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Drilling down: The case of my father vs. Donald Trump 

BY KATHRYN ADISMAN | When the jury in the defamation lawsuit awards E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million, my half-sister comments, “A sweeping victory for all of Trump’s victims — be they women or men.”

Like our father.

The untold story

Donald Trump has been on my radar since 1987, the year our father was evicted from his office by “that two-bit punk from Queens,” to borrow a phrase from Dad. I wonder what he’d say if he knew the punk became POTUS?

Dr. I. Kenneth Adisman, who grew up during the Great Depression, son of an immigrant, embodied the American Dream. His father, Joseph Adisman, “coming to America” from Ukraine, was a musician who became a dental lab technician. He played horn in the Lower East Side orchestra and took his son to the Russian baths. My parents were living in Stuyvesant Town when Dad made the giant leap, moving his office from 1 Union Square to 100 Central Park South.

Two Trump-owned buildings, 100 Central Park South, the Trump Parc East, center — in which the writer’s dentist father had his office — and the adjoining Trump Parc, to the right of it, both with sidewalk sheds up in 2021. (Photo by Kathryn Adisman)

As a child I was told, “Your father is famous in his field.” In “Who’s Who in America” (pre-Wikipedia!), he was listed as professor emeritus of N.Y.U.; editor of The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry — in the field of maxillofacial prosthodontics. A dentist — ugh! Dad said he wanted to be a forest ranger but he got poison ivy. His 10th-floor office overlooking Central Park was a throwback to the days of the solitary practitioner. A prominent specialist who maintained a successful private practice for more than 30 years, he was at the top of his field when it got swept away like a magic trick by “the punk.”

Smoke and mirrors

In 1981, 35-year-old Donald Trump bought the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel and an adjoining 14-story building, 100 Central Park South, with a plan to raze both and erect a condo — as he’d done in 1980, tearing down Bonwit Teller on Fifth Avenue to build Trump Tower. There was just one hitch: The 14-story apartment building was occupied by rent-regulated tenants.

In order to vacate the building, Trump “mounted a campaign of harassment,” offering — out of the goodness of his heart — to house homeless people at 100 Central Park South.

His transparent fakery didn’t fool New York. The city rejected Trump’s offer to turn the building into what New York Times columnist Sydney Schanberg jokingly called the “Trump Chateau for the Indigent.”

(Photo by Kathryn Adisman)

In 1987, Schanberg wrote, “Trump has the kind of instincts that are perfect for the age we live in — the age of stage smoke and magic mirrors.”

“But it remains a defining moment that shows his character,” wrote Village Voice journalist Wayne Barrett of the Central Park South scheme.

The battle of the ’80s

Tenants fought back in a lawsuit that dragged on years. In 1986, Trump gave up his plan to tear down the building.

“It means that we have won,” said David Rozenholc, the attorney for the 60 tenants. “He is trying to take a defeat and make it into a victory.” Sound familiar? The building is still standing, turned condo and called the Trump Parc East.

The writer and Zippy, sometime in the 1950s. (Courtesy Kathryn Adisman)

Dad was on his own, waiting for the ax to fall. It fell with a court order of eviction Oct. 31, 1987. Happy Halloween!

That day I showed up to help him move out. It’s my building, too, scene of my Sunday play dates with “Daddy Ken” after my parents’ divorce, when he rented a “bachelor pad” — our headquarters for wandering the wonderland of 1950s Manhattan. My lost landmarks: FAO Schwartz, Rumpelmayer’s, Mayflower Coffee Shop, the former New York Coliseum convention center at Columbus Circle.

“Forget it!” Dad said. He was 68. I could not forget. I kept a scrapbook on Trump, like I did with my teen heartthrobs — only this was no Modern Screen magazine lovefest.

The writer in happier days before Trump evicted her dad, destroying his dental practice. (Courtesy Kathryn Adisman)

“I have a personal vendetta against Donald Trump,” the heroine of my revenge tragedy declares. The ghost of her father commands: “Avenge me on mine enemy, the notorious criminal, Donald Trump!” Following in Hamlet’s footsteps, the dentist’s daughter swears to avenge her father.

“The Art of the Deal,” the 1987 bestseller that made Donald Trump a national name, spins the tale of Central Park South into a win. In a 2016 New Yorker interview, ghost writer Tony Schwartz expresses remorse for creating the myth of Trump and tries to warn America: “Lying is second nature to him. Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying…is true.”

The art of the con

Trump’s appeal is the appeal of the conman. America has always been a sucker for the con — the carney — P.T. Barnum! It’s an American tradition. But there’s a difference between Coney Island and Trump Taj Mahal. The funhouse mirror of success collapses in bankruptcy. Thanks to “President Trump” (two words that don’t belong together in the same sentence, let alone reality!), we lost Roe v. Wade.

