a $175,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.

But billionaire investor and building owner Carl Icahn, agreed to make the donation from his own pocket, Mayor Marty Small Sr. said.

Icahn said allowing a winning bidder to blow up the plaza created some safety issues.

“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear we did not want to participate in any way,” an Icahn spokesperson said in a statement.

“We agree that public health and safety are the most important things in getting the building down,” Small said. “We do appreciate Mr. Icahn’s generous donation. We couldn’t be happier.”

Small said it is important for the city to have a good working relationship with Icahn and Icahn Enterprises going forward.

“When the building is ultimately demolished — we will announce the date Thursday at a press conference — we will switch over to how to work together and get something fascinating developed right in the heart of the city,” Small said.

In a statement Sunday evening, Bodnar’s Auction Sales, which was organizing the fundraiser with the city and the Boys and Girls Club, announced the cancellation of the sale due to a dispute with Icahn’s company.

“We are extremely saddened that we must now take down Tuesday’s sale. The high bid was at $175,000 and that money would have greatly benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City at a time when it is needed most. We are now attempting to help get the word out to help the Boys and Girls Club get as many donations as possible,” said Joseph Bodnar in a statement on Sunday night.

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Boys and Girls Club CEO Stephanie Koch said Monday afternoon that she could not comment on any possible donation because the club had not yet been contacted by Icahn or his company about the latest development. But earlier in the day, she talked about how important that money was to the nonprofit, and how losing it would be a great blow as it struggles to help city families cope with virtual schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we embark on our 50th year of service ... we are standing strong, recognizing that our community is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic in the country,” Koch said, referring the the region’s unemployment rate that has remained among the highest in the United States during the epidemic.

She said the club served the city’s youth virtually last spring, opened for in-person summer camp over the summer and stayed open for in-person programs this school year.

“Whereas the club was an afterschool program previously, we are now open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., providing a safe space for children to attend virtual school with academic supports and nutritious meals, as well as continuing to offer the premier youth development programs we are known for,” Koch said.

The group’s three sites are serving about 2,500 children a year, she said.

After Icahn finally submitted plans this summer to demolish the dilapidated structure that meets visitors as they enter the city from the Atlantic City Expressway, an idea to bid off the implosion as a boon to the local charity was hatched. But apparently it was done without support of the building’s owner.

Bodnar said that shortly after announcing the sale, attorneys for IEP AC Plaza, LLC, a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, sent a letter to the parties involved stating the company did not agree with the auction and did not want to participate or help facilitate it, citing safety issues.

“After exhausting every avenue to bring the parties together to make this exciting event happen, we received the final decision from IEP AC Plaza LLC that we must cease and desist,” Bodnar wrote.

President Donald Trump, then a real estate developer, opened the property in 1984 at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway.

Trump cut most ties with the property in 2009, aside from a 10% fee for the use of his name on three of Atlantic City’s casinos for a time. That stake ended when Icahn bought them out of bankruptcy court in 2016.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7251

CLowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

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Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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