A new report from The Daily Beast is drawing attention to a not-so-new story about Donald Trump, corrupt politicians, and sewage.
In the early 1990s, Donald Trump proposed a plan to build high-density residential apartments and other mixed-use buildings along the Hudson river where he had owned 57 acres of land for the last two decades. Local politicians and activists, including and especially Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger, strongly opposed the development for a whole host of reasons, but at the forefront was an argument about sewage.
At the time, all of Manhattan’s sewage was treated at a plant in Harlem, which was already overrun with waste. The treatment plant was designed with a capacity to process 170 million gallons of sewage each day; it was already inundated with over 200 million gallons. In 1992, Messinger wrote a letter to the city’s environmental commissioner saying a “host of experts” agreed that Trump’s project should not be green-lighted “unless there is sustainable, reliable, and certain commitment to mitigate the anticipated sewage flows.” She later testified that there was “no justification” for any claims that the existing sewage plant would be able to process the waste from the 5,700 new apartments in Trump’s proposal.
Suddenly, weekly sewage reports started showing 24 million gallons less waste flowing into the sewage treatment plant in Harlem. This fact grabbed the attention of civil engineer Rich Herschlag, who began tracking the weekly reports. Sure enough, the official sewage flow meter readings stayed the same day-to-day, regardless of holidays, rain, or other events that would usually cause a spike in sewage.
The United States Attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White, launched an investigation into the missing sewage. Herschlag began searching for how and why the reports were being manipulated, but was silenced. Ruth Messinger ran for Mayor, reversing her position on Trump’s new development now that sewage was no longer an issue.
In 1995, a Village Voice reporter exposed Messinger and Trump for working together to manipulate sewage reports. According to the Voice, “Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger has suppressed her top environmental staffs recent technical findings on Donald Trump’s 5,700-unit Riverside South project, drastically altered a key element of her own prior public posture, and ignored violations; albeit minor ones, of a memorandum of understanding with Trump that she negotiated and signed herself.”
Regardless of the report, the sewage reports stayed inaccurate, and Trump was able to flip the property, which he sold to Hong Kong investors in 1997.
(via The Daily Beast)