Larry A. Silverstein (born May 30, 1931) is an American businessman, and real estate investor and developer in New York City.
Silverstein was born in Brooklyn, and became involved in real estate, together with his father, establishing Silverstein Properties. Silverstein separated from his business partner, Bernard Mendik, in 1977, and bought a number of large office buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s. In 1980, Silverstein won a bid from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to construct 7 World Trade Center, to the north of the World Trade Center site. Silverstein was interested in acquiring the entire World Trade Center complex, and put in a bid when the Port Authority put it up for lease in 2000. Silverstein won the bid when a deal between the initial winner and the Port Authority fell through, and he signed the lease on July 24, 2001.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, Silverstein declared his intent to rebuild, though ran into multi-year disputes with his insurers over whether the attacks constituted one or two occurrences. A settlement was reached in 2007, with insurers agreeing to pay out $4.55 billion, which was not as much as Silverstein sought. Silverstein also ran into multiple disputes with other parties in the rebuilding effort, including with the Port Authority. In an agreement reached in April 2006, Silverstein retained rights to build three office towers (150 Greenwich Street, 175 Greenwich Street, and 200 Greenwich Street), while One World Trade Center (previously referred to as the „Freedom Tower“) will be owned by the Port Authority, as well as Tower Five, which may be leased out to another private developer and redesigned as a residential building.
Silverstein was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn in 1931 into a Jewish family. Growing up, Silverstein enjoyed classical music and played the piano. He attended the High School of Music and Art in New York, and then New York University, graduating in 1952. During college, Silverstein worked at a summer camp, where he met his wife, Klara. The couple married in 1956, and had three children: Lisa, Roger and Sharon. His wife worked as a school teacher, supporting the family on her salary for the first few years of their marriage while Silverstein attended classes at Brooklyn Law School.
Silverstein became involved in real estate, together with his father, Harry G. Silverstein, and then friend and brother-in-law, Bernard Mendik. In 1957, they established Silverstein Properties, as Harry G. Silverstein & Sons, and bought their first building, in Manhattan. Bernard Mendik and Silverstein continued the business after Harry’s death in 1966. In 1977, Bernard Mendik divorced Annette Silverstein Mendik, with the business partnership also splitting up at that time. Bernard Mendik also cited disagreements over real estate strategies, with Mendik wanting to buy buildings while Silverstein wanted to build.
After splitting with Bernard Mendik, both remained involved in the real-estate industry, but in separate firms. By 1978, Silverstein owned five buildings on Fifth Avenue, as well as 44 Wall Street, and a shopping center in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1980, he renovated the building at 11 West 42nd Street, and acquired the lease for the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway. In 1983, Silverstein sold the building at 711 Fifth Avenue to Coca-Cola for $57.6 million, having bought the building in 1977 for $11.5 million.
Also in 1980, Silverstein bought the building at 120 Wall Street, which was constructed in 1930. In 1991, Silverstein set aside 20 floors of 120 Wall Street to be leased by non-profit organizations, as an Association Center, with tax incentives for the tenants and bonds for Silverstein to undertake building renovations. By 1994, Silverstein had signed up 14 nonprofit tenants for 120 Wall Street, and the building was nearly at capacity by 1997, with 38 nonprofit tenants including the National Urban League and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.
In 1980, Larry Silverstein won a bid to lease and develop the last undeveloped parcel from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to build the 47-story building 7 World Trade Center.
World Trade Center
During the 1990s, New York was suffering from the effects of the 1987 stock market crash, which led to high vacancy rates at the World Trade Center. George Pataki became Governor of New York in 1995 on a campaign of cutting costs, including privatizing the World Trade Center. A sale of the property was considered too complex, so it was decided by the Port Authority to open a 99-year lease to competitive bidding.
In January 2001, Silverstein, via Silverstein Properties and Westfield America, made a $3.2 billion bid for the lease to the World Trade Center. Silverstein was outbid by $50 million by Vornado Realty, with Boston Properties and Brookfield Properties also competing for the lease. However, Vornado withdrew and Silverstein’s bid for the lease to the World Trade Center was accepted on July 24, 2001. This was the first time in the building’s 31-year history that the complex had changed management.
The lease agreement applied to One, Two, Four, and Five World Trade Center, and about 425,000 square feet (39,500 m2) of retail space. Silverstein put up $14 million of his own money to secure the deal. The terms of the lease gave Silverstein, as leaseholder, the right and the obligation to rebuild the structures if destroyed.
September 11 attacks
All of the buildings at the World Trade Center, including buildings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were destroyed or damaged beyond repair on September 11, 2001 (see September 11 attacks). After a protracted dispute with insurers over the amount of coverage available for rebuilding World Trade Center buildings 1, 2, 4 and 5, a series of court decisions determined that a maximum of $4.55 billion was payable and settlements were reached with the insurers in 2007.
Silverstein stated in a September 2002 PBS documentary, ‚America Rebuilds‘, „I remember getting a call from the fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, ‚We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.‘ And they made that decision to pull and then we watched the building collapse.“ Conspiracy theorists claim this saying meant actively demolishing the building using explosives presumably stored in advance in the building. Initially, however, this was understood as a call to simply stop the fire fighting efforts and watch the building collapse due to the fires with no people in the building at the time.
