Can Stephen Ross Make 11th Avenue the Next Hot Address?

HUDSON YARDS is its own city, and not a small one at that. The shortest towers will be 75 stories high, and designed by some of the world’s best architects. The tallest will surpass the Empire State Building, with a higher observation deck. Hudson Yards will have its own cultural center and a mall twice the size of Time Warner Center, and nearly half the 26-acre site spanning eight city blocks will be given over to public open space. It will be as if someone has taken a massive swath of Midtown, perfected it, and dropped it on top of the once-desolate Far West Side. And it will only cost $12 billion and a dozen years to build.

The project reflects Related’s growing influence in City Hall. Three years ago, in a rare defeat, Related’s plan to convert the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a massive shopping mall was rejected by the City Council because Mr. Ross refused to agree to require that retailers there pay a living wage. Mr. Ross walked rather than back down. This year, Hudson Yards was exempted from a citywide living wage bill, which some critics claim was the result of a $34,000 donation to Ms. Quinn’s mayoral war chest.

Already, the area is filling in around him, with luxury buildings popping up in the once-unthinkable wasteland of 10th and 11th Avenues in the 40s and 50s. “Already, we’re getting our best rents in Chelsea,” Mr. Ross said. For proof, look to the nearby MiMA tower, in which TIAA-CREF just paid $551 million for a 70 percent stake, and where the top floor units rent in the $10,000 to $25,000 range. The tower is almost fully leased. It has a doggie spa, and it is at 42nd and 10th.

The case could of course be made that by burnishing all these outlying areas, Mr. Ross is leaving the city overpolished. Not only has he shifted from affordable to luxury housing, he’s fighting living wages for the working class while creating apartments that sell on average for more than a million dollars, and frequently tens of millions. If any developer represents the go-go highs of the Bloomberg era, it is Stephen Ross, even if his approach often leaves the average New Yorker on the sidelines, gazing up at glass peaks.

In 2017, Related plans to move its corporate headquarters from the Time Warner Center to Hudson Yards. And Mr. Ross will trade his Time Warner penthouse, with its Central Park view, for a fresh perspective atop what he calls the new heart of New York.

editorial@observer.com