As Boaz notes, this was not the only time that Trump sought to use eminent domain to seize property from unwilling owners. In 1994, he also lobbied the city of Bridgeport to condemn five small businesses so he could build an office and entertainment complex that he absurdly claimed would turn Bridgeport into a “national tourist destination.”
On this issue, unlike most others, Trump has been consistent over time. When the Supreme Court narrowly upheld “economic development” takings that transfer property to private parties in the 2005 Kelo case, the ruling was widely denounced on both left and right. But Trump defended it stating that “I happen to agree with it 100%. if you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and … government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and … create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.” The feral cats who currently occupy the condemned land probably agree. Trump did not merely claim that the decision was legally correct; he argued that it was “good” to give government the power to forcibly displace homeowners and small businesses and transfer their property to influential developers on the theory that doing so might promote “economic development.”
Both the Kelo case and Trump’s efforts to benefit from eminent domain exemplify a longstanding pattern under which that power is used to take land away from the political weak and transfer it to influential private interests. In the long run, as cities like Detroit have learned, such assaults on property rights undermine development far more than they promote it.
UPDATE: It’s worth noting that, on this issue, Trump has demonstrated even less respect for property rights than fellow presidential candidate and self-proclaimed socialist Bernard Sanders. When the Kelo decision was issued, Sanders spoke out against it, noting “the result of this decision will be that working families and poor people will see their property turned over to corporate interests and wealthy developers.” I discuss the widespread opposition to Kelo more fully in my recent book on the case and its aftermath.
UPDATE #2: I have made a few small additions to this post, to expand on some points.