- President Donald Trump mentioned his successful Wollman Rink renovation from 1986 at a press conference for his proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
- Trump renovated the ice rink on time and on budget after New York City government had wasted $12 million over six years on it.
- Trump portrayed the episode as a perfect example of private enterprise’s efficiency over a bureaucratic government.
President Donald Trump on Monday kicked off his push for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan by touting his successful renovation of a New York City ice-skating rink in 1986.
The Trump-spearheaded renovation of Wollman Rink in Central Park has been a favorite story of Trump’s along the presidential campaign trail. On Monday, he said he took an interest in it in partly because he wanted to see a place where his daughter Ivanka could have a place to go ice skating.
“It’s really no different” than roads or bridges, he said of fixing the rink. A key feature of Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan is a reduction of regulatory red tape, streamlining projects typically given a timeline of five to 10 years down to two.
Trump and his ghostwriter Tony Schwartz portrayed the Wollman Rink episode in their 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” as the triumph of private enterprise over a cumbersome government.
When New York City’s government closed the Wollman Rink in 1980 for renovations, it could have been a simple job. Six years and $12 million later, the city was in a worse position than when it started.
Trump decided that he would take the project over and show Mayor Ed Koch, one of his biggest adversaries, how it could be done. Koch resisted, but after a successful press campaign, the mayor reluctantly gave the project to Trump, who promised the public that he would complete it within six months, with a $3 million budget.
Trump delivered the rink on time and on budget, and the press gave him universal praise. (When The New York Times asked him on opening day if he would put on a pair of skates, he declined, saying, “‘There are too many people who would like to see me fall on my rear end.”)
Writing in “The Art of the Deal,” Trump said of his victory,”It was a simple, accessible drama about the contrast between governmental incompetence and the power of effective private enterprise.”