A Rose Grows Green

What about yourself personally? How do you walk the walk as well as talk the talk?

I walk to work. I have an apartment in New York City and I walk through Central Park to work; and I have a house in Garrison and I have the most beautiful walk through a field and along the Hudson River to the train station and take Metro-North into the city, and so I actually almost never drive.

Is this actually your office? [Mr. Rose was in a space about as large as a maid’s room.]

This is actually my office. Different from Donald Trump’s, right? We have lots of common spaces around. I would normally go with you to the library that has books and couches and such, but as I walked by I noticed someone else was using it. So we’re here.

I noticed you serve your employees lunch every day, and you provide real plates and silverware and glasses.

Right, no paper plates. By the way, even the water—we don’t have delivered water. We have a water filter here. The water from New York City is great but we filter it anyway, and so there are not plastic bottles. I mean, there might be one or two lying around at someone’s desk.

When you get together with your family, are you known as the crunchy granola one wearing Birkenstocks?

First of all, there are two sides to my family, but I assume you mean when I get together with the Roses. I don’t think the green movement is seen as being crunchy granola and wearing Birkenstocks. I think the green movement is taken seriously in the investment world. In my family, I think I am known as someone who has made a very successful business out of his values.

How are you able to do all these good things—mixed-income housing, reviving downtowns, building near transit—and still make money?

You have to be good at real estate to be successful, and if the real estate is not right, it doesn’t matter if you are green or not. It is not going to work, and that’s where my family comes in. I learned a trade from the very best and that background is what makes our projects so successful.

Would you earn more if you were not environmentally conscious and built all market-rate housing?

Because we have been doing green for a long time, we pay very little more to do it, and we get enormous payback for it. Clearly, building affordable housing is much less profitable than building market-rate, but it is also much less risky. I am always looking at risk-adjusted returns, and what we have is a very diversified company.