Larry Silverstein’s been through a lot. The World Trade Center developer let everyone know at an N.Y.U. Schack Institute conference today.
Mr. Silverstein on getting hit by a drunk driver:
“Final bids [on the original Twin Towers] were submitted on the 30th of January in 2001. On the 25th day of January, I was walking home from a dinner … and as I’m walking up Madison Avenue … a car comes out of nowhere and hits me. I thought I was going to die. For a few minutes, I thought I did. … I think two days after I’m there, I thought about it and I said ‘my God, the best and final (bid) is due in two days.’ We submitted on the 30.”
Mr. Silverstein on nearly getting outbid on the original Twin Towers:
“I’m driving home from the hospital a couple days later and I’m still in pain. Get a call from JPMorgan representing the Port Authority. … He said I lost [by $50 million]. … Fifty million dollars is not a lot of money. It’s a rounding error.”
Mr. Silverstein on the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
“I spent every morning [in the Twin Towers]. … On the morning of 9/11, my wife had made an appointment for me with the dermatologist. … The effect of sun is significant for people with me complexion. I said ‘cancel the dermatologist, I have a lot to do downtown.’ She said ‘you canceled the last time…’ so I said ‘yes, dear, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ That saved my life. As simple as that. … Three thousand lives were lost that day. Fortunately, the planes hit at a quarter of 9 at the north tower. Had the places hit at 9, decimation. Total decimation. … Everybody was on their way to work, blessed with the fact they hadn’t had time to get there yet. … We lost four of our employees and that was tough.”
Mr. Silverstein on getting the insurance companies to pay up:
“Even though we acquired insurance coverage from those who insisted they were good citizens, good Americans, who said ‘we will protect you.’ … We learned something. The only thing you do when you buy massive coverage and pay huge premiums is you buy yourself the right to sue the insurance [company]. Because there is no way in hell they are going to pay you. … [We spent] five years fighting against 22 insurers. Without that we couldn’t rebuild the trade center. … It got us 100 percent of what the insurance owed us. … Without it, [what you see going forward today] wouldn’t have been possible.”
Mr. Silverstein on “the new downtown”:
“[The buildings] were designed by five iconic architects. You have mass transit here in one location, 5,000 square feet of destination retail. What you’ve got is everything coming together. … By 2016, we should be out of here. This should all be done, at an incredible advantage to downtown. It’s beautiful now, a 24/7 neighborhood.”
Mr. Silverstein’s advice to young real estate hopefuls:
“The best way to become an owner is when you have nothing. And we started with nothing. The best way to do it is to get some of your friends, pool the meager resources you have and find something you can make better. … We started with absolutely nothing and beginning using other people’s money, your money, and growing from there. … Anybody will tell you it’s the worst time to do anything. … Don’t listen to them. If this is something you really believe in, something you really want to do … the opportunities are here. Take advantage of it. Don’t wait.”
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