The New York Observer released their compilation of “The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate” today. Some familiar players from the City’s very-much-controlled “process” to redesign Washington Square Park made the list, as I’m sure you’re not surprised! Although there were a few surprises…
#2: Mayor Michael Bloomberg
On “public officials,” the Observer writes, “They seem to be at their best for real estate … as obstructionist or helper; and Mr. Bloomberg’s administration has done very little of the former and a lot of the latter.”
#11. NYU; specifically: Michael Alfano; Executive Vice President, N.Y.U.
Alfano is “onetime dean of N.Y.U.’s College of Dentistry” (?) and “now oversees the 15 million square feet leased and owned by the university, and is spearheading a plan to add six million feet of new space in the next 25 years. That’s no easy task, particularly in the notoriously prickly Village community.”
Prickly, eh? Hopefully the “task” will only get more difficult for NYU which has stamped its footprint down, thereby squashing much of the charm of the Village. The University has made its presence felt over what happens at Washington Square Park, despite what their official statements say.
#44. Robert B. Tierney; Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission
The list notes: “Tom Wolfe has written that Mr. Tierney lacks the power or pluck to stand up to developers…”
Certainly, the Commissioners of Landmarks Preservation were notably reticent in challenging the City’s plans around Washington Square Park, which they approved. (Also, George Vellonakis, the “designer” of the new plan, was less than upfront or perfectly honest during his presentation to them.)
#57. Adrian Benepe; Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation
This was a surprise to me but there, on the list, is Commissioner Benepe! The Observer states: “More than one-seventh of the city is controlled by the agency that Mr. Benepe has led since the start of the Bloomberg administration. He is overseeing a major parks expansion, and new projects like Manhattan’s High Line are spawning nearby development and hiking land values.”
It seems like most of the projects Commissioner Benepe is “overseeing” are about “spawning nearby development and hiking land values.”
#88. Andrew Berman; Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
“Building anything new in Greenwich Village can be an extraordinarily trying, if not impossible, experience today, in large part due to the well-organized resistance of Mr. Berman,” says the Observer.
However, it is also worth noting that the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation was eerily silent on the issue of the “renovation” and redesign of Washington Square Park.
As for Union Square Park…
He hasn’t figured (thus far) into Washington Square Park but for Union Square Park, where some of the above players also appear, Danny Meyer, President of the Union Square Hospitality Group, appears on the list at # 24. The Observer comments: “The restaurateur from St. Louis triggered the transformation of an entire neighborhood with the opening of his Union Square Café in 1985; the once-seedy area now teems with top-rated eateries. Expect the Upper West Side to become one big burger line when his Shake Shack opens on Columbus Avenue.”
Photo: Louis Seigal