Leon Charney, a 69-year-old developer and attorney whose colorful career has included stints as President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy adviser and convicted spy Jonathan Pollard’s lawyer, and who now moderates a public affairs show called The Leon Charney Report, is building a hotel near Bryant Park.
Mr. Charney, who had just returned from China when he spoke with The Observer, said he will replace the five-story office building at 120 West 41st Street—now vacant but for the Simply Pasta restaurant on the ground floor—with a $90 million boutique hotel, which will rise “about” 22 floors and contain a bit more than 100 luxury rooms, a spa and a swimming pool.
Mr. Charney and his partners in Charney-FPG purchased the property last year for $20 million. Charney-FPG also bought nearby 115 West 40th Street last year for $162 million.
“We’re talking to one of the leading hotels of the world,” said Mr. Charney, when asked who would operate the establishment. He estimated rooms would run between $500 and $550 a night and that the project would be completed within a year and a half.
It’s quite a cushy endeavor for a man who has spent an unusual amount of time engaged in gritty international intrigue. Press reports from the 1980s place him at President Carter’s side during the Camp David peace talks. And in a Jan. 2, 1990 Jerusalem Post article reported by none other than Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Charney admits to meeting with then P.L.O. leader Yasser Arafat in an effort to, in Mr. Blitzer’s words, “win the release of Israeli soldiers missing or held prisoner in Lebanon.”
But back to the New York hospitality industry. Is Mr. Charney concerned that the depressed economy will endanger his hotel project? Not a chance.
“Our location is superb, across the street from the new Bank of America building, next to Bryant Park,” Mr. Charney said. “It’s a prime location.”