Last November, Governor Cuomo signed the Bill to Amend the Hudson River Park Act, allowing for the potential transfer of 1.6 million square feet of air rights over the Hudson River to developers so they can build even taller residential and commercial towers overlooking the park. In a local Village paper (not this one), Paul Ullman, a director of the Hudson River Park Trust, wrote an editorial praising the contributions of the Trust and its Board of Directors for “extensive, exhaustive and comprehensive work,” an achievement that involved “discussions, focused and diversified, hosted by a Trust that included every conceivable slice of the park’s various constituencies” to bring about the passage of the bill. “Let’s embrace this key moment,” he rejoiced.
Who Are These Hard-Working People, and Whose Constituencies Do They Represent?
The following is a list of the members of the Hudson River Park Trust and Board of Directors who have business backgrounds in real estate development, finance, or both, and the companies they work for. (This information is compiled from the Hudson River Park and corporate websites, plus relevant New York State government websites and publications).
Edison Properties (Anthony Borelli, Board). Edison Properties, based in Newark, “leads efforts to prepare high visibility sites in Manhattan for development,” assembling properties into the largest possible development sites. Owners of Manhattan Ministorage and ParkFast. History of employing high-powered lobbyists “to influence city decisions on real estate and zoning in its favor” (www.nyc.gov/lobbyist search). Borelli is VP of planning and real estate. Currently removing contaminated soil to prepare a parking lot on 17th and 18th Streets from 10th to 11th Avenues for a mixed use structure. Borelli: “We’re remediating the site, cleaning it up to prepare it for future development.” (Real Estate News, 11/12/13) Additional plans for a Hudson Square residential tower “if a zoning proposal goes through” (Real Estate News, 12/17/12), a project already opposed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
Fortress Investment (Michael Novogratz, Board chair). Fortress is a rapidly growing investment firm, managing assets of $58 billion. Novogratz is head of real estate related investments.
Brookfield Office Properties (Mitchell Rudin, Board). Commercial office space development and management. Invests in premier-quality, high-growth markets whose “signature properties define the skyline of many major metropolises.” Rudin is president and CEO of Brookfield’s U.S. Commercial Operations. Recently honored by NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate as “one of the leaders of our industry…involved in some of New York’s largest and most notable transactions.”
Wolfensohn and Company (Diana Taylor, chair of the Trust since 2007). A global investment banking, private equity, and advisory firm responsible for overseeing the regulation for over 3,500 financial institutions with assets totaling over $1.5 trillion. Taylor is managing director and member of the Investment Committee. She also sits on the board of directors of Brookfield Properties.
Georgetown Company (Joseph B. Rose, Trust). Large-scale public and private real estate development projects. Rose is a partner. As chair of New York City Planning Commission during the Giuliani administration he “initiated a broad range of strategic initiations including extensive re-zonings throughout the city that tripled annual housing production.”
Toms Capital LLC (Noam Gottesman, Board). Real estate investments and financial services with headquarters in the Meatpacking District. Gottesman is managing partner. He is listed in Forbes’s 2013 “400 Richest People in America;” net worth of $1.2 billion.
Lee and Associates (Peter Braus, Board). Fourth largest broker-owned commercial real estate services firm in U.S. with annual transaction volume of $4 billion. Baus is executive VP.
Warburg Pincus (Justin Sadrian, Board vice chair). One of the world’s largest private equity firms with more than $40 billion in assets. Focus on growth investing. Sadrian, formerly in JPMorgan’s investment banking division, is a partner and managing director.
Meadow Partners (Jeffrey Kaplan, Trust). International real estate and redevelopment. Seeks to acquire real estate assets with the highest potential returns. Kaplan, formerly director of acquisitions at Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund, is founder and managing partner and chair of the Meadow investment committee.
Berkenkamp Realty Group LLC (Marla Smith, Board). New Jersey-based real estate and investment banking firm with a focus on large urban real estate redevelopment transactions. Smith is a principal.
Moore Capital Management (Scott Lawin, vice chair, Board). Global alternative investment, emerging market hedge funds, managing $13 billion in assets. Lawin is Chief Operating Officer.
Omega Advisors (Samuel Martini, treasurer, Board). Hedge fund giant managing $9.5 billion in assets. Martini is a partner.
Latham and Watkins (Michael Kuh, Trust). One of the world’s largest and most profitable law firms. Represents wide range of leading private equity firms, investment banks, mergers and acquisition, and leveraged buyout funds. Kuh is a counsel in the New York Office.
Highland Financial Advisors (Paul Ullman, Trust). Asset-backed and mortgage-backed securities markets. Ullman is chair of the Investment Committee.
Goldman Sachs (Peter Secca, Board). Investment banking. Secca, a managing director and partner, heads North American derivative sales for equities division.
Goldman Sachs (Pamela Madoff, Board). Madoff specializes in fixed income derivatives.
Soroban Capital Partners (Gaurav Kapadia, Board). Hedge fund, focus on equity trading, manages $3 billion in assets. Kapadia is a founder.
Cement Trucks on Parade
There you have it—a bill that allows developers to buy air rights over the Hudson River so they can build luxury skyscrapers in a coastal wave velocity zone on property made valuable with taxpayer money, a bill created by people whose companies have the potential of reaping enormous profits from its passage into law, a bill rushed in secret through the state legislature without input from the community, with gaps in the mechanism for zoning transfer wide enough to accommodate a convoy of cement trucks. What could possibly go wrong?