The Real Deal New York

Jay Cross, the sailorman

The Related Hudson Yards president talks about his days as an Olympic athlete
By Lucy Cohen Blatter | January 01, 2013 07:00AM

Jay Cross

The Related Companies broke ground last month on its 26-acre Hudson Yards development, and Related Hudson Yards President Jay Cross should have no trouble keeping the project afloat.

A former competitive sailor, Cross holds 10 North American, national and world titles, and represented his native Canada in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He was also on the 1980 Olympic sailing team, but never competed because of the Canadian boycott of the Moscow Olympics.

“That was too bad, because that year we really had a shot at a medal,” Cross recalled. “We were in the top five then.” In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he participated as a coach and an alternate.

Cross was born into a sailing family, and took up the sport as a child. “Kids start when they’re eight or 10,” he said, “and then by the time you’re 16, you’re out there sailing all the time.”

These days, Cross is a New York City resident and has a busy schedule overseeing the $15 billion Hudson Yards project. Still, he finds time to serve on the board of the America’s Cup, “mostly making introductions to help them make it more financially stable,” he said.

And he still sails recreationally, keeping “a number” of boats near his summer home on Shelter Island. One of his favorites is a 75-year-old restored sailboat that once belonged to his father. He also races for fun in the spring and fall and every Saturday in the summer as part of a club series, sometimes venturing as far as Florida, Newport or even Europe for sailing events.

One of the anchors, so to speak, of the Hudson Yards project is an 80,000-square-foot retail store dedicated to recreational sports like kayaking. But don’t expect to see much — if any — sailing gear just because of Cross’s background. “Sailing is a sport where you tend to shop for things online or in specialty stores,” he explained.

Still, Cross’s sports experience has clearly influenced his career: Before working for Related, he was president of the New York Jets and a key player in the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

But Cross pointed to only one direct link between his sailing background and his career in real estate development.

“When I was young, I did notice that a lot of the biggest boats were owned by developers or architects,” he said. “That made an impression.”