Rathaven: A Story From Donald Trump’s 2727 Ocean Parkway Apartment Complex
Back in 1971, an odd encounter occurred between Richard and Paula Mendelson (my parents) and one Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.
My parents, recently married, moved into “Rathaven” in July of 1971.
Rathaven was the affectionate nickname my Dad gave to Fred Trump’s apartment complex at 2727 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York.
Not long after they settled in, my parents discovered that the apartment and the complex were infested with rats. Giant ones. The kind that makes you wonder whether or not a Japanese filmmaker encountered them in the ’50s, later inspiring those legendary monster movies.
At first, my parents tried to keep the rats at bay, but nothing worked. The super was called numerous times, and in the classic fashion of a NYC slumlord, the super did nothing and told my parents they were making the whole thing up. The monstrous beasts were simply figments of their imagination. Sort of like alligators in the sewer, Cropsey on Staten Island, or people today who say they enjoy listening to Creed without a hint of irony.
Much like the war in Vietnam, the invasion and infestation of the rats continued on through the Summer of ‘71. Mom eventually had enough. She packed her belonging and was leaving for her parent's home over on Avenue J and 57th. Before leaving, and asking my Dad to come with her, Mom put her hand on the suitcase to discover a giant rat where the suitcase handle was. A freakout of epic proportions ensued, bringing my Dad to take drastic measures. If he didn’t, who knew when they would escape from this quagmire.
At the time, my Dad was a teacher at I.S. 125X. A school located over on Pugsley Avenue in the Bronx. After work, he managed to draft a fellow history teacher to aid him in his war. Armed with blow darts, the two did battle with the rats. Others from IS 125x joined the fray, and soon war ensued between teachers from a New York City public school and wave after wave of furry terror.
The dead rats were captured and stored in a freezer for the super to see. Upon witnessing the victory of the teachers, no action was taken by the super. So the battle escalated and soon the health department joined in.
When my Dad was at work, the super entered the apartment and took the rats out of the freezer. The next day, when the health inspector showed up at Rathaven, he was accompanied by Donald J. Trump, who was placed in charge of the building by his father. Apparently, the building was a gift, and one of the first ones that the young Trump was placed in charge of. The conversation that took place between Trump and the super has been lost to history, but I like to imagine it went something like this: “They have rats in the freezer boss.” “Of course they have rats in the freezer! Look at this place! We should build a wall to … keep the … hold on. Do you have a pen?”
The health inspector, acting suspiciously (Dad believes the health inspector was being paid off by the Trumps) accused Mr. Mendelson of making up the whole story and that the complex “absolutely, positively, did not have a rat problem”. Suddenly, out of any cliched plot you’ve seen a million times on CBS, a giant rat emerged from under a radiator. The gargantuan rat looked at my Dad, then looked at the health inspector, and then finally at Trump. I like to think here the rat gazed at Trump and said, “Father?” but I wasn’t there. What I do know is that my Dad went to get his blow dart just as the rat scurried away to safety.
The health inspector then left the apartment with Trump in a hurry. Trump was audibly yelling at him. Whatever Trump said didn’t work though because the inspector, eventually, sent a copy of the citation to my Dad. Armed with the citation, Dad went to his Uncle Jack Hershkowitz (the famed Amalgamated Clothing lawyer who marched with Doctor King for civil rights and roomed with John F. Kennedy in Cambridge while they both attended Harvard.)
Uncle Jack sent Trump a letter to Trump saying that my parents were going to break the lease. Donald Trump responded in exactly the way you think he did.
Soon more calls were exchanged between Trump and Uncle Jack, each more heated than the next, which lead to Uncle Jack threatening to sue Trump to break the lease. Trump, when told about the threat of the lawsuit, said to Uncle Jack, “You can’t sue us, we’re an empire!” Now, you should know, this line has become a Mendelson family joke for decades now. Whenever someone in the family gets upset at someone else in the family, and they argue, one of them will always stop the argument by saying, “You can’t sue us! We’re an empire!”
But here’s the crux of the matter, and why you’re reading this in the first place: After Trump said his hilariously dumb line, he then followed it up by sending a letter to my parents, threatening to sue them if they did not pay him $10 for a toilet seat. A toilet seat that had mysteriously been broken long after my parents left the apartment.
I’d like to think Trump went in there personally and broke the seat. I’d also like to think that’s the kind of thing he’d do today to people who didn’t vote for him. Like he’d just barge into their house, rip their toilet seat off its hinges, and hurl it out their window like a frisbee. All the while shouting, “This is what happens when you fight a stranger in the alps!” But who knows what he does in his spare time. The point is, he filed suit over the toilet seat. I have been trying to track down this documentation from the Brooklyn court system for years so that I can print it and frame it on my wall.
So yes, you heard that right: The president of the United States sued my Mom and Dad over a toilet seat. And that’s going to never stop being funny.
Ultimately, my parents paid Trump for the toilet seat. But much like the actual war in Vietnam, the battle between the Mendelson family and Donald Trump quietly came to an end after that, with neither side scoring a complete victory over the other. Trump went on to be president. And my parents?
Well as far as my parents go, it wasn’t smooth sailing after leaving Rathaven. They moved into an apartment in Port Chester later in ’72, wherein just below them, a noted mobster lived.
And wouldn’t you know it, but one night the police came for that mobster and a gunfight ensued, riddling my parent’s kitchen floor with bullet holes.
If there is a Jewish Forest Gump, it would be my Dad, but he doesn’t want to tell too many of his stories since he’s afraid of losing his pension. So, I’m glad I was able to share this one with you.
P.S. We also have photos of Rudy Guliani, while mayor, shoving one of my Dad’s students to get them to go faster down the stairs so Rudy can get in front of the cameras. The occasion? Dad and the students were going to ride a parade float with Rudy and the astronaut and future senator, John Glenn, down the Canyon of Heroes. Rudy wanted nothing to do with the middle school students until the cameras were nearby, and when they went on, he would shout at his team, “Get those damn kids over here.” Classic Rudy.