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His midtown plan got a federal boost

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 feasible."

One company that fought losing its property through eminent domain, Triline Trading, also objected to the Liberty Bond award to Durst's company.

"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 whole program."

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 controls.

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 $110 million
  • 90 West St. $106.5 million
  • 20 River Terrace (Battery Park City) $100 million
  • Battery Park City: Site 18B $100 million
  • 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
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