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Saudi-Tied Tournament Causes Push to Void Trump's New York City Golf Contract

A view of the Manhattan skyline from Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a municipal course that cost the city $127 million, New York.

NEW YORK — It sounded like the type of event that Mayor Eric Adams would want to bring to New York City to boost the economy: an elite international golf tournament that would draw visitors and their wallets.

But because the tournament has ties to the government of Saudi Arabia and will be played at a city-owned course run by former President Donald Trump’s family business, it has prompted widespread criticism, especially from family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Adams, whose administration allowed the tournament to move forward, is now facing pressure from the City Council to revisit his stance.

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Adrienne Adams, the City Council speaker, and Shekar Krishnan, a member of the Council who leads its Committee on Parks and Recreation, sent a letter Wednesday night to Adams and Sue Donoghue, the parks commissioner, urging them to immediately void the city’s contract with the Trump Organization to operate the course at Ferry Point in the Bronx, and to cancel the tournament.

The letter argues that the city has new grounds to end the relationship after the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to felony fraud charges last month. The city’s agreement with the company requires its employees to comply with all federal, state and local laws.

“Public parkland should not be in the hands of Donald Trump or the Trump Organization,” the letter said.

The letter also contends that the “Saudi-backed tournament does harm to the families of 9/11 victims and offends the public memory of that horrific day.”

The City Council, which does not have the authority to revoke the contract, may hold a hearing next week to examine it, Krishnan said in an interview. He said that he had spoken to victims’ families about their concerns.

“They agree with us about the urgency of the situation,” he said.

Eric Trump, an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, said in a statement Thursday evening that the company had worked with the city to approve the event.

“We are incredibly proud to host the finest women golfers in the world at Trump Ferry Point,” Trump said in a statement. “A big thank you to the City of New York and to the Parks Department for their support and approval.”

The organization noted that it would be the second time the tournament would be hosted in New York state. It was held last year at Glen Oaks Club in Nassau County.

The golf tournament, a women’s event that is part of the Aramco Team Series, is scheduled to begin Oct. 13. The field is expected to include two of women’s golf’s most dependable U.S. stars, sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda.

Like the LIV Golf series that has upended the highest levels of men’s golf by poaching some top players from the PGA Tour, the Aramco Team Series is linked to the Saudi government’s web of enterprises. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is the “presenting partner” for the series and its title sponsor, Aramco, is Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant.

The Trump Organization has argued that the city would have to pay a steep $30 million “termination fee” to cancel the contract — a potential outcome that Adams’ spokesperson, Maxwell Young, said “no one should want.”

Young reiterated Adams’ position that the event should not be held at the course but that the city could not legally block it.

“It is outrageous that the Trump Organization agreed to host this tournament while knowing how much pain it would cause New Yorkers, and it is frustrating that the contract we inherited from previous administrations affords absolutely no legal basis to prevent it,” Young said.

Adams’ chief of staff, Frank Carone, held at least two staff meetings this year to discuss the golf tournament, according to a copy of Carone’s daily schedules released by the city under a Freedom of Information request.

Adams met with family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks last week to hear their concerns over Saudi support for the terrorists.

Before the meeting, Brett Eagleson, the president of a group called 9/11 Justice, said that Adams should stay away from ground zero and from Sept. 11 memorials this month. The group also protested a LIV Golf tournament at the Trump Organization’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, this summer.

After the meeting, the mayor’s office quietly released a statement saying that the golf event should not be held in the city.

“I stand with the 9/11 community and shared my deep anger in the decision to host this tournament here where so many suffered so much,” Adams said.

The Trump Organization’s management of the course, known as the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, was the subject of a tense battle with the city last year. The former mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved to terminate the company’s contract following the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol in Washington.

But a judge ruled in April that the Trump Organization could continue to operate the golf course and found that the city had wrongly terminated the contract. De Blasio defended his push to oust the company and urged the Adams administration to appeal the decision.

Adams, a Democrat who is more business friendly than his predecessor, has not appealed the judge’s ruling.

The Trump Organization will go on trial for tax fraud in October, and Weisselberg is expected to be a central witness. He recently pleaded guilty to more than a dozen charges and admitted to participating in a long-running tax evasion scheme.

The letter from Council leaders also argues that Trump is listed as the guarantor of the license agreement with the city and is facing many investigations of his own, including possibly violating the Espionage Act.

“The cloud of legal investigations of the most serious nature surrounding Trump impedes his capacity to serve as guarantor as required by the terms of this license,” the letter said.

The Aramco Team Series, which infused women’s golf with new competitions that include seven-figure prize funds, is sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour, and women have been able to participate in its events without facing the kinds of repercussions that LIV Golf players have confronted, such as suspensions.

The team series played in New York last year at Glen Oaks Club in Nassau County, but organizers said this week that moving the event to Ferry Point offered “the perfect location,” given its proximity to Manhattan. The organizers are marketing the tournament as “the first time an event of this caliber has been held in New York City.”

Representatives of the team series did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

But measured by ticket prices, the series is commanding nowhere near the interest that other sporting events do: Adults can gain entry to all three days of the tournament for a total of $10 a person.

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