A VISION OF GREATNESS

March 15, 2019 at 4:30 am

An intimate profile of the real estate developer whose vision has finally become a reality.

Aired on March 14, 2019. 

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>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF
"METROFOCUS."
I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.
IT'S BILLED AS THE LARGEST
PRIVATE REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT
IN OUR NATION'S HISTORY.
THE CITY'S NEXT ROCKEFELLER
CENTER.
TONIGHT WE'RE TAKING YOU TO
HUDSON YARDS FOR A CLOSER LOOK
AT THE FIRST PHASE OF THIS
SPRAWLING DEVELOPMENT ON THE
CITY'S FAR WEST SIDE.
AS THE FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF
RELATED COMPANIES, STEVEN ROSS
IS THE MAN BEHIND IT ALL.
THE BILLIONAIRE MANY TIMES OVER
IS AMONG THE RICHEST AND MOST
POWERFUL DEVELOPERS IN THE CITY
WITH A PORTFOLIO THAT INCLUDES
THE TIME WARNER CENTER IN
COLUMBUS CIRCLE, AND NOW HUDSON
YARDS, A PROJECT ALREADY
CRITICIZED AS A PLAYGROUND FOR
THE RICH.
IN AN ARTICLE TITLED "THE ONLY
MAN WHO COULD BUILD OZ," "NEW
YORK" MAGAZINE CHRONICLED ROSS'
FASCINATING RISE AS A
SUPER-DEVELOPER AS WELL AS HIS
RELENTLESS CAMPAIGN TO TRANSFORM
HUDSON YARDS FROM RAIL YARD TO
SPECTACULAR REALITY.
JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT ALL
THAT IS THE AUTHOR OF THE PIECE
"NEW YORK" MAGAZINE EDITOR AT
LARGE CARL SWANSON.
WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> FIRST OF ALL, YOU SPOKE TO
STEVEN ROSS IN THE COURSE OF
WRITING THE ARTICLE, OF COURSE.
YOU ALSO TOOK A TOUR OF HUDSON
YARD BEFORE ITS OFFICIAL
OPENING.
WHAT STRUCK YOU DURING THIS
BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK THAT YOU
FOUND PARTICULARLY SURPRISING OR
PARTICULARLY INTERESTING?
>> THE FIRST TIME I MET HIM WAS
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN IT
WAS ANNOUNCED THEY WERE GOING TO
BUILD WHAT THEY CALL THE VESSEL
RIGHT NOW.
THIS ENORMOUS STRUCTURE OF
STAIRCASES THAT THEY PUT IN THE
MIDDLE OF IT.
HE WOULD SAY -- AND I WAS
CURIOUS ABOUT IT, IT SEEMED LIKE
AN ODD THING TO DO.
IN SOME WAYS IT TELLS YOU THE
STORY OF THE ENTIRE DEVELOPMENT
WHICH IS, YOU ARE GOING TO BUILD
AN ENORMOUS, EXPENSIVE OFFICE,
RETAIL, RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT
IN A PLACE WHERE NO ONE REALLY
LIVES.
A PLACE NO ONE WOULD THINK OF
GOING TO.
NOT ONLY BECAUSE THERE WERE
TRAINS THERE BUT ALSO BECAUSE IT
WAS UNPLEASANT.
>> FOR MOST NEW YORKERS, THE
WEST SIDE ENDS LIKE AT NINTH
AVENUE.
>> ABSOLUTELY, MAYBE EIGHTH.
SO HE CAME IN THERE, AND HE
SAID, OKAY, WHAT'S GOING TO
BRING PEOPLE TO THIS, WHAT'S
GOING TO MAKE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT
THIS?
WE'RE GOING TO SPEND $200
MILLION.
WITHIN THE BUDGET OF THIS THING
TO BUILD BUILD WHAT HE CALLED A
ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS
TREE 365 DAYS A YEAR.
THE REASON I WAS EXCITED ABOUT
DOING THIS FOLLOW-UP STORY CLOSE
TO THE OPENING OF IT WAS HE'S A
GUY WHO FIGURES OUT, HE'S NOT
JUST BUILDING A BUILDING, HE'S
BUILDING AN IDEA.
THE REASON THAT WE'RE TALKING
ABOUT IT NOW, IT'S NOT JUST THAT
IT'S ONE OF THE BIGGEST REAL
ESTATE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE
WORLD.
CERTAINLY THE BIGGEST IN THE
COUNTRY RIGHT NOW.
