Stephen Ross, King of Columbus Circle

“I think my idea is that you always want to hire someone who is smarter than yourself,” he said. “Many of the people I have hired, I’ve seen them on the other side of the table, working for banks, for investment banking firms, and I have seen them in action. Probably, I have not used any headhunters for the senior people here at all. I have seen them in the context of doing business. I have seen them perform.”

Mr. Ross, who lives in the Time Warner complex with his second wife and their four children from previous marriages, is also a man who moves easily through the social and professional worlds of New York. He is good friends with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, and served on the executive committee for the city’s failed Olympic bid. Last year, he became chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, the main industry trade association, after Peter Kalikow, another leading candidate, chose instead to remain as chairman of the M.T.A. for a few more months.

It is through REBNY that Mr. Ross has proposed to the city that for-profit developers build middle-class housing—he calls it “workforce housing”—at the Queens West site near Long Island City. Mayor Bloomberg last October announced that the city would buy the property and develop it into 5,000 apartments for families earning between $60,000 and $145,000 a year, based on a family of four. The news that REBNY members might take over the project, reported in May by The New York Times, annoyed the city’s numerous affordable housing developers, who are usually smaller than REBNY members but who have been growing in size and importance over the past several years. It also irritated community members, who felt they had been shut out of the process.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Neill Coleman, said that no decision had been made on Queens West. “We continue to talk to many interested parties about Queens West.”

Mr. Ross said that the proposal was a practical one.

“We are looking to do it the cheapest way of doing it, without profit,” Mr. Ross said. “With 5,000 units, we can’t have a lot of small developers. This is not a handout program. This is something the city needs as a permanent resource.”

His interest in Queens West stems from two sources, he said: a fear that the city was becoming too expensive for the managerial class, and the desire to improve the real estate’s industry reputation. The idea that the same developer who is building some of the city’s highest-priced housing is also concerned about the city becoming too expensive does not strike him as contradictory.

“People come to New York to make money. They want a higher lifestyle. If they don’t provide housing to accommodate those people, the city would be a total mess,” Mr. Ross said. “You cannot have the attitude that everything is to be built for affordable or for the workforce. You have to have it so that it is totally diverse, so that all income levels can be accommodated.”

Stephen Ross, King of Columbus Circle