“We’re Like The Avis Guys:” An Afternoon With Gary Barnett


In the world of Gary Barnett, everything is the best.

The president of Extell Development, a company he launched in the 1990s following a stint as a diamond trader in Belgium, made this plainly clear during a recent tour of One57, his 1,005-foot-tall tower near Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street. When completed, the building will rank not only among the city’s tallest properties, but, with its views of Central Park, among its most luxurious as well. In other words, the best.

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On the One57 amenities: “This will be the best amenities package in the entire city. All the others are good. But they don’t have everything.”

On the One57 finishes: “Look at this kitchen. Where will you find a kitchen anywhere like this? It’s the best, and we have two of them.”

On the One57 floor plans: “We have the best floor plans on the market.”

barnett gary We’re Like The Avis Guys: An Afternoon With Gary Barnett
Gary Barnett, No. 2.

On the One 57 views. “That’s a killer view. There’s nothing as good as this. All the other buildings, they say the have a view, but it’s on an angle. This is dead center.” (Having been up on the 68th floor, as of two weeks ago the highest, there is something to this claim—the views are spectacular, and already exceeding the Top of the Rock.)

On One57’s astronomical prices: “Look at this, and it’s six-something a foot. If this was one of the other buildings, it would be closer to 10,000 a foot. And in this building, it’s not even the best views. I think it’s one of the best deals in the building, in the city.”

On One 57’s architect, Pritzker Prize-winner Christian de Portzamparc: “We hire the best people so we can do the best work.”

Increasingly, however, it isn’t just the amenities or the $115 million price tags on his penthouses that are being described as the best, but the developer himself as well. Long considered a lone wolf for his tendency to ruffle the feathers of his contemporaries—he famously clashed with Bruce Ratner after making a last-minute bid for control of the Atlantic Yards—the developer is beginning to be taken more seriously by his peers.

But if Gary Barnett truly is the best, at least in the eyes of some real estate analysts, he quickly dispelled such a characterization earlier this month when approached by The Commercial Observer about meeting for this story. Indeed, the anti-establishment developer wondered aloud what such a laurel would do to his reputation.

“Two things,” Mr. Barnett said, when reached before the tour. “One, how would you like to go up in the building?” Very much so. “The other thing is, I hear these profiles are for the people at the top of the list.” How could he know? “I want to tell you, I’m not cooperating if I’m No. 1. Because I’m not. I’m not No. 1, I don’t want to be No. 1. We’re like the Avis guys. We’re No. 2, and we try harder. Got it?”

As is increasingly the case these days, Gary Barnett got just what he wanted.