Mort Zuckerman, the ‘Happy’ (Very) Landlord

Mr. Zuckerman: Sit down, I’m reading about one of my favorite topics: the Middle East. I get all the articles—all the major political articles from all the Israeli newspapers. I’ve been reading it for 30 years; it’s really fantastic. Some people would sort of say that you don’t find out what’s happening in the United States by reading The Washington Post or The New York Times—certainly The New York Times. These are all the major papers and you really get all the different views on a major topic.

Location: Do you do that with the American press?

I don’t. I do read The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and, most critically, the Daily News. I read Time and Newsweek, and, of course, The Observer; and The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune and Vanity Fair.

What did you think of your New Yorker profile?

I think, as most profiles go, two-thirds was accurate. There were so many inaccuracies, including the date of my divorce from my wife, which drove her crazy because she tried to correct it and I tried to correct it twice. It was a little embarrassing to her because it indicated she was divorced after she was remarried. That was symptomatic to a lot of issues. I thought there were a lot of good things in it, but it was written like an arithmetic program: It’s one plus two plus three plus four plus five plus six plus nine plus seven minus two. What it failed to capture in my judgment was my real passion for the work that I do.

You are building a new tower on Eighth Avenue next to the Hearst Tower. How tall is it supposed to be?

Forty stories.

Who’s the architect?

It’s KPF. We are trying to use the Lever House as a template—in modern terms and contemporary terms. You’ll have that same kind of simple elegance to the lines of the building. It’s a clean kind of clarity to the design. It’s not an overwhelming design, yet it really works and has endured. That’s what we’re trying to do.

What sort of statement is Mort Zuckerman and Boston Properties making with this new skyscraper?

We try to put up buildings that will combine two things: a sense of aesthetic [so] that [you] look at a building and say, ‘That’s a first-rate building.’ That’s a design issue as well as a construction issue, and we’ve merged the two. And, secondly, from the point of view of the occupant, you want to give a sense of how well it functions.

If you look at the lobby of this building [599 Lexington Avenue, a Boston Properties’ building], you’ll see a certain monumentality to it and you’ll see a wonderful relief painting that we commissioned from Frank Stella, who is a very good friend of mine. One time, we came out of the elevator bank into the lobby, and I said, ‘Frank, what do you think? How does it look?’ And he said, ‘Mort, you hung it upside down.’

Do you have an anchor tenant yet for the new tower?

I think I am not permitted to make what is called selective disclosure, but you would not be wrong if you hypothesized that we do. We’re definitely going ahead with the building.

What kind of tenant do you want in the building?

The building is uniquely designed for office users, mostly for lawyers. It’s perfect for lawyers.

Any law firms in mind?

Anyone who can pay the highest rents.

What kind of rents are you charging?


How high?

High. I can’t say what I’m—we’ll charge what we think is fair.

Above $150 a foot?

It will certainly have to be fair for both sides.

Douglas Durst is asking for $185 per foot for a floor at the new Bank of America Tower building.

Yes. Well, this is at the top of the building; and it’s a very good building and he may get close to $185.

Mort Zuckerman, the ‘Happy’ (Very) Landlord