The Rudin Way
Al Barbarino Jan. 14, 2014, 1 p.m.
Bill Rudin sits at the helm of one of the largest privately owned real estate companies in the city. Like much of the Real Estate Board of New York community, in addition to his firm’s undertakings, he often puts at the top of his agenda initiatives that might not always show immediate results but which are essential for the future success of the city. He has backed city initiatives aimed at bringing tech innovators to Downtown Manhattan, was a key figure leading the recovery after Hurricane Sandy and has served as chairman of the Battery Park Conservancy and the Association for a Better New York. As vice chairman and CEO of Rudin Management Company, Mr. Rudin oversees some 15 million square feet of commercial and residential space and most recently showed his ability to beat the odds in the redevelopment of the former Saint Vincent Hospital, where after a grueling seven-year process his firm is rapidly selling condos at the 200-unit complex Greenwich Lane. Mr. Rudin, a REBNY vice chairperson, spoke to The Commercial Observer about his current projects, REBNY, major real estate happenings over the last year and what needs to be done to keep New York City competitive.
What does REBNY need to focus on going forward?
Our overall competitiveness in terms of being able to attract and retain talent, infrastructure and affordable housing is a key issue that we need to address, and we need to continue to make New York competitive on a global basis. We also need to create jobs.
Are you looking forward to the REBNY banquet?
The REBNY banquet is a great place to get a lot of work done in a very short period of time because everybody’s there. You’ve got the brokers, the owners, the banks and a lot of people involved in the city. It’s a great opportunity to say hello to everybody, recount the last year and look forward to 2014.
What was it like witnessing the evolution of Downtown Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy?
The whole discussion after Sandy was about whether lower Manhattan would recover. And there were a lot of people who were skeptical. But there were also a lot of people who knew that the fundamentals of Downtown Manhattan were and are very strong. They also knew that with the type of ownership of the main buildings there and the institutional hands—whether it’s the real estate investment trusts or pension funds or real estate families—that there was capital available to reinvest in those properties.
Between all of the trophy building sales and Downtown Manhattan’s rebirth and progress at Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center site, there were a lot of positives in 2013. What does this say about the market climate?
I think it sends a very strong message that there’s a tremendous amount of capital flowing into the city, that there’s a sense that New York is one of the preeminent cities in the world and that it’s a global city. These types of investments are very positive and send a strong message for the future of New York.
There’s been a whole change and growth of almost every borough in this city, where you see economic activity, you see investment, you see housing being built and you see open space. You see the whole point of livable cities and trying to make the city the entrepreneurial and innovative capital. I think that’s something the new mayor will be focusing on: How do we grow and continue to attract the young firms that really have the potential to be a job growth engine for our city?
What are your thoughts on Mayor Bill de Blasio? Will the next four years feel like the Michael Bloomberg administration?
It’s definitely going to be different, but so far, the mayor has appointed some key people, whether it’s [Police Commissioner William] Bratton or [First Deputy Mayor] Tony Shorris or [Deputy Mayor] Alicia Glenn. There are people who he is surrounding himself with who have experience running the city, and that’s very, very important.
There were a lot of successes in 2013, but the Midtown east rezoning didn’t go through. Were you disappointed and are you still optimistic?
We were disappointed, and unfortunately the not-for-profit institutions hurt—like St. Patrick’s and St. Bart’s and Central Synagogue—were really hurt. But I’m optimistic based on the new mayor’s comments after it didn’t move forward and those of Councilman [Daniel] Garodnick that they will come back this year and try to address some of the concerns they had but still move the general premise forward.
What’s the latest at Greenwich Lane?
After eight to 10 weeks of sales, we’ve sold over 80 apartments—40 percent of the inventory—which is just a phenomenal rate of sales volume for a project that’s going to be delivered in two years. We continue to see very strong interest in potential buyers and a bunch of contracts and showings. Our prospective buyers see the unique features: the amenities, the pool, the gym, the infrastructure, but also at the same time, there’s an intimacy within the different buildings of the project—there are five different buildings. So we’re very excited that, after seven years of work, we’re getting very positive responses from the marketplace.
What else are you excited about in your portfolio?
We’ll continue to market and sell Greenwich Lane and continue to look at other opportunities. We also continue to reinvest in our projects. We just announced that 560 Lexington Avenue will undergo a major renovation; we’re going to create a new subway entrance in order to reposition that building. At 1 Battery Plaza, we are redoing the lobby. And we’re going to open up our new gardens, driveway, lobby and a new Grace’s Marketplace at 215 East 68th Street.
Contrast how you’re doing in residential and commercial. Where is the momentum?
I think the momentum is in all segments of the market. The great thing about this city is the diversity of its people and also the diversity of its office stock, as well as residential, whether its affordable housing versus high-end housing, rental versus co-op or condominium.