The Closing with Seth Pinsky

Seth Pinsky (photo by Marc Scrivo)
Seth Pinsky (photo by Marc Scrivo)

As president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Seth Pinsky has worked on projects like the $2 billion CornellNYC Tech applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, the redevelopment of Willets Point and the new Yankees and Mets stadiums. Pinsky, who joined the EDC in 2003 as a vice president, was chosen five years later by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to head the agency. A graduate of Columbia College and Harvard Law School, Pinsky previously worked as an attorney in the real estate practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and as a financial analyst at the investment and advisory firm James D. Wolfensohn Inc.

What is your full name?
Seth William Pinsky.

What’s your date of birth?
September 11, 1971. I was celebrating my 30th birthday when the World Trade Center was attacked. At some point, somebody remembered that it was my birthday and gave me a cupcake with a candle in it.

September 11 also inspired you to go into the public sector.
I would sit in my office [at Cleary Gottlieb] and watch the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. They would put the remains onto a golf cart, which had a stretcher on the back, and then they would cover it with an American flag and everyone would stop working. They would line the ramp out of the pit and would salute as the golf cart went up. And watching this, over time I said to myself, “I talked a good game about wanting to go and do public service. If I’m ever going to do it, now is the time to do it.”

Where did you grow up?
Until I was five years old, my family lived in Great Neck on Long Island. Then we moved to New Jersey, and then when I was 10, we moved to Minneapolis.

Why did you move so much?
My father is a rabbi, so he moved to different congregations, and we followed. But from the minute that we crossed the St. Croix River into Minnesota, I knew that as soon as it was my decision, I was moving back to the East Coast.

Are you religious?
This is dangerous. Can I plead the Fifth on this? I am religious in my own way. … I don’t eat pork, I don’t eat shellfish. I belong to a synagogue; I attend that synagogue from time to time.

How did you end up at the EDC?
In early 2003, I was talking to [Maria Gotsch, the president and CEO of the New York City Investment Fund] and she said, “Well, have you ever thought about EDC?” And my response was, “No, because I’ve never heard of EDC.” So she put me in touch with some people here and that was finally what got me into public service.

You became EDC president when you were 36 years old. Has anyone called you too young for the job?
People may have thought [that]. Nobody said that to me.

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Last July, you married Angela Sung, a senior vice president at the Real Estate Board of New York. Do you talk about real estate all the time?
No, we try not to talk too much about work. I certainly am very careful about things that we’re working on that involve REBNY members, and I think she’s very careful about things that she’s working on that involve city matters. We both overlap with a lot of the same people, which makes it interesting.

You went to Sudan and Egypt for your honeymoon, but she wanted to go to Hawaii.
Yes, she still wants to go to Hawaii! Our deal is that we alternate trips, and the honeymoon happened to be a “Seth trip.” That being said, we worked in a number of more typical honeymoon-like elements to our vacation, including a Nile cruise and a couple of nights at a Red Sea resort.

You’ve also traveled to Iran, Colombia, Armenia, Moscow and through central Asia … It sounds like the “Seth trips” can be difficult.
Yeah, they’re often not relaxing. [laughs] One night on our honeymoon, when we were in a waterproof — and, therefore, very hot — tent in the middle of the desert at about one in the morning, we had sand blowing into our tent. I think that was where maybe Angela had reached the limit of her tolerance.

Where do you live now?
We live in Park Slope. We’re in the process of moving to another apartment in Park Slope. We’re going to totally change scenery and move about a block and a half away.

Do you own any other homes?
No, we don’t. We’ll be lucky if we can afford our new home.

Do you have kids?
No. We’re expecting [at the end of November]. I haven’t told a lot of people, so this is my way of letting everyone know.

Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?
No. My preference would be not to find out. Angela’s preference would be to find out. And, as I’ve come to learn very quickly, in a tie, the mother’s vote is the one that counts. So we’ll find out in a couple weeks.

What are your other hobbies?
I really enjoy classical music, listening to it, going to concerts. I enjoy photography — taking [photos] and going to photography exhibits as well.

When Bloomberg’s term ends in 2013, are you out of a job?
The tradition is that the mayor appoints the president of the EDC. So my expectation is that at the end of the mayor’s term that the next mayor will want to appoint someone else.

What will you do next?
I have no plans.