Hillary Clinton fires up Atlantic City, a hotbed of anger against Donald Trump

Clinton rallies crowds outside abandoned Trump Plaza on the boardwalk, where residents are still reeling from the citys devastated casino industry

The way Donald Trump tells it, his ventures in Atlantic City were wild successes. An outsider real estate developer from New York, he clawed his way to the top of this resort towns gambling industry and then, with remarkable prowess and foresight, left before it all came crumbling down.

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, speaking in view of the most recent casualty of Trumps boardwalk empire, Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014, told it another way.

What Donald Trump did in Atlantic City is nothing to brag about its shameful and every voter in America needs to know about it, Clinton told the crowd gathered on the boardwalk in the sweltering summer heat.

Clinton pointed to the casino, where garish red curtains still dress the windows and black boards cover the spot where red block letters once spelled out the name Trump Plaza.

Donald Trump once predicted: It will be the biggest hit yet, Clinton said sardonically. Now its abandoned.

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which Trump opened in 1984, proved an obvious backdrop for Clinton to make her essential argument against the New York real estate developer: that he is singularly and above all else focused on improving himself and his business and that his next big venture, should the voters let it happen, is America.

Remember what he promised: Im going to do for the country what I did for my business, Clinton said, as the crowd responded with boos. Well, we should believe him and make sure he never has the chance to bankrupt America the way he bankrupted his businesses.

In a statement released while Clinton spoke, Trump boasted that he had built a tremendously successful business in Atlantic City and defended his strategies.

Out of the hundreds of businesses I have owned over the decades, and hundreds of deals and transactions, I have used the chapter laws of our country in four instances, much as many of our countrys elite business people do (but nobody cares about), Trump wrote. It is an effective and commonly used practice in business to use bankruptcy proceedings to restructure a business and ultimately save jobs. Nobody understands the economy like I do and no one, especially not Crooked Hillary Clinton, will do more for the economy than I will.

Striking workers protest in front of the Trump Taj Mahal after Hillary Clinton spoke nearby in Atlantic City. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/EPA

Elaine Shantz, who lives just a few miles from Atlantic City, said few residents here have fond associations with the Trump brand.

You can walk into any little barber shop, hairdresser, physical therapy office, the little shops around here, youll get a sense of the real tenor for how people feel about Donald Trump, Shantz said before Clinton took the stage. Somebody was affected, wasnt paid or knew somebody that wasnt paid when he filed his bankruptcy. He came out OK and the little guy never got paid.

Shantz, who is supporting Clinton, said she used to work for a bankruptcy attorney who represented people who she said had not been paid or had been laid off by Trump.

It was awful, just horrible what these people went through, she said. I saw it first hand.

Also in the crowd was Janet Knudson, of Neptune, New Jersey. Knudson lives in a house divided: she supports Clinton while her husband supports Trump.

My husband is totally fed up, she said. Were middle income, living paycheck-to-paycheck and were getting near retirement and were not seeing any recourse except to keep working so that we can afford healthcare.

Knudson is skeptical of Trumps braggadocio and has doubts that he can deliver on all that he has promised. Standing in the shadow of Trump Plaza, she gestures at the boarded up casino as if to make her point. So thats why Im for Hillary.

Mayra Gonzalez has worked for Trump Taj Mahal casino since it opened by Trump in April 1990 and is at a loss to explain why Americans want to see her former boss in the Oval Office. (Trump has had no involvement with the company since 2009 and the casino is now owned by investor Carl Icahn.)

Its a mystery to me. Im baffled. Why? Gonzalez said. If he runs the country like he runs his businesses, people are in for a big surprise and not in a good way.

UNITE HERE Local 54 (@UHLocal54) July 6, 2016

.@HillaryClinton stopped by the picket at Trump Taj Mahal, & workers on strike chanted #NoContractNoPeace #uniteAC pic.twitter.com/KkS6NJLjNV

Gonzalez, a garde manger chef, is among the roughly 1,000 of the resorts cooks, housekeepers and servers on strike who walked off the job on Friday, demanding higher wages and a reinstatement of certain health and pension benefits that were cut during the 2014 bankruptcy proceedings. Their union, Unite Here Local 54, has been marching continuously in front of the Taj Mahal since then.

