It was a year power rushed away. Since our last list, in May 2008, New York devolved from a city of infinite victory and possibility to one of survival and recrimination. The new list turns on that.
Toward the top are money men (emphasis on men—only 12 women on the list), and New York’s firmly established surnames, those likeliest to withstand the recession: the Macks, Milsteins, Feils, Fishers, Malkins, Roses and Walentases all debut. And others from 2008 advance Frogger-like: Rob Speyer shot up 64 spots, Richard LeFrak up 46, Bill Rudin 21.
Astride the pinnacle, however, stands someone whose surname goes back not even two generations in the U.S. President Obama’s administration finds itself at the true helm of the American economy and, to a large extent, then, at that of the real estate markets.
It is no longer the invisible hand in charge, but one quite visible and caked in red, white and help!
Other government leaders make the list—Mayor Bloomberg stays in the top five and Governor Paterson goes top 10—but it’s the finance men who, well, power the Power 100. At least one-tenth of the names are those whose main job could be considered lending capital or arranging hefty loans, including Joe Ficalora and Sam Giarrusso, regional bank heavies who probably, in any other year, would’ve been surprised to find themselves on the list.
Two more notes: There are 122 names total in the 100 spots (62 names are new, 39 from last year were scuppered). Like the industry’s topmost, the list remains paler than a Gold Coast co-op board and more phallocentric than a commercial real estate C-suite: The list is over 95 percent white males. There’s nothing we can do about that.
(Slideshow of the Top 20 to your upper right. And click here for results of our online polls asking you who should make the list.)
1. Barack Obama
President of the United States
The chief executive of chief executives has come to dominate an era in real estate when government largesse means the difference between deals and no deals. TARP, TALF, PPIP, OMFG!—the feds’ breathlessly watched efforts to loosen credit markets and therefore get capital moving here and around the globe places this Chicagoan securely (heh) atop our list as the most powerful person in New York real estate.
2. Stephen Ross (3)
Chairman and CEO of the Related Companies
Owner of the Time Warner Center and now the designated developer of the 26-acre West Side rail yards, Mr. Ross is the city’s unparalleled king of private development. Chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York and a builder who timed his developments quite well with the market, Mr. Ross is the one whom landlords looking to sell are quick to call up, should he still have an appetite to buy.
3. Mort Zuckerman (14) and Ed Linde
Chairman and CEO of Boston Properties
The busiest commercial real estate buyer in the U.S. right now, Messrs. Zuckerman and Linde’s Boston Properties also claims a sizable chunk of office Manhattan. This includes, of course, the GM Building, bought with minority partners in a record $2.9 billion deal closed just before the recession. Those were the days!
4. Michael Bloomberg (2)
Mayor of New York City
While New York’s real estate sector depends on the broader economy far more than anything else, Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps the best-positioned person in government to nudge it one way or another. Using his tools of taxes, incentives and disbursement of infrastructure investments, he has broad powers to shape the future of individual developments and citywide trends.
5. Jerry (1) and Rob Speyer (69)
Co-CEOs of Tishman Speyer
They’ve had a rough go of it over the record-smashing Stuyvesant Town–Cooper Village acquisition, but “Speyer” arguably remains the marquee surname in New York commercial real estate, with 15 million top-shelf square feet in midtown alone, including Rockefeller Center and the land lease on the Chrysler Building.
6. Douglas Durst (9)
Co-President of the Durst Organization
Maybe it’s all the good karma generated by that organic farm upstate, but Mr. Durst has managed to ride the downturn triumphant, with his gorgeous One Bryant Park nearly all tenanted up. He’s also a would-be player in the redevelopment of the 57th Street Pier, and with a $300 million fund on the so-called sidelines, he’s waiting to pounce on primo distressed properties.
7. Marc Holliday (4) and Andrew Mathias
CEO and President of SL Green
It’s hard to put this more plainly: Messrs. Holliday and Mathias lead the city’s largest commercial real estate portfolio, one that comprises a stunning 23,211,200 square feet: 388-390 Greenwich, 141 Fifth, 100 Park, 330 Madison, 711 Third. These and more are theirs—and no matter the REIT’s share price, their real estate remains, well, real.
8. Amanda Burden (5)
Chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, Director of the Department of City Planning
New condo towers used to sprout up wherever Ms. Burden would point: Williamsburg! Downtown Brooklyn! West Chelsea! Those days are over, of course, but as the empress of zoning and public approvals of large-scale development in this city, she still holds a very strong hand, especially if any private developer ever wants to build again.
9. David Paterson (13)
Governor of New York
There’s not a ton of money coming out of the state for anything real estate–related these days, but as governor, Mr. Paterson sits in a powerful seat. Large companies are likely to petition him for incentives to stay in New York, as some have already, and his assent is needed for any agreement to get the World Trade Center moving.
10. Sheldon Silver (22)
State Assembly Speaker
The veteran of the “three men in a room” that control decisions in state government, Mr. Silver wields extraordinary influence over any piece of Albany legislation, be it the budget, housing policy or taxes. Thusly, he has foiled many a development plan of the Bloomberg administration and poured subsidies into Lower Manhattan’s recovery.