“I think the turnaround is quite amazing,” he said. “We aren’t just concentrating on violations, we are concentrating also on infrastructure—boilers, burners, roofs—and about half the units on that project have been renovated.”
“The criticism is definitely unwarranted,” he went on. “I think some people had an agenda when they were criticizing us, including Mr. de Blasio. We met with him, we showed him what we were doing—it was a work in progress. But he had his agenda with what he was doing.”
Asked to elaborate, he stated, “I’m not interested in starting a campaign here—that’s not me.”
Mr. de Blasio declined comment for this article, but his spokesperson confirmed that Mr. Bistricer’s last building came off the list in September 2011.
Mr. Bistricer also found himself in the spotlight during his repeated attempts to purchase the massive Starrett City affordable housing complex in Brooklyn with a $1.3 billion bid in 2007.
He was ultimately unable to jump through the hoops created by the city and the state, including an injunction put in place by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. But that didn’t lessen his image, at least among industry insiders who have followed him throughout his career.
“I remember in the ’90s, he tortured some banks pretty good,” said one company executive who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “He fought them off in foreclosure, bought some loans and litigated pretty extensively. He’s just very tough, and I think we saw that again when he was trying to take over that project [Starrett City].”
Now that Mr. Bistricer is off Mr. de Blasio’s list, like it or not, he finds himself on a list that even the most cynical of real estate insiders would secretly envy, as he sits alongside some of the most lauded real estate tycoons in the city.
In addition to the undertaking at the Sony Building, Mr. Bistricer and Mr. Chetrit plan to transform the Bossert into a boutique luxury hotel with about 300 rooms, after paying the $81 million for it last year.
“There aren’t many buildings like it,” he said. “We’re not doing anything to the outside, because obviously it’s a landmark in very good shape … the architecture is just amazing.”
The project got the go-ahead for the hotel conversion last month, when the Board of Standards & Appeals approved their request for a variance to change the Certificate of Occupancy for hotel use.
“They had to be very creative,” Mr. Jungreis of Rosewood Realty Group said. “It wasn’t a due diligence deal, where you have 90 days to get the approval. You had to basically go hard and get the approvals after. And the fact that he did that, to me, was incredible.”
Among the other projects the business partners have lined up is the $25 million pickup last year of a development parcel at 77 Commercial Street in Williamsburg, which can accommodate 270,000 square feet of development. The developers will raze the existing commercial structure and replace it with a residential building, Mr. Bistricer said.
While unwilling to get into the gritty details about his relationship with Mr. Chetrit, Mr. Bisticer said the two met roughly seven years ago though mutual friends, calling him a “very good partner.”
“It started with business, and as the business develops, you become friends too,” he said.
But will he talk?
“I doubt it. I doubt it,” Mr. Bistricer said, laughing, but then rushed to defend Mr. Chetrit, like any good friend would.
“He’s very busy, and maybe he feels he can’t control the process of the press and what the press is going to write—this and that. It’s not a surprise. A lot of people don’t want to talk to the press.”