Vera Coking

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Coking house at 127 S Columbia Pl, between the steel framework of the planned Penthouse Casino; photographed by Jack Boucher for Historic American Buildings Survey, c.1991

Vera Coking was a retired homeowner in Atlantic City, New Jersey whose home was the focus of a prominent eminent domain case involving Donald Trump.

In 1961, Coking and her husband bought the property at 127 South Columbia Place as a summertime retreat for $20,000.[1]

In the 1970s, Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione offered Coking $1 million for her property in order to build the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel and Casino. She declined the offer, and Guccione started construction of the hotel-casino in 1978 around the Coking house, but ran out of money in 1980 and construction stopped. The steel framework structure was finally torn down in 1993.[2]

In 1993, Donald Trump bought several lots around his Atlantic City casino and hotel, intending to build a parking lot designed for limousines.[3] Coking, who had lived in her house at that time for about 35 years, refused to sell. When Coking refused to sell to Trump, the city of Atlantic City condemned her house, using the power of eminent domain. Her designated compensation was to be $251,000,[4] about one quarter of what Guccione had offered her 10 years earlier.

With the assistance of the Institute for Justice, Coking fought the local authorities, and eventually prevailed.[5] Superior Court Judge Richard Williams ruled that, because there were "no limits" on what Trump could do with the property, the plan to take Coking's property did not meet the test of law. But Williams' ruling did not reject the practice of using eminent domain to take private property from one individual and transferring it to another, which would eventually be upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Kelo v. City of New London.

Two other properties that prevailed against eminent domain eventually did sell: Sabatini's restaurant received $2.1 million and a pawnshop sold for $1.6 million. Their lots became part of a large lawn flanking a taxi stand for Trump's casino.[1][6] Coking remained in her house until 2010, when she moved to a retirement home in the San Francisco Bay Area near her grandson, Ed Casey.[citation needed]

Casey subsequently tried to sell the house, putting it on the market in 2011 with an initial asking price of $5 million.[1][7] By September 2013 the price had reduced to $1 million,[8] but it still did not sell as Atlantic City continued to suffer the lingering effects of the financial crisis of 2007–08 and over-building during the boom that preceded it.[citation needed]

The property was finally sold for $530,000 in an auction on July 31, 2014.[9] Neither the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority nor the owners of Trump Plaza expressed any interest in the auction.[1] The buyer was Carl Icahn, who held the debt on Trump Entertainment, owner of Trump Plaza. He subsequently demolished the house.[10]

The adjacent Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the property for which Trump wanted Coking's property to begin with, closed on September 16, 2014 due to lack of business.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Matt A.V. Chaban (July 21, 2014). "A Homeowner’s Refusal to Cash Out in a Gambling Town Proves Costly". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  2. ^ "Public Power, Private Gain: The Abuse of Eminent Domain". Institute for Justice. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  3. ^ " IN BRIEF; Follow-Ups: Judge Rejects Property Seizure". The New York Times, July 26, 1998. Accessed December 5, 2007.
  4. ^ Nelson, I. Rose (1998). "Court Condemns Casino Condemnations". The Gambling and the Law. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  5. ^ Herszenhorn, David M. (July 21, 1998). "Widowed Homeowner Foils Trump in Atlantic City", The New York Times. Accessed December 5, 2007.
  6. ^ "Penthouse Casino.jpg". The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  7. ^ Wittkowski, Wittkowski, Donald (August 28, 2011). "Empty Atlantic City boarding home near casinos selling for $5 million". The Press of Atlantic City. Accessed August 28, 2011.
  8. ^ Cohen, Lauren (September 24, 2013). "Asking price drops on house Vera Coking refused to sell to Trump". The Press of Atlantic City.
  9. ^ V Chaban, Matt A. (31 July 2014). "Luster Lost, Atlantic City Home is Auctioned for $530,000". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Wagner, Meg (November 19, 2014). "Billionaire Carl Icahn buys home of Atlantic City widow who fought off bids from Donald Trump, Bob Guccione for 40 years". Daily News (New York).