Location: You recently made a partnership with St. Vincent’s Hospital to build a new hospital on Seventh Avenue. It’s a complicated deal. Can you explain it?
Rudin: It is a complex deal. The basic concept is that the O’Toole Building on the west side of Seventh Avenue will be the new home of a state-of-the-art, 21st-century hospital. It’ll be built to work with the expanding demographics of the West Village and Chelsea and downtown, to really provide a very modern health-care facility to work with this population.
After that is built, we will take over the existing campus on the east side of Seventh Avenue and develop an apartment complex not designed yet.
What attracted you to this site?
What attracted us to it is that it’s an important medical New York City institution—it provides important medical facilities for downtown. We also liked the location and the potential for creating something very exciting and very dynamic in that neighborhood. My grandfather and my father and my uncle built 2 Fifth Avenue in the early 1950’s, so we have a sense of the neighborhood.
We’re in a building-sales market now where 666 Fifth Avenue went for $1,200 per square foot, and 450 Park Avenue is on the block for $1,500 per square foot. We’re shattering record after record. What do you think of all this?
Four years ago, people were a little depressed. My theme always was: It’s going to come back, it’s going to happen—it just takes time.
The numbers that people are paying and receiving are amazing. It talks volumes about this city and people’s belief that they’re making a smart investment at these historically high numbers. I mean, yeah, you step back once in a while and shake your head. But, on the other side, there is a tremendous amount of foreign money, domestic money and a lot of capital. This is where people want to invest their money, and that’s a statement on our city. Am I surprised? To a certain degree—but really not.
There’s a new trend where investors are forgoing the bidding process and asking the seller what he wants and then writing a check. What do you think of all these pre-emptive buys?
It’s indicative of the strength of the market. There are people who really want to invest in the city. There are smart and sophisticated buyers—they’re not doing this to lose money.
The developer Douglas Durst said he thinks pre-emptive buying means the market is topping out. He said he doesn’t think it’s healthy. What do you think of that?
I don’t know what the top is; every day we see another, higher price. I think the Mayor has done such a great job in positioning this city as a true global city. Capital is coming here; money is coming here. When’s it going to end? I’m not that smart to be able to figure out that answer.
There are so many active buyers right now—Broadway Partners, Macklowe Properties—but you haven’t bought or sold much over the last year. Is that a philosophical decision? Or does it represent a case-by-case decision?
My family—my uncle Jack, sister Beth, cousins Eric and Madeleine—has been working on the St. Vincent’s deal, and we try not to do a lot of projects at one time, because that’s the way we do business. We’re always looking to add alternatives, to see where we can create value to have a long-term investment. We would like to buy, develop and hold. We’ve been onto some things—we’re close to some things—and we also every day manage our existing profile of 10 million feet of office space and 20 apartment buildings.
So it’s not a conscious decision to say, ‘It’s a little hyper out there—let’s back off right now’?
We look at each building, analyze it, and decide if we’re going to invest or not. We’re in the market to look at opportunities to create long-term value for our family.
There’s such a tradition for the real-estate families to give back to the city: your family, the Roses, the Dursts and so on. Is it still the responsibility of real-estate families in the city to give back to the city?
I think it’s the responsibility of everybody to give back, no matter what they’re doing or who they are …. The real-estate families should try to set an example. We don’t necessarily get the credit we deserve. It’s interesting you mention all those names: In all those families, the next generation has stepped up where the previous generation set the example. Now you’re seeing the next generation getting involved or engaged. The next generation is dedicating time, energy and money, and that’s something I think is very important.
You’re the chairman of the Association for a Better New York, and a special tradition of the organization is to pin the ABNY apple on someone’s lapel. What does that apple symbolize?
To me, it symbolizes several things. For one, it makes me think of my father: that was his way to let everyone know that he was a New Yorker. And you immediately made a connection to the person who was receiving the apple, and that person felt a connection to New York City.
It’s something I wear every day, and I’m very proud to continue the tradition of giving out that apple. When you give it to somebody and they ask, “What does this mean?”, and then you explain, a big smile comes on their face. Or you give it to someone, and they automatically know what it means—there’s that same smile. It means, “I love New York City.”