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“New York street fighter”: Former Forest City CEO Gilmartin gets the Real Deal hagiography. Not so much "due diligence."

So The Real Deal on June 4 published a hagiographic profile, “New York street fighter”: MaryAnne Gilmartin takes on $5.5B development, with the subheading "Steadfast NYC developer's MAG Partners is closing in a 900-unit Manhattan portfolio, but her bigger prize is in Baltimore."

Orion Jones opens the article with Gilmartin, the former CEO of Forest City Ratner, praising her new modestly-scaled building, on a parcel in Chelsea owned by the Penn South Co-op, with Hudson Yards, which "look like something out of Shanghai."

“It resembles the New York I grew up with and love,” Gilmartin told TRD. OK, the seven-story structure will have 30% affordable housing, but two-thirds of that, or 20%, will be for households at 130% of Area Median Income, meaning a one-bedroom could today rent for $3,786, and surely more when the building opens.

She "casually adds--in a bit of a dig, it seems--"that Related Companies, a major developer at Hudson Yards, was a competing bidder for the co-op’s ground lease," TRD reported. The irony now is that Related may be the company to finally complete Atlantic Yards.

Gilmartin’s now working on a huge project in Baltimore, where she says "they actually welcome you," compared to New York, which she calls the "city of no."

Due diligence

The article quotes Andrew Trickett, formerly of Safanad, which helped finance three MAG Partners projects in Manhattan:
Before Safanad agreed to partner with MAG on its three New York projects, Trickett conducted due diligence that included understanding Gilmartin’s role in Atlantic Yards. “I think it was painful for her,” he said. “In everything that we could uncover, she was as above board as you can be in a difficult situation.”
(Emphasis added)

Oh, come now. You can't have it both ways. 

If she is a New York street fighter, maybe she's going to play rough, or cut corners, or maybe not be "as above board" as she could be.

Above board?

Let's recall a July 2009 public Q&A, with Forest City and Empire State Development Corporation representatives, at Long Island University.

"Today, undeterred by an anemic economy and a relentless campaign of a few to delay the benefits to many," Gilmartin declared, an edge in her voice, "Forest City stands committed to building the project as quickly"—she left wiggle room—"as the market will allow."

She ramped that up in a February 2010 op-ed in the New York Observer, "Atlantic Yards—It Is Happening," which claimed, in retrospect not so credibly, "Our commitment to the entire project remains as strong and fervent as the day we started."

More candidly, her friend and mentor (according to the new article), real estate broker Mary Ann Tighe, in January 2023 more wisely called it "a steep climb to get all that built in the next 10 years, if not much longer."

Also consider the October 2014 Fortune magazine investigation of the sketchy EB-5 broker Nicholas Mastroianni, The tangled past of the hottest money-raiser in America’s visa-for-sale program, which cited orchestrated testimonial letters and various boosterish quotes, including one from Gilmartin, who said she has “witnessed first-hand his competence and collaborative talents.”

Another project

Some of those Gilmartin hardball tactics were evident in Forest City's plans for starchitect Frank Gehry's 76-story residential skyscraper, 8 Spruce Street, now branded New York by Gehry, in Lower Manhattan.

Gilmartin told the local community board that, without a 20-year tax break--as opposed to a ten-year one--they'd halt the tower and thus kill the school planned for its base, as reported by the Downton Express July 3, 2008.

The board didn't have to back the abatement, just issue a comment so the clock wouldn't expire. “I don’t think the project or the school were ever really in jeopardy,” board member Paul Hovitz told the publication. “I think they were manipulating us [into helping them get the abatement]. We were being blackmailed.”

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