A few years before Donald Trump decided to make that leap into the race that would eventually win him the White House, the real estate developer and reality television star had his sights set on old landfill property on the Bronx side of the Whitestone Bridge where he hoped to run a golf course.
David Kornbluh was no fan of that proposal, expressing as much in a letter less than 40 words long to The Riverdale Press on Aug. 22, 2013. The headline was simply “Donald Trump? Harumph.”
The longtime Bronx resident and political activist never shied from sharing his opinion, and fought for everything from helping the homeless, to creating more affordable housing, and even making signs for the Women’s March that followed Trump’s inauguration.
But the community lost Kornbluh on Sunday following a battle with prostate cancer. He was 84.
“David Kornbluh was a household name in Riverdale, and for good reason,” said state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, in a statement. “David was (a) natural-born problem-solver who took pride in helping his neighbors.”
Kornbluh worked part-time for Klein, joining the senator’s office last spring after stepping down from Community Board 8. He hosted mobile hours for Klein at various locations throughout Riverdale, including at The Riverdale Y, where he would field constituent issues and concerns on behalf of Klein.
“In his spare time, he was a passionate activist who fought tirelessly for progressive values impacting all New Yorkers,” the senator added. “His impressive work ethic and admirable character will surely be missed, not only in my office, but across the borough.”
While Kornbluh was only a member of CB8 for a few years, he was quite active with Manhattan’s Community Board 7 in the 1970s. He also would run for various political offices from time to time, according to published reports.
His focus, however, remained on housing — especially for those less fortunate. In fact, it was his hope to make housing more affordable in the Bronx that led to his opposition against plans to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into an ice rink complex, led by former New York Rangers center Mark Messier.
Instead, Kornbluh felt the 750,000-square-foot super structure should be turned into something that could help the community now, not down the road.
“We have this very large space over there in a neighborhood that is probably the poorest and lowest income in the city of New York, possibly the nation,” Kornbluh told The Press last November. “It seems to me as a matter of common sense that it is not an ice skating rink that is the thing the community there needs the most.”
Kornbluh advocated a plan that would mirror what was happening in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, where city planning officials approved turning the 540,000-square-foot Bedford-Union Armory into affordable housing.
“There are many people of a good will, including Mark Messier, who are involved in this, and they really want to do what’s best,” Kornbluh said. “There are no bad guys here, in my mind. But looking at low-cost housing seems to be a sensible thing to do here for such a large space.”
His interests, however, spanned beyond just real estate.
More than 400,000 people took the streets in New York during the 2017 Women’s March, and Kornbluh wasn’t going to let his gender getting in the way of helping promote the values he believed in.
“These are the things that we fought for, for the last generation, and we don’t want to lose those,” Kornbluh told The Press in January 2017. Those values included a woman’s right to choose, the rights of immigrants to stay and make lives for themselves, and the life of the planet in the face of global warming.
A memorial service is planned for March 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at Manhattan’s Jewish Community Center, 334 Amsterdam Ave., according to Klein’s office.
By the way, Trump did succeed in getting his golf course at the Whitestone. But not before Kornbluh shared his own two cents.
“Even if one subscribes to the dubious assumption that what the South Bronx needs most is a new golf course at Ferry Point,” Kornbluh wrote in his letter to the editor, “couldn’t we, in the whole wide world, find someone other than Donald Trump to develop it?”
That’s all Kornbluh needed to say. And whether the world — or the community — listened or not, that was simply up to them.