The Real Deal New York

William C. Thompson Jr.
William C. Thompson Jr.

William C. Thompson Jr.

By Lauren Elkies

Thompson is in his second term as New York City comptroller. As the city’s CFO, he works to ensure the city’s financial health. He manages $96 billion in five pension funds and has diversified the pension portfolio from primarily public equities into private equity, real estate and other asset classes. The funds have allowed for the creation and rehabilitation of more than 20,000 affordable housing units and the development of thousands of square feet of commercial space. Thompson has spent most of his life in public service, working as an aide to a Brooklyn congressman, and later as the youngest Brooklyn deputy borough president. His only job in the private sector was as a senior vice president at investment banking firm George K. Baum & Company. Thompson says that he plans to run for mayor this year.

What is your full name?
William Colridge Thompson Jr.

What is your date of birth?
July 10, 1953.

Where do you live?
West Harlem for the last three and a half months.

Where did you live before that?
In the four-story house in Bed-Stuy where I grew up. My daughter [lives in it]. It’s been in the family since 1939.

Why did you move?
I got married in the middle of September.

Is this your first marriage?
Third.

How did you meet?
[Elsie McCabe and I] knew each other over the years. She worked in government years ago. Now, she’s building a project. She’s the president of the Museum for African Art, which is building a new home at 110th and Fifth
Avenue.

What’s your advice to her?
She’s moving forward, [so my advice is:] Keep going! (laughs)

How old is Elsie?
49.

Do you have any other homes?
We have my mom’s home in Cape Cod. We built it when I was 15. My sister and I are keeping the place. She is three years younger and lives in
Jersey.

What do you do on weekends?
I work. (laughs)

How old is your daughter?
She is 29. Her name is Jennifer, and she’s a public school teacher. My wife has two 11-year-olds, a girl and a boy — Erin and Eugene.

With kids around the house again, how is life different?
The sound of screams in the morning — little things like that. There are different kinds of movies that you select to see.

What was the last movie you saw?
They were out of town, and my daughter and I just went to see “Quantum of Solace.” However, I have seen “Wall-E.” I haven’t seen “High School Musical 3,” thank God.

Do you have a security detail?
Yes.

Do you have a detail when you’re off duty?
Yes,except I try not to. I try not to get carried away with it. I’ve been without security detail most of my life. At times, it can be a little like, you’re not alone. So you’re walking down the street, with someone walking kind of next to you or slightly behind you.

What time do you get up in the morning?
Somewhere around 6, and if I have any energy, I’ll try to go to the gym — New York Sports Club — two or three times a week.

You’re pretty trim.
Just bigger suits. (laughs)

What time do you get home at the end of the day?
Normally somewhere around 10.

How do you decompress at the end of the day?
[Getting home at 10] gives you a little time to maybe watch an hour and a half of something on TV.

What do you watch?
I’ll TiVo “24.” There are a couple of sporting events — a basketball game or football game. What else? “Fringe.”

What’s the greatest challenge in your life you’ve had to overcome?I don’t know that there is one. Maybe [Mayor] Bloomberg’s money in 2009 [when I run for his office].

What keeps you up at night?
If the market keeps tanking, that’s going to keep me up at night. What concerns me is: How difficult will it get in the city?

When do you think things will look up?
The truth is, we’ve been here before. If you look at the recession the city was in after Sept. 11, we lost 235,000 jobs after Sept. 11. We bounced back stronger than ever. I think we will bounce back — probably the
latter part of this year or the beginning of 2010.

Do you invest money personally?
When I became comptroller, any individual stocks that I had, I got rid of.

What’s the best place to put your money now?
Under your mattress. (laughs) We just went through a cycle where people were buying short-term government debt and willing to lose 2 basis points because at least they knew how much they would lose. Right now, you
want to be as liquid as you can, so put money in a short-term money
market account.

What is the safest real estate investment right now?
I still think some of the smaller mortgages that we’ve done on the
affordable housing side with various organizations are safe. The default rate there is almost zero.

If a developer asked for advice about what to do in this economy, what would you tell them?
I would still say to identify projects and start to develop them in phases. The credit market will start to loosen.

How is the current economy affecting your personal life?
I will be cutting my spending in general. I just leased a Nissan Maxima. My lease was up on the Lexus GS. Cost was a factor.

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