BUT BECAUSE IT JUST DOES
SOMETHING THAT IS SO BEYOND WHAT
MOST PEOPLE WOULD EVEN THINK WAS
POSSIBLE.
>> BUT IT'S AN IDEA, IT'S
SOMETHING THAT MANY CRITICS,
INCLUDING ONE OF YOUR COLLEAGUES
AT "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE KIND OF
CHARACTERIZE AS A FORT RECESS
CITY-STATE WITHIN THE CITY FOR
RICH PEOPLE, WILLFULLY
SEPARATING ITSELF FROM NEW
YORK'S HOI POLLOI, FROM THE
COMMONERS.
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT?
>> WELL, I THINK THAT -- I MEAN,
TO SOME EXTENT THEY DO
COMPLETELY COP TO THAT, THEY
CALL IT A CITY WITHIN A CITY.
WHEN I TALK TO STEVE ROSS, HE
LIVES RIGHT NOW IN KIND OF A
SMALLER -- HE CALLS ATE TEST RUN
FOR THIS, WHICH IS COLUMBUS
CIRCLE.
THAT'S THE TIME WARNER CENTER
WHICH IS ONE OF THE FIRST
LARGE-SCALE, MULTI-USE BUILDINGS
IN THE COUNTRY.
APPARENTLY IT'S PRETTY COMMON TO
DO THIS IN AIR SIA AND OTHER PA
OF THE WORLD.
BUT HERE THAT'S THE FIRST TIME
ANYONE'S REALLY DONE IT.
HE LIVES THERE AND HE EATS THERE
AND HIS OFFICES ARE THERE AND HE
WORKS OUT THERE AT THE EQUINOX.
THEY ALSO OWN OAEQUINOX.
IF HE WANTS TO SHOP AT WHOLE
FOODS HE COULD.
THE IDEA IS YOU WOULD HAVE, AS
HE PUT IT, EVERYTHING AT YOUR
FINGERTIPS.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO LEAVE IF YOU
DON'T WANT TO.
THAT'S KIND WHAT WAS HE'S
BUILDING THERE BUT A BIGGER
VERSION OF THAT.
AND ONE COULD ARGUE, AND I
THINK -- I LIVE IN EAST VILLAGE,
A WALK-UP BUILDING.
I HAVE TO GO DOWNSTAIRS TO GET
ANYTHING.
I LIKE THAT.
I LIKE THAT SORT OF IDEA OF -- I
GUESS THAT JAMES JACOBS IDEA OF
THE MIX OF PEOPLE AND -- BUT
THAT'S NOT EVERYONE'S IDEA OF
WHAT NEW YORK CITY IS.
AND I DON'T THINK THAT'S
NECESSARILY WHAT THE IDEA --
IT'S CERTAINLY NOT WHAT STEVE
ROSS' IDEA OF NEW YORK CITY IS
AND I DON'T THINK YOU COULD
ARGUE THAT IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT
THE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION WAS
TRYING TO DO.
>> NO, I DON'T THINK SO, RIGHT?
SO YOU DESCRIBE ROSS AS POSSIBLY
THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN NEW
YORK TODAY.
AND YOU CALL HIM QUOTE A ROBERT
MOSES FOR OUR AGE OF CONCIERGE
MEGA-URBANNISM.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS CONCIERGE
MEGA-URBANNISM AND WHY IS HE SO
POWERFUL?
>> VERY POWERFUL I THINK BECAUSE
HE ACTUALLY -- FOR ONE THING
BECAUSE HE CAN GET THINGS DONE.
AND HE'S WILLING TO DO THINGS A
LOT OF OTHER DEVELOPERS AREN'T
WILLING TO DO.
ONE OF THE SORT OF SUBTEXTS THAT
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVEN'T REALLY
PAID ATTENTION TO WITH HUDSON
YARDS IS THAT HE'S BEEN -- HAD A
VERY AGGRESSIVE STANCE TOWARD
THE UNIONS.
THE UNIONS ARE VERY POWERFUL BUT
THEY'RE WILLING TO GO UP AGAINST
THE UNIONS.
A LOT OF DEVELOPERS WON'T DEAL
WITH THAT.
A LOT OF DEVELOPERS WON'T DEAL
WITH SORT OF LIKE THE VARIOUS
THINGS -- THE VARIOUS AGENDAS OF
THE CITY.
HE'S VERY CLOSE TO DAN
DOCTOROFF, THE DEPUTY MAYOR OF
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
>> UNDER BLOOMBERG.
>> AND REALLY, HE'S KNOWN HIM
SINCE THEY WERE BOTH PART OWNERS
OF THE ISLANDERS IN THE 1990s.
