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One of the city’s biggest real estate developers and chair of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, Durst has successfully benefited from the Adams administration making rules that cut companies like his a break on the City’s landmark climate law.
- After graduating from NYU’s Urban Studies Graduate School, he entered the family business.
- Chairman, The Durst Organization
“I am real estate,” Eric Adams said on the campaign trail. But Douglas Durst actually IS real estate in New York City. The third-generation real estate heir (you might remember his late-brother Robert, a convicted murderer whom Douglas testified against at trial) has run his family’s eponymous company since 1992, overseeing the development of buildings like the skyline-altering One Bryant Park and the New School University Center on 14th Street. The real estate lobby must have been thrilled when Eric Adams became mayor, with Adams championing citywide rezonings and huge subsidies for developers to build market-rate and affordable housing. Adams was also hellbent on getting workers back to the office, which would help landlords like Durst, who suddenly had a bunch of empty commercial buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heating up after Adams took office, Durst set his sights on changing Local Law 97, the City’s landmark climate law, which was passed under the de Blasio administration and aims to drastically reduce the city’s burning of fossil fuels. Because commercial buildings are some of the city’s biggest polluters, environmentalists were looking for a strict implementation of the law to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. Durst’s signature building, One Bryant Park, was billed as one of the most environmentally forward buildings when it was built in 2010, but it has one major issue: even with its ecologically-minded design, it still heats itself using natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to the global climate crisis. Under Local Law 97, Durst’s Organization would be required to commit to costly retrofits—or pay millions in fines. (SL Green finds itself in a similar dilemma with One Vanderbilt, which opened in 2020.)
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Durst, who controls more than 13 million square feet of commercial real estate in Manhattan, lobbied against strict implementation of the law both in the press and through REBNY, which he has chaired through Adams’s time as mayor. In 2023 alone, REBNY has already spent nearly $300,000 lobbying the City government and City Hall on various issues, including Local Law 97, and that’s on top of the more than $60,000 that the Durst Organization has paid to lobby the City and Albany this year. The Durst family has also showered the Adams campaign with donations, with several members having already pledged the maximum donation amount for the 2025 campaign.
The Durst Organization’s buildings also appeared on a special FDNY inspection list, now under scrutiny by the FBI, which City Hall allegedly used to prioritize safety inspections of certain companies—allowing some of their buildings to jump a long backlog and open to the public sooner. Scanning the list, many of the companies seem well-connected to the Adams administration.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization told Hell Gate that “Durst did not contact City Hall,” and that delays in getting a safety inspection kept “nearly 1,000 units of desperately needed mixed-income housing off the market and increasing costs.”
In addition to its public pleas and behind-the-scenes lobbying against Local Law 97, the Durst Organization has also employed someone who personally knows Mayor Eric Adams very well: his former chief of staff, Frank Carone. Swiftly after Carone left City Hall, the Durst Organization hired him to help “assist with business strategy”—which it then told Hell Gate did not include consulting on Local Law 97.
Regardless, Durst may have gotten what he wanted—this fall, the Department of Buildings, formerly run (under Adams) by the now-indicted Eric Ulrich, announced rules for implementing Local Law 97 that gave buildings like Durst’s a two-year break on meeting environmental requirements. On top of that, it didn’t place a limit on Renewable Energy Credits, a mechanism that would allow building owners to pay for other green projects as opposed to paying fines on their pollution. But in a statement, the Durst Organization told Hell Gate that it’s still not pleased with the rules, and that the law was “well intentioned but flawed from inception.” It seems that Durst is likely to keep lobbying to shape further rule-making, after winning his first battle against New York’s climate laws.
- The Durst Organization
- Douglas Durst, Wikipedia
- The Green Building That’s Flunking New York’s Climate Law | Bloomberg
- Once a model of energy efficiency, skyscraper faces fines under new law | NY1
- Eric Adams’s Former Chief of Staff Is Working for Big Real Estate But Definitely Not Working on Big Real Estate’s Effort to Kill NYC’s Climate Law | Hell Gate
- Eric Adams Starts Backing Off NYC’s Landmark Climate Rules | Hell Gate
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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