Location: You like to give parties with dozens of Russian violinists and industrial quantities of caviar. Is decadence your worst trait?
Mr. Rosen: The last thing I am is decadent. … I’m a big thinker; I do a lot of stuff; I enjoy life immensely. … When I throw parties, I blow a lot of money, you know what, so be it; that’s what I like to do.
That sounds like Trump. Do you think of yourself as a high-art Donald?
No. I love Donald because he’s a very unique guy—and he markets what he does with his character and his personality; I don’t do that. I don’t put my name on buildings; I don’t put my name on things. I’m not a commodity, I don’t market myself.
In 2006, it was reported that you had bought 350 West Broadway with your 40 Bond/Gramercy Park Hotel partner Ian Schrager to develop a hotel. Now it’s opening as a condo—without him. What happened?
No, no, no, I bought it alone. … We tried to buy the site next to it and the site behind it, and at that point I wanted it to be a hotel. And as I do most of my hotels, I at least talk to Ian about doing it in some sort of collaboration. … I love Ian as a friend and as a—he’s as good as they will ever make them. But I have my own organization.
It’s going to be a glass luxury Soho condo building with $9.575 million-and-up apartments with steam showers. Does New York City really need more glass condos?
New York never has enough of anything. I do think that glass condos will continue; glass is a great material, you can do whatever you want with it; you can bend it—look what we did at  Bond Street. We used glass, but in order to replicate the environment of a cast-iron district.
We’re sitting in 350 West Broadway’s sales center, where there’s an actual Basquiat in the bathroom and a huge George Condo portrait in the entryway, and you have a Warhol at the One Jackson sales center. When does art become just a sales gimmick?
Our sales office is basically a home; so you walk into a home and the home has great furniture, a great bathroom, a great kitchen, and great art. … I actually asked George to produce a piece of art site-specific for this building, so he did this, and it stays in the lobby. I did the same thing with Peter Lane, who is a ceramic artist, who made a beautiful installation. And the other lady, what’s her name [Michele Oka Doner], she’s doing all the bronze work, pieces that are going to be hardware for the doors.
Is it true you have Basquiats in your children’s rooms at home?
Sure, there are Basquiats. The kids chose them. The kids choose what they want to hang. I think those days are over where you tell the child, ‘Hey this is how it is. You live with a Mickey Mouse drawing poster that you bought for 12 bucks somewhere else.’ … I’m not enforcing a certain life on them. They like art, they choose. It’s their choosing what they want to live with.
You seem to not comment on whether your Basquiats, Warhols, Princes and Koonses are yours personally or lent by your company, RFR. Which is it? Is it the same thing?
It’s the same thing. … I have my own art collection that I buy, and then I have a whole bunch of different art that I have in the company’s name that I basically trade and sell and lend out to other buildings and other places. For me, it’s a logistic, it’s all under one umbrella.
You were going to build a Lord Norman Foster-designed 30-story glass tower on top of 980 Madison, the 1949 galleries building, until the Landmarks Preservation Commission made you scale back plans. How did you feel about the Upper East Side’s reaction?
A lot of people voiced their opinion in a fashion that they should have not voiced their opinion, just because of respect for people, period.
Well, in The Times, Tom Wolfe famously mocked your work, and also your belly: “Chin up, tummy out, Aby Rosen …”
I like productive criticism; I try to criticize things all the time, not because I’m so important. … I want equal criticism; it’s just the way you deliver it. It had a nasty undertone that I didn’t care much for. I grew up in Germany postwar as a Jewish child; I did not need an anti-Semitic undertone.
Isn’t Wolfe’s wife Jewish?
I’ve seen a lot of anti-Semites who mingle with Jews left and right. … But let’s not get into that.
Will the new plan pass?
Hopefully, it will pass because we have gotten a lot of support from people who previously did not support it. … You know, Upper East Side, a lot of important people live there, a lot of people who have a lot of strong opinions, people are allowed to have their strong opinions. It was a very ambitious and a very grand development. … We did nothing for four months, we basically rethought and reread all the comments that were ever rendered on all the blog sites, all the articles. I read every blog; I read every article; I read every public transcript written from community board hearings to landmarks to letters of opposition. I read them all. I took it in; I recognized the unreadiness of an area that is a very sensitive area. … You have 25 cashmere stores. I mean, how many cashmere stores does this Upper East Side need?
You own the Seagram Building and the Lever House, two of Park Avenue’s most godly buildings. Would you sell either?
Who knows—I’d rather not sell, but, you know, I’m in the real estate business. I’m doing what I’m doing solely to make money, but I chose to do that with nice, great buildings that I’m proud of owning. I deep down care about making money in order to have the freedom to do what I want to do.
class=”LOCATIONSitdownQuestion”>In April you put the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries mansion on East 71st Street on the market for $75 million, even though no New York townhouse has sold for more than $53 million, and it still needs work.
I think it’s such a phenomenal house that if you compare what has been sold, period, in this town—15 Central Park West, some of the [rumored] resales are close to $10,000 per square foot. Even if you pay the full $75, you’re buying this for 3,000 bucks a foot. [Ed note: It’s around $3,500.] If you put in $1,000 a foot, which is what it costs to renovate a house today, you’re in at $4,000 a foot.
Have you done any work on the house since you bought it for $15.65 million?
No. At the time someone just needed money really fast, and I was there, and I’m always there, there’s a lot of stuff that I buy and I buy fast. … Look, I should have never been able to buy that thing so cheap. … If you compare the New York real estate market and the high-end market, any other town in this world is more expensive. We’re actually cheap, New York, compared to Paris, London. Lakshmi Mittal’s son just bought a house from a friend of mine; he paid 135 [reportedly 117] million pounds for it, O.K.?
What’s one thing you look back on with regret?
I should have been more aggressive when I pursued the Chrysler Building. … Luckily, I didn’t have any failures, to be honest with you. I had some things that didn’t work out as well as they should, but on the other hand, some stuff that was supposed to be O.K. turned out to be gangbusters.
You said a few years back that you have no fear. Has that changed?
I worry about doing something stupid, like making a wrong step and falling down, but other than that, no. But that was taken in the wrong way. Having no fear is not a sign of arrogance; it’s just a sign of certain things.