Here is a story to file under the Republican presidential primary, celebrity, radical American politics, and affordable housing policies in New York City. The Conversation writer Will Kaufman reports that the “This Land is Your Land” folk singer Woody Guthrie lived in Federal Housing Authority–financed housing in Coney Island‘s Beach Haven. Those residences were constructed by non other than Fred Trump, Donald’s father.
Guthrie despised his landlord, the elder Trump, and wrote several ditties (a reprise of his “I Ain’t Got No Home”) about him:
Beach Haven ain’t my home! I just cain’t pay this rent! My money’s down the drain! And my soul is badly bent! Beach Haven looks like heaven Where no black ones come to roam! No, no, no! Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
Trump’s involvement with and creation of (racially exclusive) affordable Beach Haven housing for the hundreds of thousands of returning servicemen to New York after World War II is a sordid tale. Kaufman unearthed the story after going through the Guthrie archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He reports that “when the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) finally stepped in to issue federal loans and subsidies for urban apartment blocks, one of the first developers in line, with his eye on the main chance, was Fred Trump. He made a fortune not only through the construction of public housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them.”
Its a fascinating story of housing policy in New York that becomes more pointed “in the wake of Donald Trump, who says, ‘My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.’”