THEY'RE BOTH FROM MICHIGAN.
HE'S A MICHIGAN GUY.
HE LOVES MICHIGAN GUYS.
AND SO THIS IDEA, THIS IDEA THAT
THIS TRAIN YARD AND THIS AREA
COULD BE THIS SERIES OF BIG
GLASS TOWERS FOR FIRST CLASS
CORPORATIONS AND WEALTHY PEOPLE
AND, YOU KNOW, SOME AFFORDABLE
HOUSING TUCKED IN THERE TOO, IS
VERY MUCH A BLOOMBERG IDEA, VERY
MUCH A DAN DOCTOROFF IDEA.
DAN WILL TELL YOU, HE'S SAID
THIS TO MANY PEOPLE, ONLY STEVE
ROSS COULD GET THIS DONE.
>> AS YOU'RE WRITING YOUR
ARTICLE, HUDSON YARDS IS GETTING
$5.6 BILLION OF TAXPAYER MONEY.
>> YES.
>> AS YOU JUST SAID, YOU KNOW,
SOMETIMES STEVEN ROSS MIXES IT
UP WITH THE UNIONS.
>> EXACTLY.
>> HE'S NOT THAT FRIENDLY TO THE
UNIONS.
HOW COME THERE WASN'T A HUE AND
CRY ABOUT THE HUDSON YARDS AS
THERE WAS ABOUT AMAZON?
>> I THINK TWO REASONS.
ONE IS THE KIND OF SUBSIDIES
THEY GOT.
AND THAT'S BECAUSE A LOT OF THE
MONEY WENT TO THE EXTENSION OF
THE 7 TRAIN.
IT'S HARD FOR ANYONE REALLY TO
OBJECT TO THE IDEA OF MORE
SUBWAYS.
THE SECOND THING IS I THINK IT'S
A DIFFERENT ERA.
IT REALLY WAS -- IT WAS THE
HEIGHT OF THE BLOOMBERG ERA WHEN
THIS HAPPENED.
PEOPLE WERE NOT AS CRITICAL OF
THESE THINGS.
THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN CRITICISM OF
SUBSIDIES, ESPECIALLY THINGS
LIKE STADIUMS AND THINGS LIKE
THAT, IN DID THIS CITY.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUBSIDIES?
PEOPLE HAVE NOT BEEN AS
CRITICAL.
>> I GET IT.
SO WE ONLY HAVE ABOUT 30 SECONDS
LEFT.
15 YEARS FROM NOW, 20 YEARS FROM
NOW, ARE NEW YORKERS GOING TO
SEE HUDSON YARDS AS THIS
FORTRESS FOR RICH PEOPLE THAT'S
TURNING ITS BACK ON US?
OR ARE NEW YORKERS GOING TO SEE
IT WITH INDIFFERENCE?
OR MAYBE A LITTLE BIT OF PRIDE?
WHAT'S YOUR BEST GUESS?
>> IT'S FUNNY.
I WAS DOING RESEARCH ABOUT
ROCKEFELLER CENTER, EVERYONE
LOVES ROCKEFELLER CENTER NOW.
WHEN IT WAS FIRST BUILT, IT WAS
CRITICIZED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE
FOR BEING TOO OPULENT, SORT OF
THIS MONUMENT TO WEALTH, TO THE
ROCKEFELLERS.
>> YES.
>> NOW I'M NOT SAYING THIS IS AS
GOOD A PIECE OF URBANNISM OF
THATRESS IF YOU WALK AROUND
ROCKEFELLER CENTER, YOU CAN'T
BELIEVE THE SCALE OF IT, HOW
BEAUTIFULLY IT'S PUT TOGETHER.
IT IS TRUE THAT PEOPLE DO GET
USED TO THINGS.
>> EIFFEL TOWER.
>> I MEAN, YOU THINK OF THE
WORLD TRADE CENTER, NOT EXACTLY
THE MOST BELOVED THING WHEN IT
OPENED.
IT'S INTERESTING.
YOU DO SORT OF GET USED TO IT
AND IT BECOMES PART OF --
>> YOU THINK WE'LL GET TO LOVE
IT?
>> I THINK -- YES.
I THINK YOU'LL JUST SEE IT AS
BEING A PART OF THE CITY.
AND EVEN IF IT DOES EMBODY
SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T REALLY --
ISN'T FOR YOU, IT ALSO -- YOU'LL
JUST SORT OF, I THINK, ACCEPT
IT.
>> YEAH, OKAY.
ALL RIGHT, CARL, THANKS SO MUCH.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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