Rail Yard Bidders, City Hall: BFF?

Another individual who has spoken with many of the players said, “Dan [Doctoroff] will award this to the team that is most likely to push this through. He is personally passionate about this. It is part of his legacy.”

City Hall spokesman John Gallagher said in an e-mail, “We fully expect former Administration officials to comply with all [Conflict of Interest Board] rules.”

Still, hiring public officials is a time-honored tradition among development companies, if only because they know how government works—and because a few cellphone numbers can come in handy in a pinch. Douglas Durst, co-president of the Durst Organization, said that former public servants can’t win a big project, but that other developers believe these strategic hires can improve access.

“They make a difference. They enable contact to happen much easier than if you were just calling out of the blue,” Mr. Durst said. “It expedites your ability to get a meeting.”

He added that he does not usually hire from the public sector. “The work ethic in the city is sometimes different than in private practice. You are trying to accomplish different goals,” he said. He made an exception with Mr. Barowitz because he needed a public relations director. “He’s done a terrific job.”

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said that the relationships that government officials bring to real estate development do matter, but they matter “in the best sense.”

“In all business, trust is an important factor,” Ms. Wylde said. “When somebody reviews a submission, it is important they feel they can trust the information provided, and knowing that the people they have worked with are on the other side of the table is one factor.”

Mr. Barnett, an up-and-com
ing developer who is looking for his first big government deal, said that when he hired Mr. Shaw, Extell was working on a completely different idea for the rail yards: He wanted to build a convention center there. Mr. Shaw said he never got involved in that project because it was dead by the end of his revolving-door year. More than 18 months later, he is free to work on the rail yards bid. (He is also free to serve pro bono as chairman of the state’s congestion pricing commission; he said he got assurances from the mayor’s office and the office of the governor’s counsel that doing so would not constitute a conflict of interest.)

“The reason we hired Marc is that we are a growing company,” Mr. Barnett told The Observer. “I figured if he could help run New York City, he could help run Extell. We were looking for experience.”

The M.T.A. is keeping the exhibit hall, with architectural models of the five bids, open through Dec. 14 at its storefront at the northwest corner of 43rd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. A final decision on who will win the bidding is expected in February.