Coincidentally, Schanberg and Barrett dropped dead on the eves of the Republican candidate’s nomination and inauguration, respectively (July, 9, 2016 and Jan. 19, 2017), as if the reality of a Trump presidency was too much to bear.

After the ruling in the civil fraud case orders Trump to pay $355 million (plus interest), son Eric, who lives in Trump Parc East, complains, “My father built a skyline of New York City… .” I remember New York before Trump.

From its building’s Art Deco ornaments — that Donald Trump promised to save but did not — to its iconic shopping bags, Bonwit Teller was an iconic Fifth Avenue department store.

Once upon a time, Bonwit Teller, the flagship Fifth Avenue department store, the essence of elegance epitomized by its signature shopping bag, was destroyed to pave the way for Trump Tower.

Like father, like son

In 1966, Donald’s dad, Fred C. Trump, staged a demolition “party” to shatter the glass pavilion of Steeplechase Park before it could be landmarked, marking the decline of Coney Island.

In 1980, Donald, in a rush to raze the Art Deco landmark of Bonwit Teller, “jackhammers to bits” the building’s limestone reliefs — artifacts he promised to donate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — then poses as John Baron, a fictional appraiser, played by Trump himself, who declares them of no value. Donald “This is New York” Trump plunders and plugs his barren brand… . Not only my father, but the city suffered.

“Google ‘Trump Bonwit Teller!'”

That’s what Tina Fey yells on SNL’s Weekend Update, during a 2017 sendup of then-President Trump’s hypocritical defense of Confederate monuments versus his destruction of New York City landmarks.

Postscript Coney Island

Dick Zigun, the unelected, permanent Mayor of Coney Island, remembers Fred C. (short for Christ) Trump at chamber of commerce meetings in the late ’80s, offering — out of the goodness of his heart — to demolish the Parachute Jump, which he called “a rusty piece of s—.” Zigun denounces him as “the antichrist of Coney Island.” Ironically, Donald in his latest role, plays a Bible salesman.

In the end, Dad sells his practice — without the address — to a husband and wife start-up. He moves out of the city, to be with his wife in Durham, North Carolina, where he continues working as a consultant at the University of North Carolina. (“Who, me? Retire?”)

But he lost Manhattan to the “punk from Queens.” He was exiled from his hometown, returning only as a visitor, when he’d comment on the strange new phenomenon of young people walking heads down, staring at a handheld screen. A product of the 20th century, he finally “comes home” at the dawn of a new century, one and a half years before 9/11.

“Sadly, the American Dream is dead!” the reality TV star, our future president, proclaimed, while declaring his candidacy from Trump Tower in June 2015.

Showdown at the Plaza

What’s Dad doing in the Plaza Hotel lobby, a block from his old building, smoking a pipe like Sherlock Holmes and pretending to be reading the newspaper? Soon after my father’s eviction, in March 1988, Trump bought the Plaza, which he compared to owning the “Mona Lisa” (“grabbing the pussy” of Manhattan) and one day, Dad spied him with his retinue and considered confronting him… .

“Do you know who I am?” Dr. Adisman, former college football hero, no slouch in the looks department, said as he pulled himself up to his full 6-foot-1-inch stature, only to slump back down in the lobby armchair: “He didn’t know me from Adam.”

What’s more, he didn’t care. Substitute America for my father. Today Trump’s on trial for multiple crimes…yet he’s still a candidate? Where’s the justice?

In my version of the story, the dentist’s daughter keeps her vow to avenge her father and help save America by exposing and shaming that “two-bit punk from Queens.”


  1. Arthur G Gatti Arthur G Gatti May 30, 2024

    Great artical and one that I will be copying and sending to the four corners of the land. Through one of my friends, it will get to DeNiro — who’ll love the shit out of it!

    • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 31, 2024

      WOW! Arthur, It’s almost like you answered my prayers. I was listening to De Niro yesterday. He’s a born New Yorker, like me! And he said: It’s now or never! We got an opportunity to stop this guy and we must! By all means, pass it on! Thank YOU! Thanks goes to Lincoln Anderson, editor/publisher of The Village Sun, which won SIX NYPA awards this year, with good reason!

  2. George.G George.G May 29, 2024

    Excellent story. Charm, wit. Thanks!
    George G.

    • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 31, 2024

      Thank you, George G. I’m glad it came across to someone who doesn’t know me. Much appreciated! KA

  3. Arnold Meisner Arnold Meisner May 29, 2024

    Kathryn, a beautifully well-written personal remembrance of a slice of New York City much as I remember it. It was my neighborhood too. It was a personal memoir without being fraught with the bile or venom that Mr. DiLauro suggests. I, for one, who grew up in the neighborhood of Central Park South-Columbus Circle, reflect fondly of what used to be before the “Vulture Vandalism” of Donald Trump.

    • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 31, 2024

      Thank you, Arnold, for your moving comment. It was a neighborhood that meant more to me looking back than I knew at the time. In January 2002 I subwayed uptown in the last weeks of Coliseum Books without connecting it to my father’s old neighborhood. It was almost like a muscle memory kicked in. The bookstore closing was like a continuation of that cultural “vandalism” you could say started with Trump.

  4. Nina Nina May 28, 2024

    Thank you for reminding readers of one of the multitude of despicable episodes in the history of the former guy from Queens.

  5. Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 27, 2024

    Author’s note: Far from being a “fanciful screed” – this article was meticulously researched and organized, based on facts that reveal a pattern. If it was “a bit fraught” – that makes sense, given I’m writing about my father’s fate at the hands of Trump. The editor changed my ending, which invoked a fictional detective confronting Trump in a famous bluff scene. It’s a sad commentary on our culture where criminal behavior gets a pass, but pointing it out is shut down. If I were to change the last paragraph, I would be simple and straightforward:
    ‘The dentist’s daughter keeps her vow to avenge her father by exposing our former President as a shameless “punk” who played America for a sucker.’ Alas, that’s not a “fanciful screed.”

    • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | May 28, 2024

      Kathryn, you had Dirty Harry pointing a .44 Magnum at Trump and threatening him, “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do yah?”

      • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 28, 2024

        The joke is gun wasn’t loaded. So, it’s not a real threat. The point was to trick him — as Trump tricked us. Trump played America for a sucker!

      • Sharyn Brown Sharyn Brown May 29, 2024

        K, I recall this fight vigorously as I was in a rent-stabilized tenement from which the landlords were trying to evict the tenants. They practically razed the building while we stayed in it, breathing in asbestos and going without stoves as they had disconnected the gas lines. We ended up in court with the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a nonprofit which helped tenants like us who could not afford lawyers. We ended up winning back rent for lack of services. It was told to us that this was a rare victory as tenants normally lose in Housing Court. Many of us kept a keen eye on what Trump was doing with your dad’s building on Central Park South. It seemed that there was a wave of attempts by landlords to make buildings convert to co-ops at the time.
        Every June we are forced to reckon with the Rent Guidelines Board and their inevitable rent increases. NYC is bought and sold every year.
        I am sorry to hear of what happened to your father. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Trump has been and always will be a malignant, narcissistic monster. Look around. They rule this planet and have ruled for millennia. And so it goes.

        • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 29, 2024

          Sharyn, Thank you for sharing your experience of renting in NYC. In doing research for this story, I learned that Donald Trump miscalculated when he attempted to evict rent-regulated tenants because he just didn’t understand Manhattan residents’ perspective. I chose not to focus on the tenants’ lawsuit because my father wasn’t part of it, but his story as the son of an immigrant whose success was robbed by Trump has never been told. And you are correct: Trump won’t change his consistent pattern of abuse unless we stop him. More than my father’s practice is at stake.

  6. Ron Kolm Ron Kolm May 21, 2024

    Wonderful piece of writing! Thank you for setting the record straight! Kathryn Adisman, we are all so grateful to you, and to Lincoln Andersen for publishing it!

    • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 22, 2024

      Thanks so much, Ron Kolm. That means a lot coming from you. I agree Lincoln Anderson is an outstanding editor who does Good Work in our World! I just wanted to be the hero who stands up to Trump at the end in the guise of Dirty Harry with his iconic line: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” But I think Biden stole my thunder with his “Make my day!” But it’s so much more contemporary when a woman says it! Onward!

  7. Stephen DiLauro Stephen DiLauro May 21, 2024

    Dr. I. Kenneth Adisman died in the year 2000 (R.I.P.,), long before anyone was “walking around looking down at screens.” The first iPhone debuted in 2007.

    This piece is a bit fraught. Most of the legal cases against the former president – which seem to me, a non-Trump voter twice, to be political show trials – are falling apart.
    Yes. He is running for president. He might very well win, too.

    Is this writer expecting people to take her fanciful screed seriously? I don’t.

    • Kathryn Adismsn Kathryn Adismsn May 22, 2024

      In fact, my father did remark to me in the late ‘90s when he visited NYC that he observed young people walking heads down staring at something in their hands. He was curious bc he hadn’t seen anything like it in Durham, NC, and it struck me at the time that he was mystified by this strange phenomenon.

    • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 22, 2024

      PS, You are correct that it wasn’t an iPhone but long before iPhones debuted .. there were Blackberry, Nokia, flip phones, etc. My father had never seen young people walking heads down before! That’s what he was remarking on. Thanks for your comment.

    • Arthur G Gatti Arthur G Gatti May 30, 2024

      Yes, Steven, “show trials” — but only insofar that they SHOW everyone the person he is. The charges are real.

      • Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 31, 2024

        Nicely put. The jury has spoken, and they came to the same conclusion I did of a consistent pattern. When we speak of sleazy NYC landlords, one thing I think you’ll find unique to Trump is his imaginative strategy of offering to house homeless people in the residence he wants to vacate.

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