We gave up so much back then when the city was in trouble, she said. We sacrificed a lot and now its time to get some of that back.

Dozens of workers and union members, wearing matching red shirts, attended Clintons speech. After she finished, Clinton reappeared outside the Taj at the eastern end of the boardwalk to greet the protesters whom she said in her speech we should all support.

Trumps boardwalk empire

Supporters of Hillary Clinton arrive before Clinton speaks near the closed Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/EPA

On 16 September 2014, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino closed its doors, another devastating blow to the seaside citys devastated casino industry. Now a hollowed out casino with cloudy windows, a faint etching of the letters TRUMP is the only remnant of its former prestige.

Not far away is the Golden Nugget, which opened in 1987 as Trump Castle and was later renamed Trump Marina Hotel Casino. The casino was sold at a major loss in 2011.

The last remnant of Trumps casino triumvirate is the Taj Mahal, a taffy-colored homage to Indias world wonder that the developer once hailed as the eighth wonder of the world. Though Trump has not been involved with the casino for several years, it still bears his name. After going through a bankruptcy in 2014, Taj was bought by billionaire Icahn, a supporter of the developers presidential bid.

Yes, thats the Trump building, a father said to his young son as they passed the Taj Mahal on Tuesday night. He could be our president. Daddy hopes not.

For years, Atlantic City has been fought decline and decay. When Trump Plaza closed, it was the fourth casino to do so that year. The city, once a premier destination for gambling in the north-eastern corridor, has been forced into competition with other states in the region that have added casinos as a way of keeping gamblers and their money at home. Trump likes to say that he had the good sense sense to see the writing on the wall and exited the city with impeccable timing.

On Twitter on Wednesday he boasted: I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and left 7 years ago. Great timing (as all know). Yet Clinton cited multiple investigations that found his businesses were failing well before the city began to slip.

On the campaign trail, Trump often boasts of his business acumen and peppers his speech with promises to make America wealthy again as he has done his businesses. But multiple media investigations into Trumps ventures in Atlantic City have found that beneath the veneer of success is a tangle of bankruptcies, bad-faith dealings, layoffs and lost profits.

A USA Today investigation found that payments to at least 253 subcontractors involved with Trumps Taj Mahal casino were not paid in full or on time.

Among them was Marty Rosenberg, formerly a vice-president at Atlantic Plate Glass, a New Jersey company that was contracted by Trump Taj Mahal to install floor-to-ceiling curtain walls of glass. Introducing Clinton in Atlantic City, Rosenberg recounted his painful experience of fighting to be paid by Trump.

Supporters shout as Hillary Clinton speaks on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Photograph: Mel Evans/AP

In the end, the glass company, which Trump would owe more than $1m, was never paid in full for the work they did, Rosenberg said, explaining why he would never support the real estate developer for president.

The only thing that her opponent brings to the table is self-aggrandization, a bigoted agenda, a questionable net worth, a failed university and some self-branded steaks, Rosenberg said.

Like Rosenberg, Beth Rossers Pennsylvania-based family business was hired to install the toilet partitions at the Taj. Through decades have passed and the company eventually regained its footing, she still has a visceral reaction to his name.

Rosser, who now co-owns Triad Building Specialities, said she was with her son shopping for formal attire for him to wear to a school dance. When they got to the register he placed a tie on the counter. She noticed the brand.

I shouted: Put that back! And he looked at me like I was crazy. Its just a $20 tie. But its the principle of it, Rosser said. I wont buy anything with his name on it.

Rosser said she was alarmed that Trump had been successful at targeting people like her father, Forest Jenkins, whom she described as a blue-collar worker from working-class part of the state.

Those people that worked on the Trump tower were hard working, small business people, he had no regard for them, said Rosser, who intends to vote for Clinton in November. How could he say hell lift them up given what hes done to people like them in the past.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/06/donald-trump-atlantic-city-hillary-clinton

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