The much heralded president of the New York City School Construction Authority, which is in the midst of a five-year $4.3 billion capital program, abruptly tendered his resignation on Friday and made it effective Oct. 15.

The 53-year-old retired two-star Army major general, Charles E. Williams, was just beginning the last year of a three-year contract with the authority. His successor has not been named, city officials said.

He was named to head the authority in June 1989, seven months after the state Legislature created it to take construction of school facilities -- said to be plagued by delays, poor workmanship, cost overruns, and price gouging -- out of the hands of the city's Board of Education. Proceeds from city general obligation bond sales finance the capital program.

Mr. Williams, formerly commander of the North Atlantic Division of the Army Corp. of Engineers, said a report in The New York Times yesterday incorrectly characterized his resignation as being motivated by the proposed cuts in the authority's capital program.

"It is not this soldier's reason for resigning," Mr. Williams said in a phone interview yesterday. While admitting he was not happy with the budget cuts, Mr. Williams said he is leaving the $145,000-a-year-post to pursue a job in the private sector. He noted that the authority has completed more than $100 million in school facilities and is managing $1.7 billion more.

In his two-paragraph resignation letter, presented to the authority's trustees on Friday, Mr. Williams said, "I have worked very hard and under difficult conditions during the past 25 months and have done my best to help the children of the city."

Because of burgeoning city debt service costs and fiscal problems, about $750 million is slated to be slashed from the authority's four-year capital plan. That amount, however, may be be further lowered in the next few years if the city's economic climate improves, a school authority source said yesterday.

Even with the city's budget problems, Mr. Williams is credited with overcoming obstacles in getting the capital program off the ground. The authority made capital commitments of $718 million in fiscal 1990 and $615 million in fiscal 1991. It proposes to make capital commitments of $915 million in fiscal 1992, $742 million in fiscal 1993, and $598 million in fiscal 1994.

An official familiar with the authority said, "I'm a little disappointed because the guy seemed to be doing well. I don't believe anyone was unhappy with him."

He added, "I know he was upset with the budget cuts, but even with the cuts, it is a massive program: It wasn't like he was ground down to zero."

Speaking for authority trustee and Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez, a spokesman said, "I regret General Williams' decision to resign. The school construction authority, which is central to our efforts to renovate and build new schools, got off to a great start under his aggressive leadership."

"The budget was not an issue," said Jeff Maclin, a spokesman for Mayor David N. Dinkins. "We are disappointed by his departure, and we are disappointed by the budget cuts, but that is the nature of the fiscal conditions that exist today."

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