Gary Barnett on Other West Side Rail Yard Bids: 'They're Flawed'

Do you have a broader strategy that you’ve worked around, or a philosophy to your development?

I think build really high quality, both in the residential and office [sectors]—and I’ve seen very clearly that the marketplace responds.

How are the Ariels [condominiums on Broadway and 100th Street] doing? How have they sold?
They’re doing very well; we have actually five deals working right now—in today’s market, real time.

What percent sold is it?

We’re about 75 percent sold, and hopefully we’ll be sold out in the next few months.

Do you think that there’s too much push from local communities to put limits on density?

I think that limits on density have an appropriate place. In some communities, it’s not appropriate to build massive heavy towers, because their whole community has a certain flavor and a certain homogeneity.

With regard to Atlantic yards in Brooklyn—you put in the only rival bid to Forest City Ratner’s $4 billion proposal. Why did you enter the bid?

The MTA put out an RFP [Request for Proposals] in the same way they did on the Hudson Yards, we responded the same way.

But a lot of people viewed that as a foregone conclusion before the RFP was even issued. Did you not agree with that?

I hope we don’t have a
foregone conclusion on the Hudson Yards. That would make at least four bidders very sad.

The city and the state haven’t partnered with a developer publicly beforehand. What type of chance did you think you had on Atlantic Yards? Did you think that was something of a long shot? You said so, if I remember, in your cover letter [for the bid].

We are shocked—shocked—that we bid $150 million, [Forest City Chairman Bruce] Ratner bid $50 million, yet he somehow managed to get it.

In almost any community meeting for Atlantic Yards, Extell’s name comes up—still.

I think we had a very nice plan and use for that space as well then, but we know when we’re beat.

What did you think of the outcome?

I’m not going to comment on that.

It raised the company’s profile some by doing the bid, by getting on the side of opponents. Was that a factor in doing the bid?

Absolutely not.

Do you have any criticisms with the way the state handled the Atlantic yards project?

No.

With The New York Times building, you seemed to have criticisms with the way the state handled eminent domain there.

Absolutely. We defended our property ownership there, we don’t think that that was well done—it’s in our lawsuit, we lost that battle too, and it’s kind of over with.

Are you against the use of eminent domain?

No. Eminent domain has been around for thousands of years; it’s something that makes absolute sense—sometimes the public good trumps the private. But it has to be done with a sensitive hand, and done only when absolutely necessary.

You’ve got two of the better development sites in the city on 57th Street—what are your plans for them?

We think those are two of the absolute premiere sites in New York City, if not the two best. One of them is across from Carnegie Hall, and we are planning a five-star hotel on the base and luxury condos on top. With views of the park and the city.

How tall?

It will be at least 50 stories tall.

The other is to the west?

We don’t really have plans for that one currently, yet.

What’s the status of your planned tower in the Diamond District?
It’ll be designed by SOM, it’ll probably be in the 700,000- to 800,000-square- foot range—so, beautiful project, beautiful building, and I think the market really could use it.

You talked about your site just east of the Javits Center, right north of the Hudson Yards—what type of building are you planning there?

That’s planned right now to be an office building.

How tall?

It’s a substantial building—about a million and a half [square feet]—I don’t really remember right now—but maybe 50 stories.