The Real Deal New York

WATCH: Steve Witkoff unplugged: The developer on getting his start, his friendship with Trump, the Park Lane scandal & more

By Alistair Gardiner | June 12, 2017 04:19PM

Before he became one of New York’s biggest developers, Steve Witkoff was a frayed shirt-wearing lawyer billing the very crowd he would later become a part of.

“Every day you were representing these swashbuckling guys who were entrepreneurial in their spirits,” Witkoff said of his clients at Dreyer & Traub, who included the likes of Peter Kalikow, Arthur Cohen and Howard Lorber. “They felt like the rock stars to me!”

The Real Deal’s Hiten Samtani sat down with Witkoff for a wide-ranging interview in which the mogul discussed how he went from buying ramshackle buildings in Harlem with Larry Gluck, to breaching the “Maginot Line” and making a play for Manhattan icons like the Woolworth Building, to developing pricey condos like 150 Charles Street and 111 Murray Street.

Witkoff also sought to quash a commonly-held perception of him as a “wild guy” and overleveraged businessman, addressing a front-page 1998 Wall Street Journal article that painted him that way.

“What they loved and what became part of the story is that I was licensed to carry a gun,” he said. “So then they turn that into the ‘pistol-packing guy who went up to the Bronx’.”

And he launched a spirited defense of his longtime friend Donald Trump, dismissing the scandals the president is engulfed in as a whole lot of hot air.

“I actually think that he’s doing a really good job.” Witkoff said of Trump. “And you couldn’t pay me to do his job.”

Watch the video above to see the conversation in full.

Produced by Alistair Gardiner and Kerry Barger. Interview conducted by Hiten Samtani

For more videos, visit The Real Deal’s YouTube page.