As President Donald Trump visits the United Nations building in New York this week, he won’t be focused only on the global challenges facing the world body – he’s still reliving the real estate deal there that got away.
More than a decade later, Trump vividly recalls the overtures he made to rebuild the 39-story tower in the early 2000s and posits that he could have done a better job with the $2.3 billion project, which took about three years longer than anticipated and came in more than $400 million over budget.
In the leadup to this week’s U.N. General Assembly meetings, the president reminisced with reporters on Air Force One this past week about his efforts to win the project.
“I offered to rebuild it at a tiny fraction of what they were going to build it for,” he said.
In 2005, then-developer Trump went before a U.S. Senate committee to complain that the U.N. was bungling the project. “They don’t know what they want, they don’t know what they have, they don’t know what they’re doing,” Trump said.
He appealed to the panel to let him manage the project. He would even waive his fee, he said. In the end, he didn’t get the project, but his words were music to senators concerned about costs.
“When can you start?” said one appreciative lawmaker, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who went on to serve as the state’s governor for two terms.
Trump is scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He was asked if he’ll think back to his real estate days when he returns to the U.N. compound. It sounded like he certainly would.
“I was a very good real estate developer,” he reminisced. He added that he had correctly predicted “It will end up being much more” than expected.
“They didn’t even know what New York steam was versus a boiler,” he said of the developers. “They knew nothing.”
Trump said an ambassador, he believed from Sweden, contacted him to ask how he could have built Trump World Tower, right across the street from the U.N. compound, for far less than what was envisioned for the smaller U.N. headquarters.
“I said, ‘Because I know how the game is played,’” Trump recalled.
Trump said he could have completed the project for about $500 million. He would have used marble instead of terrazzo, which is much more expensive, he recalled.
The U.N. compound was largely built between 1949 and 1952. Over time, it no longer conformed to safety and fire codes, or to security needs. The U.S. provided about $488 million to help pay for the renovations, according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office report.
Trump clearly got a kick out of rehashing the episode. It gave him one more chance to relive his developer days.
“It would have been a great job,” he declared.