The Rushmore and the Aldyn, two developments at Riverside South, finished just as the market was headed south, along with the Lucida on the Upper East Side and the mock-historical 535 West End Avenue on the Upper West Side. Yet they have attracted the likes of David Wright, Robin Williams, Tyson Chandler and Mr. Real Estate himself, Alex Rodriguez, who flipped a Rushmore penthouse for a 50 percent profit after owning it for less than a year. Like One57, the neighborhood transforming International Gem Tower is finally rising on an otherwise dowdy 47th Street. A new Hyatt is headed skyward nearby, in Times Square, harkening back to Mr. Barnett’s early days in hotels. Another luxury building on West 43rd Street is in the works, as well as one downtown—Mr. Barnett would not say where—and the Carlton House is well underway. Certainly something has been forgotten.
And, according to sources outside the developer, Mr. Barnett has tapped another Pritzker firm, Herzog & de Meuron, of 40 Bond fame, to build a 1,250-foot residential tower at Broadway and 57th Street. Yes, One57 was not enough. When it stops being the best, this project, and so many others, will be ready to carry on the legacy. When asked about the project, Mr. Barnett did not deny it, though he noted that, “Nothing had been settled, not the height, not the architect.” So be it. Perhaps now that Harry Macklowe’s 432 Park is climbing toward 1,395 feet, maybe Mr. Barnett wants to build a 1,400-foot tower.
Even when Mr. Barnett struggles, he does so spectacularly. The Rushmore may be the perfect case. Bad brokers, four lawsuits, perhaps some 40 or 50 over one project or another. He has missed his fair share, from Atlantic Yards to Hudson Yards to Brooklyn Bridge Park. A comptroller’s report from a 2007 bid for the Aqueduct casino reveals a man, who, while he may fill out his own questionnaire, was for once less exacting than usual, leaving many questions blank and giving the state a general impression of untrustworthiness—not a good thing when betting on a casino project.
And yet would there really be room for more work? Actually, there probably would be. “I don’t have time to think about the ones that got away, thank god, because we’re busy doing what we’re doing, and there’s always more to be done,” Mr. Barnett said.
Following the tour of the One57 showroom, Mr. Barnett headed outside and down three blocks to Lexington Avenue. Asked he really did not believe he was No. 1, he made it abundantly clear yet again.
“There are so many more powerful people than us, the REITs and the families,” Mr. Barnett said. “Being No. 1, everyone’s watching you, talking about you. I don’t need that, I don’t want that. My ego is still normal, I think. Let’s keep I that way.”
Maybe he meant it. Or maybe he was trying to psyche us out, get inside our heads and make us make him No. 1. Whatever Mr. Barnett was doing, it was working—he is not one of the foremost marketers, as well as builders, in the city for no reason. Before we could collect ourselves and ask what the truth was, Mr. Barnett got into a cab and was gone.