Established in 1915, the Durst Organization is one of the oldest family-run, commercial and residential real estate companies in New York City. They are owned and operated by the third generation of the Durst family. The company owns and manages more than 8.5 million square feet of Class A office space in Midtown Manhattan and over 1 million square feet of luxury residential rentals.
The genesis of the Durst Organization is marked by the 1902 arrival of Jewish immigrant Joseph Durst, to the United States from Gorlice, Galicia, Austria-Hungary with three dollars to his name. He worked as a tailor in New York City. His hard work eventually paid off, and in 1912, he became a full partner in a dress manufacturer, Durst & Rubin.
Using the profits from his business, Joseph began his foray into real estate, purchasing his first building in 1915, The Century Building (at one West 34th Street). In 1926, he acquired the original Temple Emanu-El (at 5th Avenue and 43rd Street), the largest synagogue building in the United States at the time; it was demolished in 1927 to make room for commercial development. In 1927, he formed the Durst Organization.
Thereafter, the Durst organization continued to make selective acquisitions:
- In 1929, their first residential building (a 15-story building at Fifth Avenue and 85th Street);
- In 1936, the Park Hill Theater and store in Yonkers, New York;
- In 1944, 205 East 42nd Street.
Shift to development and construction
Later the Durst Organization shifted from primarily real estate management to new construction and development. They assembled the parcels for and completed the following buildings (all of which they continue to own):
- In 1958, a 29-story building at 200 East 42nd Street (655 Third Avenue);
- In 1961, the 24-story 733 Third Avenue;
- In 1966, the 32-story, 201 East 42nd Street (675 Third Avenue).
- In 1968, they purchased Henry Miller's Theatre (the theater was later demolished—although the facade was preserved—to build the Bank of America Tower) and the entire block facing Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets;
- In 1969, the 40-story 825 Third Avenue;
- In 1970, the 45-story 1133 Avenue of the Americas;
- In 1984, the 41-story 1155 Avenue of the Americas;
- In 1989, the 26-story 114 West 47th Street;
In 1992, Seymour Durst retired and his son Douglas Durst took control of the company. Seymour died in 1995.
- In 1999, the 48-story 4 Times Square;
- In 2005, the 38-story Helena at 601 West 57th Street;
- In 2007, the 57-story Epic on 125 West 31st Street;
- In 2008, the 58-story Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park;
One World Trade Center development
In 2010, the Durst Organization bid on and won the right to invest $100 million in the One World Trade Center Development becoming a co-developer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The contract negotiated between the Port Authority and the Durst Organization specifies that the Durst Organization will receive a $15 million fee and a percentage of “base building changes that result in net economic benefit to the project.” The specifics of the signed contract give Durst 75 percent of savings up to $24 million and stepping down thereafter (to 50 percent, 25 percent and 15 percent) as the savings increased.
Since their joining of the project, significant changes have been made to the building.
- The 185 foot base of the tower, the corners of which were originally designed to slope gently upward, has been squared off. In addition, instead of being clad in panels of prismatic glass, it will be covered in "hundreds of pairs of 13-foot vertical glass fins set against horizontal bands of eight-inch-wide stainless-steel slats."
- The spire, originally intended to be enclosed with a decorative shell (known as a radome) described as a "sculptural sheath of interlocking fiberglass panels" will instead remain an unclad spire. As such, the height of the tower may be officially reduced by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat from a symbolic 1,776 feet to the height of the roof at to 1,368 feet. Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, indicates that the change will save $20 million. The tower's architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has strongly criticized the move. Steve Childs, the lead designer has stated: "Eliminating this integral part of the building's design and leaving an exposed antenna and equipment is unfortunate...We stand ready to work with the Port on an alternate design." After coming onto the project in 2010, The Durst Organization had proposed eliminating the radome to save costs but was rejected by the Port Authority's previous executive director, Chris Ward. Patrick Foye, Ward's September 2011 replacement, has changed the Port Authority's position. The decision is final as stated by Douglas Durst: "(the antenna) is going to be mounted on the building over the summer. There's no way to do anything at this point."
- The plaza to the west of the building facing the Hudson River, which is at an elevation to Vesey Street to the North and West Street to the West, was supposed to have stainless steel steps reaching down to the streets. Instead it will be a terrace, set apart by a blocklong landscaped planter. In addition, the Port Authority has removed a skylight set into the plaza which was designed to allow natural light into the observation deck lobby below ground.
The Port Authority has approved all the revisions. Patrick Foye, the new executive director of the Port Authority states: “I think they’ve been few and minor.” Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, commenting on the changes: "We didn’t make the changes to save money...The changes were made in order to construct the building.”
- National Debt Clock, created by Seymour Durst.
- "Company Overview of The Durst Organization Inc.". Businessweek. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- The Durst Organization: Timeline retrieved July 8, 2012
- The Museum of the City of New York: "Temple Emanu-El" by Lauren Robinson October 11, 2011
- New York Times: "Seymour B. Durst, Real-Estate Developer Who Led Growth on West Side, Dies at 81" By ALAN S. OSER May 20, 1995
- Daniels, Lee A. (November 8, 1991). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06.
- New York Times: "1 World Trade Center Is a Growing Presence, and a Changed One" By DAVID W. DUNLAP June 12, 2012
- New York Post: "World Trade Center offers warm welcome" By Steve Cuozzo May 24, 2012
- Wall Street Journal: "Pointed Spat Over World Trade Spire - Developer's Plan to Alter Top of New Tower Arouses Architects' Ire By ELIOT BROWN] May 10, 2012
- Wall Street Journal: "A Beacon Diminished" By JAMES PANERO September 10, 2013
- Transportation Nation: "Patrick Foye Named New Executive Director of NY-NJ Port Authority" By Jim O'Grady October 19, 2012