Power. Webster’s Dictionary defines power as … No, no, no, never mind that: Power in New York City real estate means money—its acquisition, spending and creation—especially now, as the market enters a tremulous sunset after several bright, shiny years.
Our list of the 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate was assembled with this finance-centric criterion at the forefront. The list, especially higher up, contains those who animate the deals and the trends. They are the deciders and the money providers. They make the real estate world the rest of us live in; or cover, as the case may be.
This criterion explains why some people were obvious picks (financiers like No. 20 Josef Ackermann and No. 7 Lloyd Blankfein; developers like No. 1 Jerry Speyer and No. 9 Douglas Durst; landlords like No. 33 Bill Rudin and No. 66 Lloyd Goldman); and why some picks weren’t so obvious initially (No. 58 Charles Stevenson, the co-op board president at 740 Park; No. 26 Robert De Niro, perhaps the greatest living actor who became Tribeca’s greatest booster; No. 15 Edward Egan, the Catholic archbishop of New York with all that church property under his purview).
The criterion also helps explain why we didn’t rank any brokers until No. 25 Dolly Lenz, probably the most successful residential broker in the U.S. Why? However capable and ingenious in the commissioned service of those spending the capital, brokers are facilitators for the likes of Messrs. Durst and Speyer (or of Messrs. De Niro and Egan, for that matter). They are not the initiators.
The same holds for public officials, including the mighty Michael Bloomberg (No. 2). They seem to be at their best for real estate either facilitating its development or standing clear of its ascendancy. That is, obstructionist or helper; and Mr. Bloomberg’s administration has done very little of the former and a lot of the latter.
Finally, a few observations about the top 100.
It, like the upper echelons of New York real estate, was whiter than East Hampton’s, well, white pages: David Jackson (No. 50), the CEO of Istithmar, and Governor David Paterson (No. 13) were the only African-Americans on the list.
And Ms. Lenz, the broker, was the highest-ranking woman in private industry. She was joined by just eight other women.
Also, the list, as you might expect for one based on money and its management, was heavy on extreme wealth, even by New York standards, including both inherited (Kent Swig, Rob Speyer, Billy Macklowe, Donald Trump and Bill Rudin) and self-created (Mort Zuckerman, Joseph Moinian, Leonard Litwin and Larry Silverstein).
There were, however, a fair amount of almost-from-nothing entrepreneurs splashed across the list: Lockhart Steele, No. 91, publisher of the Curbed Network of blogs; Michael Shvo, No. 100, Manhattan luxury marketing in the meticulously tanned flesh; Craig Newmark, No. 6, that guy in glasses from San Francisco who has all the brokers frightened for their livelihoods; Keith McNally, No. 90, the hotel bellhop who became a restaurant deity; and on …
Who knows who’ll make it next year?
Chairman and CEO of Tishman Speyer
Mr. Speyer may lack Donald Trump’s bluster, but the titan sealed the most expensive residential purchase in history ($5.4 billion for Stuyvesant Town and Cooper Village); owns the MetLife and Chrysler buildings and Rockefeller Center; and very nearly won the right to develop the West Side rail yards.
More than any other lawmaker, Mr. Bloomberg sets the tone for development in New York City. In his six-plus years as mayor, he has boosted below-market-rate housing, opened up swaths of the waterfront to new construction, laid groundwork for development on the far West Side and pushed a series of mega-projects.
Mr. Ross may have lost the competition for the West Side rail yards, but the steadfast friend of Dan Doctoroff is still riding high, injecting $500 million into the Bronx Terminal Market, chairing REBNY and working with Vornado’s Steve Roth to resuscitate the Moynihan Station plan.
Mr. Holliday heads New York City’s largest commercial landlord, SL Green. The firm, with 67 properties scattered across New York and Connecticut, has recently made forays beyond its bread-and-butter portfolio of Class B buildings. Along with a minority Canadian partner, SL Green made the last giant building purchase of 2007, the $1.6 billion purchase of Citigroup’s 388-390 Greenwich Street downtown.
Any major land-use change in the city must pass over Ms. Burden’s desk—if it didn’t originate there in the first place. She has presided over 82 rezonings covering more than 6,100 blocks, and to date, she is the shining star of the Bloomberg administration’s still-incomplete development legacy.