Let’s Make a Deal! How Mike’s Mild-Mannered Closer Seth Pinsky, Got the City Building Again

Imagine, if you will, the landscape of New York City 15 years hence. A drive to Citi Field in Willets Point takes you past a pleasant if overpriced cluster of residential buildings, rather than seedy chop-shops. Roosevelt Island is home to a sprawling $2 billion applied-sciences campus spinning out an army of developers to populate ping-pong-table-clad start-up clusters from Dumbo to Union Square. On Manhattan’s far West Side, the rezoned stretch of Hudson Yards offers millions of square feet for office space, housing and retail and 14 acres of open public space. You can already see traces of a more built-up, scrubbed-down New York in Luna Park’s freshly-painted Scream Zone, the first new roller-coasters Coney Island has seen in 80 years, and the rapidly-metastasizing arena at Atlantic Yards, which will soon play home court to the rebranded Brooklyn Nets.

It’s hardly a scenario Seth Pinsky could have imagined in September 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed just seven months into his tenure as president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a non-profit subsidiary of the Mayor’s office charged with fostering economic growth across the five boroughs.

At the time, Mr. Pinsky was a 36-year-old former lawyer and investment analyst, only a few years removed from a private sector gig refinancing real estate deals for the big banks as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb. He had one big win under his belt—jump-starting the World Trade Center redevelopment project—but he didn’t have “a political bone in his body,” as one insider put it. “People kept saying to me, ‘Wow, you’re the head of the Economic Development Corporation? We’re in an economic meltdown!’’ Mr. Pinsky told The Observer.

“At the time it meant, ‘You must be really crazy.’” Read More

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