When I was growing up in the 1960s, my family had a summer bungalow on the New Jersey shore near Atlantic City and we’d go there to stroll the boardwalk, play pinball on machines that had been in service since the 1920s, and see concerts at Steel Pier.
I got to see Diana Ross and the Supremes and Tiny Tim, on separate bills, in a crumbling city that by that point was known more for its salt-water taffy than its sumptuous high life — far past the heights of its early 20th-century glory.
Atlantic City tried to recover those glories in the 1980s by attempting to transform itself into the Las Vegas of the East by allowing casino gambling, with Trump Plaza among the most prominent new projects built as part of the rejuvenation plans.
Atlantic City’s roll of the dice on gambling as the solution to its revival didn’t quite work out as was originally envisioned as competition from Native American-run casinos on the East Coast cut into its exclusivity as a haven for eager wagerers.
Hence, the ability of Donald Trump to turn the traditional house advantage of a casino into the source of multiple bankruptcies.
The slow deterioration of Trump Plaza over the years reached an explosive end this morning when 3,000 sticks of dynamite were ignited to bring the edifice imploding down upon itself, leaving only a pile of dusty rubble.
Trump Plaza tower comes tumbling down with a blasting Atlantic City this morning a few minutes after 9 am pic.twitter.com/x7pDz69wDn
— Carol Comegno (@CarolComegno) February 17, 2021
The demolition took place despite the failure of an auction to award the right to flick the switch to blow the structure to smithereens to the highest bidder.
Instead, as The New York Times reported:
“Front-row seats to view Wednesday morning’s spectacle were sold on the cheap. Onlookers in cars hoping to witness the symbolic finale of the former president’s casino empire in the seaside resort city were charged $10 and herded into a lot most recently used as a pandemic-era food distribution site.”
The crowd cheered as a building tied to the fortunes of the 45th president suffered a fate similar to his own electoral trajectory in the 2020 presidential contest.
“’It’s an end of a not-so-great era,’ said Jennifer Owen, 50, who bid $575 to win a front-row seat at a V.I.P. breakfast in an oceanfront pavilion with a direct view of the implosion,” The Times related.
“Ms. Owen, who lived in Atlantic City for decades before moving two years ago to Rochester, N.Y., said she was not a fan of Mr. Trump and was eager to say goodbye to the skyscraper that once bore his name.”
“’It’s symbolic for sure,’ she said. ‘Him. Everything ending.’”
While some of the locals involved in the construction of the edifice — or who once worked in its gilded halls — found the occasion to be bittersweet with all their entangled memories, the city’s Democratic Mayor, Marty Small, found the experience to be the apotheosis of a Trump-era that played out in their small city long before his malfeasance affected the entire nation.
“This is not about President Trump, because, quite frankly, the people of the city of Atlantic City knew how the presidency was going to play out on a national stage because we’re one of the cities that knew him best,” Mr. Small said after the implosion.
While the implosion of Trump Plaza was over in seconds, the resultant rubble pile — towering over 70 feet high — will take months to clear — just another task of cleaning up after Donald Trump’s screwups that our nation must endure to actually make America great again.
Original reporting by Tracey Tully at The New York Times.
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