The Trump Files: Behold the Gigantic, Hideous Statue He Wanted to Erect In the Middle of Manhattan

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When Donald Trump bought the development rights to a big chunk of Manhattan’s West Side in 1985, his original plan was characteristically huge. The proposed development included thousands of apartments, a giant new headquarters for NBC, and what would have been the world’s tallest building, a skyscraper that the New Yorker’s Mark Singer described as “an exotically banal hundred-and-fifty-story phallus.”

None of that came to pass. Trump couldn’t get the city to back his plans—or give him the enormous tax breaks he wanted—and investors from Hong Kong eventually took over the site and made plans to build some less-Trumpian condo buildings there. But Trump, who was still a minor partner in the development, wasn’t done proposing over-the-top plans. In 1997, the year construction on the site got underway, he floated the idea of putting an enormous bronze statue of Christopher Columbus—”six feet taller than the Statue of Liberty,” the Guardian reported—by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli on “his” turf.

“It’s got forty million dollars worth of bronze in it, and Zurab would like it to be at my West Side Yards development,” he told Singer at the time. “The mayor of Moscow has written a letter to Rudy Giuliani stating that they would like to make a gift of this great work.”

This latest plan didn’t work, either, and that’s probably for the best. Tsereteli had already erected another giant statue that year, building a huge monument to Peter the Great in Moscow that was so hideous that people reportedly tried to blow it up. The Columbus statue, which Tsereteli eventually built, was also notoriously ugly. The Baltimore Sun nicknamed it “From Russia With Ugh” when some local businessman tried to plant the statue there. But Baltimore, along with New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Miami, all rejected it. It wasn’t until this month, after almost 20 years of homelessness, that the statue found a taker in Puerto Rico.

Columbus statue

Lucky Puerto Rico. Rex Features/AP

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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