When the design for the Freedom Tower was unveiled last month at a ceremony downtown, it was Larry Silverstein, along with the mayor, the governor and the building s two star architects who pulled a rope to reveal a nine-foot model of the 1,776-foot tower that will rise at Ground Zero.
The model showed some elements of Daniel Libeskind s plan, but more closely resembled the work of David Childs, the architect employed by Silverstein.
While it was a moment of cooperation, it also appeared to be a victory for the private developer who has found himself thrust into the center of the world s most important public rebuilding process. What has it been like to be in that role?
It s been a challenge of ten lifetimes, said Silverstein, 72. The scale of this project. The sheer magnitude of it. The impact that this has had on the psyche not just of New Yorkers, or citizens of the United States, but of the world.
A thin, groomed man who exudes energy in a bouncy, yet well-measured manner, Silverstein is described by many as perennially optimistic as well as relentlessly shrewd.
His optimism is part of his DNA, said Lisa Silverstein, the developer s daughter and a vice president in the company. He thinks it s unproductive to be a pessimist. But he s also a realist.
Given the politics surrounding the project, she said her father had to put those qualities to use in a way he hasn t had to before. The most difficult thing for all of us is dealing with the three-dimensional political chess game non-stop. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Silverstein is also known for taking risks. He has routinely set his sights on ever-higher goals throughout a career that began 50 years ago at his father s small real estate leasing shop. Buying a new building every six months eventually resulted in a 10 million square foot portfolio by the 1980s, followed by his first major construction project, at 7 World Trade Center. Then, the ultimate prize: emerging as an underdog to win the World Trade Center lease with a $3.2 billion bid, six weeks before the planes hit. He completed the transaction, the largest real estate deal in history, from a hospital bed after being hit by a car on the Upper East Side, suffering from a broken pelvis.
Larry is well known as a significant gambler, said Steven Spinola, president of The Real Estate Board of New York, an organization that Silverstein helped transform into a lobbying group during his tenure as chairman there. He s willing to roll the dice, and he s usually been right. He s also as New York smart as anyone can be.
Mary Ann Tighe of CB Richard Ellis has called Silverstein an extraordinary combination of optimism and total shrewdness.
Of course, nothing could have prepared the developer for the destruction wrought by Sept. 11 and his role in the rebuilding effort.
Being thrust into this role is something I could never have anticipated, he said. Nevertheless, I suddenly find myself here. It s a combination of things, it s a challenge and simultaneously a privilege.
The acts that brought down the towers were an attack on our way of life and our value structures, and in the last analysis we have an obligation to ourselves and our successors to rebuild, he said. The buildings have to reflect an act of defiance and will.
Currently, Silverstein s days start early, with a workout, and usually last until 7 p.m. Starting Thursday, or, if it is especially busy, Friday, he ll leave for his usual weekend aboard his yacht with his wife, Klara (more on that late上海千花网论坛