The Real Deal New York

At the desk of: Dan Garodnick

The City Council member on negotiating two deals for Stuy Town, “cutting through red tape” and his days studying the city’s underground infrastructure
By Kathryn Brenzel | November 01, 2017 10:00AM

Dan Garodnick (Photos by Michael McWeeney)

City Council member Dan Garodnick represents New York City’s 4th District, which spans a large swath of Manhattan’s East Side, from Murray Hill to the Upper East Side with Koreatown and Central Park South wedged somewhere in the middle. He was elected to the Council back in 2005 and quickly rose to prominence when he organized an (ultimately unsuccessful) bid by the tenants of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village to buy the property for $4.5 billion. Garodnick grew up in the massive rent-stabilized housing complex and now lives there with his wife, Zoe Segal-Reichlin, a senior associate general counsel at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and their sons, Asher, 6, and Devin, 4. “I have it all right here, why would I move?” he said. Fittingly, he helped negotiate Blackstone Group and Ivanhoe Cambridge’s $5.3 billion purchase of the property in 2015 — and the terms of the deal required the new owners to keep 5,000 of Stuy Town’s apartments affordable for at least 20 years. The 45-year-old, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 1994 and got his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, worked as a securities lawyer at the white-shoe law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before running for public office. Garodnick — who is termed out of office at the end of this year — has worked on a slew of real estate-focused legislation, including the rezoning of more than 70 blocks in Midtown East. He also helped draft the Tenant Protection Act, which passed in 2008, making tenant harassment a violation of the city’s housing code. Garodnick has yet to announce his next career move, but said he hasn’t ruled out running for office again. He met The Real Deal at on the 17th floor of 250 Broadway, his legislative office across the street from City Hall.

Pothole Dan

When Garodnick first took office, his friends made and framed this “Pothole Dan” T-shirt. It’s a play on the moniker given to former Sen. Al D’Amato, “Senator Pothole.” The shirt, he said, reminds him of his goal to solve big and small problems for his district’s residents.

Steam trap

In 2007, a steam pipe explosion near East 41st Street and Lexington Avenue killed one and injured dozens. To prepare for a hearing on the incident, Garodnick spent a month learning about the intricacies the city’s steam system. One of the experts he met with gave him this steam trap — a valve that releases pressure — to help him visualize how the system worked. “Underground infrastructure is complicated and dangerous, and once you start peeling back the onion, you realize how extraordinary it is that the city functions as well as it does,” Garodnick said.

Artwork

Garodnick keeps this drawing by his son Asher in his office. The image (medium: marker on paper) was inspired by real-life events and features Garodnick, his wife and some members of his staff running in the city’s annual half marathon. Garodnick also ran in the New York City Marathon in 2015. While Asher likes drawing, he isn’t planning on making a career as an artist — at least at last check. “The last I heard was a racecar driver,” Garodnick said.

Piggy bank

P.S. 116, one of the elementary schools in Garodnick’s district, gave the council member a metal piggy bank in 2008 or 2009 as a thank you for allocating city funds for capital improvements to the school. Garodnick himself went to private school growing up, attending the elite Trinity School on the Upper West Side.

Red tape

During his first year in office, a friend gave this glass-encased piece of “red tape” to Garodnick. It dates back to the Civil War era. At the time, red tape was used to seal government documents — hence the idiom “cutting through the red tape.” Garodnick prides himself cutting through “bureaucratic nonsense,” whether it’s to “keep a beloved bagel store open” or “ensure a property tax rebate was properly granted.” When asked which city agency is most entangled in red tape, Garodnick said the Department of Buildings likely takes the top spot. “All city agencies are big, complicated structures, and if you don’t know how to navigate them, you can’t get a positive result,” he said.

Picture of legal team 

Though Garodnick worked as a securities litigator during his days at Paul Weiss, he also took up a few social causes. While at the law firm, he represented the Partnership for New York City in the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which argued that New York State was underfunding NYC schools. He also represented 13 same-sex couples seeking the right to marry in New York State.

Nasdaq bell

Garodnick rang the Nasdaq stock market opening bell in August. Though the occasion was meant to commemorate his 12 years as a council member, it also ended up being a celebration of his efforts in leading the successful rezoning of Midtown East. Garodnick didn’t support the rezoning when it was originally proposed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he helped craft the latest version, which requires developers who benefit from it to foot the bill for infrastructure improvements.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified a photo of Garodnick and his colleagues at Paul Weiss.