Normally us little people are mere speed bumps to the Donald, dupes and losers to be tricked and intimidated. Victims of his Trump University scam are an obviously example. It sure feels good on the rare occasion when one of the little people wins:
Among civil-libertarian Trumpologists, Vera Coking has become something of a folk hero. As outlined by the Washington Post‘s Manuel Roig-Franzia and the Institute for Justice (whose lawyers represented Coking), in the 1990s, Coking was a then-septuagenarian widow and proud owner of a three-story boarding house in Atlantic City, where she’d lived since 1961.
As casino developers circled, her house became vulture bait. In the ’80s, Penthouse’s Bob Guccione offered her $1 million to sell so he could throw up a casino on her land. Coking passed. So Guccione began building around her, going so far as to construct skeletal beams over her roof. But in the middle of construction, his project went bust.
Trump swooped in, having bought Guccione’s remains, seeking to enlarge his casino empire with the Trump Plaza (now closed). He too made a play for her land, desiring to turn it into a waiting area for limousines. … She still stubbornly refused.
So Trump went to work around her, dismantling Guccione’s unfinished construction. And while Trump has aggressively disparaged the condition of her house, as though that justifies trying to take it, Coking’s lawyers charged that demolition crews had started a fire on her roof, broken windows, removed her fire escape, and “nearly destroyed the entire third story of her home by dropping concrete blocks through the roof.” Coking still refused to sell.
Enter the city’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a highfalutin’ name for an eminent domain operation, working in cahoots with Trump to remove Coking’s house from her possession. In 1994, the casino authority made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: They would give her $251,250 for her house (750 grand less than what Guccione had offered a decade prior). And if she didn’t accept within 30 days, they’d take her to court to snatch her land through eminent domain.
Coking and the city ended up duking it out in court, Trump throwing in with the casino authority. But after years of wrangling, in 1998, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in Coking’s favor, shutting Trump and Co. down. Trump, who has repeatedly expressed rapturous support for eminent domain, claiming it’s necessary to build roads and schools (if not limousine parking lots at casinos), called Coking’s house “a tremendous blight on Atlantic City.”
The brassy widow, for her part, called Trump “a maggot, a cockroach, and a crumb.”
Unfortunately, not everyone has been blessed with Vera Coking’s capacity for incisive character analysis.