Rechler’s real estate and government roles require juggling act

February 28, 2013 12:00PM

Scott Rechler, the head of RXR Realty, is known for his vast New York City real estate holdings, managing some 20 million square feet of property and emerging as the second-biggest buyer of Manhattan commercial real estate since the recession. But since 2011, Rechler has worn a second hat as a top advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo, sitting on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bloomberg News reported.

And while it is not unusual for a major real estate player to serve the Port Authority, Rechler is one of the largest landlords to act as a commissioner, according to Jameson Doig, author of “Empire on the Hudson,” a history of the agency.

“Scott Rechler is in a challenging position because as he builds his real estate properties, he has to be concerned that any work he does at the Port Authority, any influence he has there, doesn’t undercut his own personal reputation,” said Doig, research professor in government at Dartmouth College. “And because he has these important ties to the governor, he has to be certain that anything he does doesn’t interfere with the reputation, and, I presume, the presidential aspirations of Governor Cuomo.”

Rechler’s real estate holdings include the 2.3 million-square-foot Starrett-Lehigh Building, which he purchased for $920 million in 2011, marking the biggest Manhattan deal that year. Rechler also has a 99-year leasehold interest in 75 Rockefeller Plaza. And earlier this month, Rechler bought 237 Park Avenue from Lehman Brothers Holdings in a joint venture.

Rechler told Bloomberg that he is fastidious when it comes to potential conflicts of interest, turning over lists of RXR’s vendors to the authority.

“The good news is my business interests and the governor’s interests are aligned,” Rechler said. “The better shape New York is in, the better shape my business is in. I live and breathe New York.” [Bloomberg]Christopher Cameron