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Builder Says He’d Repair Williamsburg Better for Less

April 21, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Developer Donald Trump, who showed city officials how to get things done by fixing a Central Park skating rink faster than they could say ″fill this out in triplicate,″ now wants to try his hand at patching up the Williamsburg Bridge.

Trump toured the crumbling bridge Thursday, calling repair work done so far ″scary″ and pronouncing himself the one to get it fixed.

Savoring again his 1986 triumph of rebuilding the rink after the city and its bureaucrats tried and failed for years, Trump said the multimillion-dollar problem of the bridge stirs his imagination.

He denied that he also may be stirred by another chance to show up Mayor Edward I. Koch, with whom he has been trading insults for two years.

The 85-year-old bridge was closed last week when cracked and corroded beams were found. The bridge, one of three spanning the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, carried 240,000 daily commuters who drove or took the subway over the bridge.

Officials expect that temporary repairs to the span will allow it to reopen in a matter of weeks, but the question of whether to then begin a total overhaul for $250 million or replace the bridge entirely for even more money is undecided.

Officially, Trump was at the bridge for a look-see at the invitation of Alfred DelliBovi, a former Republican state legislator from Queens who now runs the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration.

The Democratic mayor said DelliBovi was welcome to show the bridge to whomever he wished. But Koch, commenting at a housing rally, said he has asked Trump to put up moderately priced housing in the city, not just luxury buildings.

″After he’s done that, then we can talk about other things, but not before,″ said Koch.

DelliBovi told reporters that he had asked Trump for help because he feared that city bureaucratic inaction would turn restoration of the bridge into a four- or five-year job.

But Trump said he’d had his eye on the bridge before DelliBovi wrote to him last week.

″I’ve already been here a number of times over the last number of days and weeks,″ said Trump. ″This is one of the things I’d be willing to do for the administrator (DelliBovi), for the city, if they like. I would be willing to step up and get this bridge open quickly.″

Commenting on the estimate of $250 million to put the bridge right, Trump told reporters ″I would hope to be able to do it for less.″

″The figure is probably realistic, depending on what has to be done,″ he said.

″An easy solution is to spend a lot of money, but if you can spend a little money and get the same result, or a better result, that’s what I’d be here for.″

Trump said the deal could work the same way as the skating rink construction in 1986 - he would advance the money, get the job done and be reimbursed for costs. That repair project took five months and about $3 million, after the city had spent $12 million over seven years and still didn’t have a working rink.

″I wouldn’t want to make a profit,″ he said. ″This is something I want to do.″

During his tour of the bridge, Trump pointed to holes and ragged edges on newly painted I-beams and said: ″Now that’s the most scary thing, when they fix it, but it’s not fixed.

″You’re looking at beams where the rust is painted over, but there’s nothing under there; it’s all rotted out.″

City Transportation Commissioner Ross Sandler, who accompanied Trump and DelliBovi, reponded: ″In some cases, the repairs will come after the painting. No one’s suggesting paint take the place of lost steel.″

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