ATLANTIC CITY — One of Atlantic City’s most iconic symbols of the ruined Trump casino empire, Trump Plaza, has been shedding chunks of its tower, endangering passersby on the Boardwalk, and must be demolished, city officials said Thursday.
The crumbling former casino, now owned by billionaire Carl C. Icahn, has been an eyesore — and occasional political backdrop — since it shut down in 2014.
Mayor Marty Small Sr. announced Thursday that the city was going to court to force Icahn to demolish the white tower that once was the centerpiece of Donald Trump’s Atlantic City holdings.
“A part of my vision is to have a clean city and a safe city,” Small said in a news conference at Boardwalk Hall, held there because “we didn’t feel safe enough to stand near Trump Plaza.”
“Right now, Trump Plaza isn’t clean or safe.”
Small said the city had video that showed chunks of the building’s stucco and concrete facade falling down onto Columbia Avenue minutes before thousands of people arrived for an event last Saturday at Boardwalk Hall. City Licensing and Inspections chief Dale Finch called the building an “imminent hazard.”
“We could have had a fatality,” Small said. “Things will not be tolerated in the city of Atlantic City.”
There was no immediate response from Icahn.
The building, which opened in 1984, no longer has Trump’s name on it, besides the outlines of “MP PLA” and part of "Z" visible on the black Boardwalk facade.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton used it as a backdrop for a political rally.
City officials, including the head of Licensing and Inspections and the fire chief, said Thursday that they had identified five large holes in the tower using a drone, and breaches in the seams of the building, where water is destabilizing the tower. They said debris regularly falls from the building, including onto the Boardwalk.
“Today we’re saying to Carl Icahn, we want this building torn down,” Small said. “We are negotiating in good faith. But it changes when we have to dispatch emergency police and personnel 24 hours a day around the building.”
“When it opened, it was a state-of-the-art high-rise,” Fire Chief Scott Evans said. “We were very proud of it at the time. That’s no longer the case now. The maintenance has pretty much disappeared.”
Evans showed pictures of the side of the building, between the 15th and 19th floor, with large holes in the facade and seams that he said are separating. Up by the penthouse, he said, soffits are falling down in pieces, leaving debris around the building.
Steve Perskie, an adviser to the mayor and former Superior Court judge, said the city does not have the power to tear the building down itself. Condemning it would be cost-prohibitive, he said.
The city said it was asking a Superior Court judge to order Icahn to tear down the building immediately.
Small said Icahn agrees it should be torn down, but the city and Icahn disagree on what should replace it, and if it ends up being a parking facility, on who should get the revenue. Icahn also wants to use $5 million in so-called IAT money, a 1.5 percent tax on casinos that is supposed to be used for Atlantic City redevelopment.
The cost of demolition is estimated by Icahn to be $14 million.