When it comes to new development in New York City, one of the most prolific and notable of the current firms in existence is The Durst Organization, which previously led the construction of One World Trade Center in a public-private partnership with The Port Authority. YIMBY recently interviewed its eponymous head, Douglas Durst, who gave updates on the firm’s major new Long Island City project, dubbed Sven, as well as a range of other topics.
YIMBY in bold.
What major projects are you working on at the moment?
When is Sven expected to top out, and when do you expect it will open for leasing?
It was going to top out [next week], but we won’t have a topping out event. Leasing will occur about a year from now.
Do you think the 12,000 affordable units planned for Sunnyside Yards would be better built elsewhere given the per-unit cost will be over $1 million?
I don’t know the entire project, but building affordable on a very expensive platform does not make a lot of sense.
Do you see the residential boom in Long Island City eventually being accompanied by new office towers (besides Tishman’s new project)? Or do you think this helps other neighborhoods like Hudson Yards more than LIC?
I think they will be building more office buildings in Long Island City. Its transportation network, proximity to Manhattan and density make it an obvious choice for a commercial district. It is a compelling location for a large corporate headquarters.
If you could pick three neighborhoods for high-density residential upzonings, which would they be and why?
I would think Mott Haven, Astoria, and Washington Heights/Inwood region. Neighborhoods where there is access to public transportation, there needs to be density. That is not only smart growth, but sustainable.
Do you think the rapid expansion of landmarked districts across the city is now negatively impacting housing affordability?
To a degree, [but] there are so many things that are impacting housing affordability, such as zoning and real estate taxes.
What caused your change of heart over Pier55?
Governor Cuomo. He committed to completing Hudson River Park and is getting it done.
Besides Pier55, what other major public projects currently underway are you most looking forward to?
I’m not particularly looking forward to Pier 55, but [rather] the completion of the Jacob K. Javits Center, Pier 40 and Pier 76, and the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center.
What do you think the best path forward is for fixing the city’s crumbling transit infrastructure, especially the subway?
There has to be dedicated resources and a dedicated revenue stream, but the bureaucracy involved in having the MTA on top of the operating entities is very inefficient.
What’s next in the pipeline after you finish Sven?
We have a project at 1800 Park Avenue, a project in Philadelphia, and we are rebuilding 825 Third Avenue. 1800 Park Avenue is a site across from the Metro North station in Harlem and we are working it out to become a residential development.