What is your full name?
Aby Jacob Rosen.
Where did you grow up?
What was your childhood like?
I had a great childhood growing up in Frankfurt, born to nice parents, lots of friends. Growing up as a Jewish child in Germany, I was a little bit of an outsider. It was rough at some points of my life. That was the only drawback of growing up in Frankfurt.
Where do you live?
I live in the East 80s in a townhouse.
What was the first job you ever had?
My first job I ever had in New York, I was an investment associate, selling real estate to German institutions and private investors.
Do you have a mentor?
Not really. Is that bad?
How much money do you have in your wallet right now?
Probably a couple thousand bucks. This is not a cash society anymore, but I always have a couple of thousand bucks in my pocket.
Do people borrow money from you all the time?
Yes, unfortunately. My partner, I think I [lent] him $20 million over the last 30 years. I’ve got to get it back at one point. I told him to write me a check.
Aren’t you afraid of getting mugged?
No. Nobody mugs anybody in New York City anymore. This is the safest city, I swear to God.
Do you earn as much money as you’d like to?
Yeah. I always spent more than I earned. Finally a couple of years ago, I caught up with all that stuff and I make more than I can spend.
Where do you invest your money?
Eighty percent of my money is in my own business, 10 percent is in art, another 10 percent is with various types of very conservative money managers. I buy very low-yielding paper, stuff that you sleep well at night with.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Probably to own the Seagram and the Lever House [located at 375 and 390 Park Avenue, respectively]. Those are two of the greatest office buildings in America I think. They are basically pieces of art. It fits exactly what I want to do — meld the art and the architecture together.
Have you ever stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which you co-own?
I tried it out one night. It’s wonderful. It’s a completely different type of a hotel experience.
What’s your greatest social gaffe?
I walk around with a T-shirt and some jeans while other people get dressed up. If they call that a social screw-up, that’s OK with me.
What’s your biggest professional gaffe?
I wish I would have been less conforming earlier on, break the mold earlier on. Today, when you’re established, it’s easier to break the mold and do things that are more challenging and more out of the box.
Given your success, are you arrogant?
No, but I’m very cautious. I’m very selective when it comes to people. But, I do make instant judgments, which I think is a mistake sometimes, but I still do that.
Who is your favorite celebrity and why?
I love Henry Kissinger because this guy came over here almost 65 years ago and still has a strong German accent. It’s a guy that doesn’t want to fit in somewhere with his accent. Also, I like him as a person.
Are you impulsive?
Most of the stuff I ever did I did it right on the spot. I bought my townhouse on the spot. I saw it at noon and by three o’clock I had a signed contract.
How do you deal with antagonists? Confront or ignore them?
I think ignore them. People don’t change.
What piece of artwork would you love to own?
I would like to own a lot more work from the ’60s by lots of different painters like Warhol.
What’s the most expensive piece of art you own?
Francis Bacon; it’s probably $15 million.
What do you read every day?
A couple of newspapers — the Times, the Post, the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal.
What about the Daily News?
The Daily News, too. I just saw a nice negative article on me there.[The newspaper ran an editorial weighing in against Rosen's recent proposal for a 30-story glass tower designed by architect Norman Foster to go up on Madison Avenue between 76th and 77th streets.]
What do you have on your night table?
A photo of my kids and my wife, an alarm clock and some water, gummy bears and white chocolate. I like sweets. I eat white chocolate every day and I eat gummy bears every day.
What are you going to eat for lunch today?
I have the luxury to order from the Lever House Restaurant downstairs because I’m on the third floor and they bring it up, so I can actually order anything. What am I going to eat today? I think a pasta.
Who is the boss at home, you or your wife?
I think we’re both pretty much even.
What kind of staff do you have at home?
Lots of people helping with the house, to clean, a chef, a nanny, a laundry lady, people who serve. It’s a huge house and we entertain a lot. You need people there. The worst thing is to invite people and not give them decent service.
What’s your favorite music?
I love Pink Floyd. I just saw Roger Waters a couple of weeks ago and it was insane.
What do you like to read?
I read tons of magazines. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in this world, a very focused mirror. I have like 50, 100 magazines around me all the time.
If you could work on any real estate project, what would it be?
I would like to do something in the area of the High Line.
What would you want people to say about you after you die?
That I had a great eye and lots of fun.
Interview by Lauren Elkies