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Sometimes Trump shows an absolute genius for combining profits with publicity and doing good deeds in the process. Consider the Wollman ice- skating rink in Central Park, which city authorities had closed down in 1980 for a $9 million refurbishing. Somehow they managed to spend $12 million on preliminary maneuvering without anything whatever to show for it. Looking down at the mess from his skyscraper windows, Trump was displeased. Offering to do the job himself on the original budget within three months, he completed it for $750,000 less -- and now operates the rink at an annual profit of $500,000 (for charity). When authorities tried to honor him by planting a delicate Japanese pine in his name, though, Trump balked. "He went wild because he felt the tree was wrong, a hunchback," recalls Parks Commissioner Henry Stern. "He wanted it pulled out. He wanted something like a sequoia."
Though Trump likes to talk of his triumphs, there have inevitably been controversies and defeats. One of the most striking was the five-year battle over 100 Central Park South, a dignified prewar apartment building that Trump decided in 1981 to demolish and replace. To do that, he had to get rid of tenants who clung to 50 rent-controlled apartments that cost them as little as $300 a month. Trump brought in a new management company renowned for its ferocity. Out went the lobby furniture, unrepaired went the broken elevator, unpainted and uncleaned the halls and stairways. Eviction notices proliferated. The tenants hired legal help, charging harassment. Trump retaliated by offering to house some of the city's homeless in a few of the luxury building's vacant apartments.
When it was all over, Trump had to give in, leave the tenants in peace and even pay some of their legal costs, but he characteristically describes this as "one of the greatest blessings in disguise." His reasoning: had he been able to expel the tenants, he would have sold their apartments for a fraction of what soaring prices make them worth now.
Similar conflicts have plagued the many middle-income apartments the Trump family operates with minimum publicity in Brooklyn and Queens. In 1973, when the Federal Government charged racial discrimination, Trump hired the notorious Roy Cohn to defend him, then eventually signed a consent decree. No less vexing was the 1983 controversy at the 1,400-apartment Shore Haven Apartments in Brooklyn, where the Trump organization started charging new tenants $40 to $60 a month for garage fees regardless of whether they had cars. One tenant, Viola Salomone, actually acquired a car and parked it in the unlocked and unattended garage, then found it vandalized. She refused to pay any more. The Trumps cracked down. Said Salomone: "I'll die first before I give you another penny for garage space." Said a civil court judge of the Trumps' operation: "Unconscionable."