The Cousins Durst

durst 3 shravan vidyarthi The Cousins DurstCommercial Observer: What have you been up to since stepping down as co-president?
Douglas Durst: I’m starting to step away and attend less meetings and come in a little later and that’s been terrific. My father taught me that you go for cocktails and then you have somebody say ‘I just saw him over there,’ and then you sneak out. That hasn’t changed.

Do you expect to have more free time?

Douglas Durst: I certainly hope so. People ask me that, and I don’t think that’s much of an issue. There’s lots of things I like to do and certainly I have a whole stack of books I’m looking forward to reading. I have my bicycle that’s missing me.

What added responsibilities will you have, Jody?

Jody Durst: Just being more discriminating with my time because there’s more to do.

And how has that been going?
Douglas Durst: Last night we had a brokers’ party and he had to stay for the whole thing.

Jody Durst: Douglas’ typical philosophy is the sooner you show up the sooner you can leave. I told him the other evening that I was surprised to still be seeing him.

Is there anything you won’t miss about the job, Douglas?
Douglas Durst: I’m not going to miss sitting at interminable meetings, certainly. It’s like being a grandparent: I get all the pleasure and then when things get tough I hand my grandson over to my daughter and say ‘Change ‘em.’

Jody Durst: Get the wipes!

Give me an overview of what’s happening at One Bryant Park?
Douglas Durst: We have still about 40,000 feet, I think. We’re in discussions for about 20,000 of that so out of 2.1 million that’s pretty good. Jody is still trying to get the building completed as quickly as possible. I don’t know if you noticed, but after a very lengthy struggle we’ve got our window-washing rigs approved and we’re starting to clean the building and replace the broken panels. This weekend we’ll be installing our living sculptures in the urban garden room off the lobby. When you go out you’ll see them working in there. These are gigantic, the largest Chia Pets ever. And basically they’ll be finishing getting the windows in.

Jody Durst: There are two or three partial floors that we’re building out now and they should be ready by November.

Has there been a slowdown at the Durst Organization because of the recession?
Douglas Durst: Oh, yes, a marked slowdown in activity.

Was that to be expected?
Douglas Durst: After last September it’s about what I expected. A year and a half ago, no, it wasn’t the way we thought things were going to go. We thought we’d see a gradual slow down, but the collapse, the bankruptcy of Lehman, was just like somebody turned off the spigot.

How has the recession affected leasing at your buildings this year?
Douglas Durst: When things start to look very dark, tenants just stop leasing because tenants don’t know what’s going to happen, but after a while they have to do something—their leases are expiring, the space is getting old. The other thing that happens is the big-space users throw all their shadow space on the market, space that they’re keeping for future expansion, and so you have people not renting space. But now they’re starting to pull that space off the market, the sublease space. That’s the case with [Durst tenant] Bank of America. Eight or nine months ago they put the entire building on the market, 500,000 square feet, and about four weeks ago they took it off the market. They’re looking at moving people into the building. They haven’t decided yet, but the space is no longer available for sublease.