On any given morning, you may find Carl Schwartz leaving his West 88th Street apartment to play racquetball at NYU. An hour later, he’s riding the subway to Grand Central and heading up to his scenic office in the iconic MetLife Building. Schwartz, one of New York City’s top real estate attorneys, moved to the building in 2012 when he shook up his career and jumped from the prestigious firm Herrick Feinstein, where he headed the real estate practice, to Hunton & Williams. The latter firm has more than 800 attorneys nationwide but had no NYC real estate team when he arrived. Now Schwartz co-heads the firm’s global real estate practice, which has 100 New York lawyers. During his 30-year career Schwartz has represented clients such as the World-Wide Group, Savanna and Tishman Speyer. And he’s negotiated and consulted on a slew of deals involving Yankee Stadium, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, 70 Pine Street, 20 Exchange Place and many others. From his 53rd floor office he can look down on it all. “It feels like you can see the whole world from here,” he said.
Schwartz’s office has expansive views, allowing him to watch over some of the city’s most iconic buildings, such as Rockefeller Center, which is owned by his client Tishman Speyer. “At night, I just look out from my desk at the entire expanse of the Empire State Building and the flashing lights in Times Square,” Schwartz said. “It’s pretty kinetic.”
Schwartz’s year-old Betta fish goes by the name Fishy Two. Fishy’s piscine namesake was “buried at sea,” Schwartz said, quickly adding, “Well, the men’s room over there anyway.” Schwartz said he enjoys cleaning the tank and feeding his office companion fried bloodworms. “It’s sort of a Zen moment for me,” he said.
Schwartz is a longtime fan of the Fab Four. He hasa John Lennon “Land of Milk and Honey” print above his desk and this Beatles “Help!” sculpture he picked up in Amsterdam. He said that he cried when he saw John Lennon’s leather jacket and lyrics while visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. “It was just really emotional seeing all that stuff gathered in one place,” he said.
Grand Central Buff
Being in the MetLife Building, of course, also means being right on top of Grand Central Station. Not only is Schwartz a Grand Central history buff, he also thrives on its energy — and, maybe most of all, its pizza. His choice slices are at Naples 45 and Two Boots. “I never appreciated how great Grand Central was until we moved here,” said Schwartz, who carries around a backpack emblazoned with the Grand Central logo.
Schwartz, a musician himself, has been in a number of bands over the years. He’s even taken the stage with former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. Now he plays bass guitar for a rock band called Normal by Day, which sometimes has gigs at 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. The band also headlines Real Estate Rockers in Relief (an annual charity concert founded by Schwartz and World-Wide Group’s David Lowenfeld), which has prominent real estate execs like Taconic’s Paul Pariser and FirstKey’s Randy Reiff perform.
Schwartz listens to a wide variety of music and regularly hits up concerts. He recently saw British pop reggae band UB40 and is currently into Omi, MisterWives and 5 Seconds of Summer. He’s also a big opera, jazz and classical music fan. “[It’s] the total potpourri,” he said of his musical taste. “[My PR firm] put the J. Geils Band on my bio, which makes it sound like I do nothing but listen to old music,” Schwartz joked. “That’s why I’ve got my Stromae tickets over there,” he added, referring to the Belgian hip-hop and electronic music wunderkind.
Seagulls come with symbolism for Schwartz. The late journalist and attorney Allan Ecker, a mentor, gave Schwartz a sculpture of a seagull in the early ’80s. At the time, Schwartz was a young attorney working in entertainment law and wanted to get out. The sculpture says: “You have the freedom to be yourself here and now.” It’s a quote from the 1970 novella “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Schwartz never read the book but got the message. “It means if you don’t like it, get your ass out,” he said.
Schwartz is married with four grown children — and has the family photos to prove it. This one’s from a skiing trip in Vail, Colorado. His twins, Emily and Andrew, recently graduated from college. His older sons, Brett and Casey, run a thriving nightlife business, which organizes parties under the name Medium Rare. They recently hosted the after-party for the band MisterWives at Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen.
Schwartz isn’t really a town car guy; he’s a big fan of walking and biking around the city. He keeps a lightweight helmet in his office for days when he hops on a Citi Bike.