To some, Douglas Durst's project at One Bryant Park is a symbol of post-Sept. 11 largess gone awry.
The 54-story headquarters, currently under construction for Bank of
America smack in the middle of midtown, received $650 million in 9/11
Liberty Bond financing.
The building benefited from other tax incentives. And, through the
process of eminent domain, the state Economic Development Corp. moved
to take the property of owners who wouldn't sell to Durst.
Yet Durst had been openly planning the project, bordered by W. 42nd and
W. 43rd Sts. and by Sixth and Seventh Aves., since the 1990s.
In 1999, he hung a banner on one of his 42nd St. buildings that read:
"The Durst Organization is pleased to announce that the construction of
One Bryant Park will begin in the 21st Century."
"One Bryant Park was just wrong in every way," said Bettina Damiani,
director of Good Jobs New York, a group that monitors how the
government spends money to encourage development.
But a spokesman said Durst had abandoned plans for the site after the
9/11 terrorist attacks and that the project didn't gain steam again
until he signed Bank of America as a tenant in late 2002.
"One Bryant Park would not have been built without Liberty Bonds," said
Mortimer Matz, Durst's spokesman. "It would not have been economically
One company that fought losing its property through eminent domain,
Triline Trading, also objected to the Liberty Bond award to Durst's
"We thought it was a perversion of the Liberty Bonds, which were meant
to reinvigorate downtown Manhattan," said Joel Sachs, a lawyer who
represented Triline. "It was just allowing developers who really did
not need the additional financial assistance to take advantage of this
Many saw the condemnation proceedings as the state taking care of a
favored developer; Durst has been a huge contributor to the campaigns
of Gov. Pataki.
In 2002, he gave Pataki $100,000 on a single day in the name of 20
corporate entities he controls. Since 1999, he has given $548,500 to
Pataki and the Republican housekeeping committees that the governor
Congress allotted $2 billion in Liberty Bonds to commercial projects
outside lower Manhattan. But not only was Durst's project far from the
damaged areas, it was in direct competition with downtown commercial
real estate owners, who have for decades lost tenants to midtown.
The Durst Liberty Bond award, issued by the city Industrial Development
Agency, also was opposed by many downtown residents and politicians.
"When the Liberty Bond financing came about it was very clear that this
was a way to help lower Manhattan, not other neighborhoods," said Julie
Menin, chairwoman of downtown's Community Board 1. "That [the Durst
project] was something that our community board and our community as a
whole were adamantly opposed to."
Residential projects financed by Liberty Bonds
2 Gold St. $178.5 million
63 Wall St. $143.8 million
10 Barclay St. $135 million
88 Leonard St. $120 million
Battery Park City: Site 19B
90 West St. $106.5 million
20 River Terrace (Battery Park City)
Battery Park City: Site 18B
100 Maiden Lane $98 million
10 Liberty St. $95 million
90 Washington St. $82 million
Front St., between Beekman St. and Peck Slip $46.3 million
Source: city and state records
Originally published on December 8, 2005