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Could St. John’s Staten Island campus be transformed into Donald Trump’s presidential library?

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The next chapter of St. John’s University Staten Island campus has yet to be written, but two lawyers want it to read like a tribute to former President Donald Trump.

Some may know attorneys Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino of F&G Legal Group in Graniteville for their work representing various restaurant and small business owners throughout the pandemic, such as Mac’s Public House’s general manager, Daniel Presti. They also led the lawsuit filed against New York City over its coronavirus vaccine mandate, which argued the policy infringed on citizens’ rights.

Fonte and Gelormino penned a letter to former President Donald Trump this week, proposing that he consider establishing his presidential library and museum on the St. John’s Grymes Hill campus, which will close following the spring 2024 semester due to low enrollment at the Staten Island campus.

“We are writing to you today to request that you seriously entertain the concept of utilizing this magnificent setting for your Presidential Library and Museum,” Fonte and Gelormino wrote.

Fonte and Gelormino, who are both St. John’s alumni and have taught there as adjunct professors, describe the property with the semblance of a real estate listing highlighting “beautiful infrastructure, manicured lawns and plenty of parking,” as well as convenient access from the Staten Island Ferry via shuttle.

The duo makes their case using sentimental and then practical appeal, emphasizing how both Staten Island and Trump would benefit.

“It would be the perfect location within a borough of your home state for a magnificent Presidential Library. Additionally, this location is even more fitting as it is a stone’s throw from one of your father’s first real estate ventures. Life certainly has a way of coming full circle,” the letter states.

Trump’s father, Fred Trump, owned the Grymes Hill Apartments and the Tysens Park Apartments complex in New Dorp, which remained in the family portolio through 2004.

“The economic boom to our borough would be tremendous. The prestige of your library would raise the stature of our borough nationally and internationally. Your legacy would be secured for eternity,” the attorneys add.

HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?

Fonte told the Advance/SILive.com that he and Gelormino first thought of the general idea for Staten Island to house Trump’s presidential library when they attended the America First Agenda Summit in Washington D.C. last month, which was before they knew about the campus’ pending closure.

“We picked up the paper one day and read that the campus is being vacated by St. John’s and the pieces just came together. We said, ‘Let’s put this idea in front of him.’ So we drafted and the letter and got it to him,” Fonte said.

When asked about the prospect of Wagner College acquiring the campus, Fonte said he agreed with Staten Island elected officials that Wagner is “a natural fit.”

“But by the same token, we don’t think that our elected officials should put all their eggs in one basket and we need alternatives. We need to think outside the box, and we need to keep this gorgeous property from the hands of developers,” he said. “My law firm and the elected officials are all on the same page as to the future of the property.”

Fonte said he can also envision a collaboration between the Trump library and Wagner College, such as the school housing their political science division or the history department alongside the library on the campus.

When asked if he has any concerns about the community’s reception of the idea, especially with the campus being in a predominantly Democratic and left-leaning part of the island, Fonte said he thinks the concept is a “win-win” for the borough and could “raise [its] stature.”

“There’s a lot of possibilities here and I really don’t see a downside,” he said, noting the opportunity for increased tourism.

TRUMP UNDER INVESTIGATION

Whether Trump pursues the idea or not may tie into him being pre-occupied with other matters involving his presidential records. The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information after the National Archives and Records Administration said it had retrieved 15 boxes of records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it requested the Justice Department investigate the matter.

The former president has also been under a long-running civil investigation led by New York’s Attorney General Letitia James involving allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misled lenders and tax authorities about the value of prized assets like golf courses and skyscrapers.

WILL THE IDEA BE WELL RECEIVED?

In their letter, Fonte and Gelormino tout Staten Island as a “Trump stronghold.”

“The admiration and love Islanders have for you is unwavering and steadfast. You could drive down almost any residential street and see a Trump flag flying side by side with our glorious stars and stripes,” they wrote.

While Staten Island is the only borough in New York City where the majority voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections, the 42.9% of Staten Island voters who voted against Trump in both elections may disagree with the picture Fonte and Gelormino paint.

Earlier this week, Staten Island elected officials from every part of the borough announced that they “stand united” and are “cohesively speaking with one voice” in their position to ensure what comes next for the St. John’s campus is in the best interest of the community.

Some of these officials are supporters of Trump, and others are expressly not, begging the question of if the Trump library idea will threaten the united front.

When asked about the Trump library, St. John’s did not comment on the matter, but reiterated a previous statement:

“As St. John’s University prepares to start the fall 2022 semester, supporting our Staten Island campus students and employees remains our sole focus. Our aim and efforts are to keep our students on successful paths to graduation, with the opportunity for incoming first-year students and sophomores to earn their St. John’s degree at our Queens campus after the teach-out period concludes in spring 2024,” Brian Browne, a spokesperson for the university said.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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