The Trump Files: When Donald Struck Oil on the Upper West Side

"We could be pumping here for years."

Ivylise Simones


Until the election, we’re bringing you “The Trump Files,” a daily dose of telling episodes, strange but true stories, or curious scenes from the life of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, oil tycoon? That’s what it sounded like in 1985, when Trump announced he had struck oil on a sprawling vacant lot he owned on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

”Isn’t it amazing?” Mr. Trump told the New York Times. “It’s a classic major oil find in Manhattan.”

Not quite. The oil wasn’t from an ancient crude deposit hiding beneath the city. It was actually spilled and leaked leftovers. The property used to be a rail yard. “The bulk of the find is No. 2 diesel oil for locomotives,” the Times pointed out.

New York environmental officials estimated there were perhaps 100,000 gallons of oil on the property. That’s enough for 2,380 barrels—about 0.0003 percent of what the United States now produces in a day. But that didn’t seem to dampen Donald’s enthusiasm. He claimed he was already getting calls from Texan oil barons about his huge find. “We could be pumping here for years,” he insisted.

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