“My father was an immigrant who worked at a mill and I ended up as an Army Colonel with 30 years’ experience and now my kids are doing great things,” offered Bob Novogratz in April of 2007 as he was being considered for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame for his gridiron achievements at West Point.
In the case of one of his seven kids, Mike Novogratz, doing “great things” was becoming a billionaire.However, the power of his father’s image can be measured by his mirror-like emulation. Similar to his father, Mike became a high school wrestling champion and after Princeton, an Army helicopter pilot.
Now, from two recent articles in The Times, we know Mike met in secret with Governor Mario Cuomo and offered him $100 million for the air rights to Pier 40 to, again, we presume, save Pier 40’s athletic fields. (Mike has four kids, his brother Robert seven and since Mike and Robert live near Pier 40, the kids may occasional play on it.)
However, no question, Mike has a big interest in the Hudson River Park. We were all surprised some months ago when he ousted developer Douglas Durst and became the head of Friends of the Hudson River Park. Much earlier, we learn from Google, Governor Patterson appointed him to the board of the Hudson River Park Trust (we have to accept that he sought the job).
Mike is a powerful man in muscle and money. He was the captain of the Princeton wrestling team and think about it, overpowering another man into submission by using every muscle in your body and commanding your will to the breaking point – wow! In addition, he has around $1.5 billion – Mike gets what he wants and he evidently wants control of Pier 40.
Novogratz’s company, Fortress Investing, does have a real estate investment division and he has made a deal with two other smaller investment firms to accept resting funds like union pension money to invest in real estate deals. They make a small handling fee but they make their real money when they actually do a deal, like 15%. Again, I don’t think Mike Novogratz is doing this for money alone. No, I think he does want to save Pier 40 and yes get some cash flow to maintain the whole park but I think he really does want to turn the pier into a first class athletic complex. My guess is that he will still make a ton of money over the next 10 years as he demolishes St. John’s Terminal and turns it into 70-story condo towers and a retail shopping complex (maybe we will get a great big Trader Joe’s).
However, remember that $100 million is just 10 West Village family brown stones – peanuts – and he will not be putting his own money up.
So, what appears to have happened is his interest in athletics got him to ask for a position on the board of the Hudson River Park Trust and then to gain greater control, he allowed himself to become the head of The Friends of the Hudson River Park and suddenly (after 20 years) of poo pooing it, we suddenly have the steel piles of Pier 40 dangerously corroding.
(HRPT boss Madelyn Wils used to ask for money to pay to maintain the whole park. Now it has become save Pier 40 before it goes “plotz” into the river.)
A few months ago, WestView ran a centerfold spread showing a hospital, an electronics medical research institute, and some condo towers on top of the three block-long St. John’s Terminal. It was our attempt to suggest how we might restore a hospital to the lower West Side of Manhattan. I called Mike on the phone to see if he would buy it but before I could get through the opening pleasantries, he hung up.
The rich successful hospitals like New York Presbyterian have been around for 150 years so you can’t, by just opening the doors of a gleaming new state of the medical science facility, expect financial viability – no way.
We added two condo towers to help pay for construction and provide positive cash flow for ten years or so until the hospital and research center became profitable.
So Mike, I know you have donated money to keep wrestling an Olympics sport and that you are on the board of NYU Langone Hospital. If you can be satisfied that building a hospital with a medical research facility and yes, condos will work financially – I mean, your investors would make a profit – would you do it?
Hey, we could still do the biggest Trader Joe’s in the country with 50 checkouts!