NYC Builder Who Challenged Trump Dies at 92
Arthur Nusbaum, 92, a former president of one-time New York City contracting giant HRH Construction Corp., died on Feb. 8 in Sarasota, Fla. The cause was heart failure, says his family. His long construction career included project management roles on more than 100 buildings in the city and elsewhere—and one widely quoted run-in with then-developer Donald Trump.
A degreed civil engineer, Nusbaum started at power-plant builder Burns & Roe but later took on superintendent, project-manager and consulting roles at Morse Diesel and Tishman construction firms as high-rise work boomed in New York City, says a family biography. At Morse Diesel, "I was supervising up to 30 projects at a time and the pressure was unbelievable." he said.
He joined HRH in 1975, rising to president, with PM credits that included Citicorp Center, Worldwide Plaza and New York University’s Elmer Bobst library. With media reports pointing to HRH as a favored Trump contractor, Nusbaum also had key roles on Trump Tower and the Grand Hyatt hotel, among other projects.
But the firm cut ties with Trump after the developer’s widely -touted 1986 renovation of the city-owned Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park, which Nusbaum said HRH agreed to do for cost but whose work Trump never acknowledged.
Trump “can’t have two people standing on the podium,” Nusbaum said during the 2016 presidential campaign. Nusbaum left HRH in 1988; in 2011, the firm collapsed in the wake of problem projects and legal battles with organized labor.
Nusbaum also developed a protective safety net system in 1990 to meet a city mandate enacted after a high-rise fatality. “He invented several ways to attach [it] to a building and to move [it] up without uninstalling,” says his son Robert, an executive of Nets That Work Co., a firm Arthur Nusbaum launched to market the systems, which still are used today.
Until shortly before his death Nusbaum also was a New York City School Construction Authority consultant.
“There is no question that Artie was very innovative technically in construction,” says former protégé John Leeper, now a Lendlease vice president and project executive. “For me his legacy is all the leaders in our industry who were mentored by him and who emulate his behavior and offer opportunities to others.”