The insurance policies obtained in July 2001 for World Trade Center buildings 1 WTC, 2 WTC, 4 WTC and 5 WTC had a collective face amount of $3.55 billion. Following the September 11, 2001 attack, Silverstein sought to collect double the face amount (~$7.1 billion) on the basis that the two separate airplane strikes into two separate buildings constituted two occurrences within the meaning of the policies. The insurance companies took the opposite view, and the matter went to court. Based on differences in the definition of „occurrence“ (the insurance policy term governing the amount of insurance) and uncertainties over which definition of „occurrence“ applied, the court split the insurers into two groups for jury trials on the question of which definition of „occurrence“ applied and whether the insurance contracts were subject to the „one occurrence“ interpretation or the „two occurrence“ interpretation.
The first trial resulted in a verdict on April 29, 2004, that 10 of the insurers in this group were subject to the „one occurrence“ interpretation, so their liability was limited to the face value of those policies, and 3 insurers were added to the second trial group. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on one insurer, Swiss Reinsurance, at that time, but did so several days later on May 3, 2004, finding that this company was also subject to the „one occurrence“ interpretation. Silverstein appealed the Swiss Re decision, but lost that appeal on October 19, 2006. The second trial resulted in a verdict on December 6, 2004, that 9 insurers were subject to the „two occurrences“ interpretation and, therefore, liable for a maximum of double the face value of those particular policies ($2.2 billion). The total potential payout, therefore, was capped at $4.577 billion for buildings 1, 2, 4, and 5. An appraisal followed to determine the value of the insured loss.
In July 2006, Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey filed a lawsuit against some of its insurers, for refusing to waive requirements of the insurance contracts that Silverstein claimed were necessary to allow renegotiation of the original July 2001 World Trade Center leases. This litigation, was settled together with the federal lawsuits and appraisal, mentioned in the prior paragraph, in a series of settlements announced on May 23, 2007. Silverstein’s lease with the Port Authority, for the World Trade Center complex, requires him to continue paying $102 million annually in base rent. He is applying insurance payments toward the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.
As leaseholder of buildings One, Two, Four and Five, Silverstein had the legal right to rebuild the buildings, including 1 World Trade Center at the World Trade Center site which would later be designated as building One, and while the site remains unoccupied, he continues to pay $10 million per month in rent to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
After the September 11 attacks, the United States Congress approved $8 billion in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to fund development in the private sector at lower-than-market interest rates. $3.4 billion remained unallocated in March 2006 designated for Lower Manhattan, with about half of the funds under the control of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the other half under the control of former Governor George Pataki.
In April 2006, after several months of negotiation aimed toward permitting reconstruction to commence, Silverstein yielded some of his rights back to the Port Authority, in order to facilitate rebuilding at the site. Those negotiations resulted in Silverstein ceding his rights to building One (and its pro-rata share of the above-noted Liberty Bond funds) to the Port Authority, and allocating a portion of the insurance proceeds to the rebuilding of building One in favor of the Port Authority. In return, the remaining pro-rata shares of the Liberty Bond funds were allocated to Silverstein Properties for purposes of rebuilding the remaining buildings, and government agencies are expected to be among the tenants in those buildings.
Ground was broken on the construction of 1 World Trade Center on April 27, 2006. Lack of financing had prevented construction from commencing earlier. The proceeds of the insurance policies arising from the destruction of the previous buildings were insufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding all the insured buildings.
In March 2007 Silverstein appeared at a rally of construction workers and public officials outside of an insurance industry conference to highlight what he describes as the failures of insurers Allianz & Royal and Sun Alliance to pay $800 million in claims related to the attacks. Insurers cite an agreement to split payments between Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority as a cause for concern.
While Silverstein is most famous for his involvement at the World Trade Center, his real estate holdings include many other buildings in New York City, including 575 Lexington Avenue, 1177 Avenue of the Americas, 529 Fifth Avenue, and 570 Seventh Avenue.
Among his residential projects is an extensive complex that takes up the entire block between 42nd and 41st Street and between 11th and 12th Avenues in the Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan neighborhood. Projects on the block include 39 One River Place which opened in 2001. In May 2009 the twin-towered Silver Towers opened. At 60 stories it is the tallest rental building in New York.
Other properties include 30 Park Place. Silverstein was also involved as a developer of the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C..
In November 2006, Silverstein agreed to buy the building at 99 Church Street from Moody’s for $170 million. Moody’s moved its headquarters into 7 World Trade Center in 2007. 99 Church Street was promptly razed to make way for Silverstein’s new project on the site. The 2008 plan proposed a 68 story, 912 foot tower, composed of condominiums and a Four Seasons Hotel on the lower 22 stories. However, due to lack of financing, the project is not currently progressing past the foundation.
In 1989 Silverstein proposed to members of the Israeli government that a free trade zone should be created within the Negev region of Israel. The project ultimately failed, however it enjoyed popular support amongst leading Israeli political figures.
Silverstein has been involved in his alma mater, as founder and chairman emeritus of New York University’s Real Estate Institute, and as a trustee of the New York University Medical Center and Health System. Silverstein also has served as chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in New York, the Realty Foundation, trustee of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and treasurer of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. Silverstein is also a governor of The Real Estate Board of New York.
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- ^ Proof that ‚pull‘ meant pulling the teams out on debunk911.com anti conspiracy website. On the WhatReallyHappened.com conspiracy theorists website they claim: „Silverstein stated plainly in a PBS documentary that he and the FDNY decided jointly to demolish WTC 7 late in the afternoon of 9/11. In the documentary ‚America Rebuilds‘, aired September 2002, Silverstein makes the following statement…“ followed by the quote in question. See the section of the ‚America Rebuilds‘ video, with the quoted remark (youtube)
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