But still, how cold is it going to get for you in the next couple years? The Building Congress found that the first four months of 2009 had $2 billion in new construction, down from $10 billion the year before.
We’re going to see a drop-off, yes. I’m not trying to create a really rosy picture. But I’m also not that inclined to create that bleak a picture. … The statistics that drive me crazy are where you’re comparing a year where admittedly we’re in one of the tougher recessions … to what were clearly the two, three over-the-top, largest, biggest years that anybody has ever experienced.
How long do you think it will be until people start building privately again?
I think we have experienced as deep as this recession is going to get. … Now what we’re hearing, which is completely expected: People are starting to talk about, ‘Maybe they should start building lower- or moderate-income rental units, because that’s what people will be able to afford.’ … And at some point, two, three years from now, they’ll start saying, ‘O.K., well, now the surplus condominium market has been absorbed,’ … and now they’ll start building condos again. Whether that’s three years or five years, who knows? The one thing I do know, which is counterintuitive to emotion, is it’ll be sooner than we think.
I thought you said you weren’t an optimist.
I’m not an optimist. Having to look at things on five-year horizons is a lot longer than anyone’s been used to in the last few years. But I am optimistic that we don’t have to just shut our doors and pack up.
So you’re regretting developing a hotel at the peak, on 43rd Street?
No. Our hotel should do very well. I think that we first of all won’t be done for another year. … This year, there are about 9,000 hotel rooms coming online in New York. Most of them are boutique hotels in Lower Manhattan or transient hotels: two star, Holiday Inn–type hotels on the fringes. There are actually no new rooms coming online in midtown. So our property will be the first new product to come online in the last two or three years in its competitive set, and that’s all we care about.
How’s everything going downtown with the World Trade Center?
I wear multiple hats.
You’re on the Freedom Tower.
I am the construction manager for the Freedom Tower, and the client there is the Port Authority.
What else are you managing down there?
We’re the construction manager for Tower 4 and Tower 3, so those are my contractual obligations. … And in my volunteer life, I’m on the Memorial Foundation board, and I’m the co-chair of the real estate, construction committee.
So Tower 3 is the one building that looks like it will definitely not get built, at least in the short term. What did you think when that was decided?
Tower 3 was always the last one on the schedule anyway.