One-on-One with Larry Silverstein - Part 4

October 02, 2018

This fourth segment concludes the interview series with Larry Silverstein of Silverstein Properties and EisnerAmper Real Estate Partner Lisa Knee.  In it, Silverstein shares his perspectives on philanthropy, the importance of giving back, and the impact such efforts have on the community.


Lisa Knee: We're sitting here today at 7 World Trade Center with one of the most iconic and successful developers of our time, Larry Silverstein. Mr. Silverstein, thank you so much for joining us this morning and giving us your great insight.

Larry Silverstein: I hope it's great but I’m not so sure about that.

LK: So I would be remiss if I didn't bring up your philanthropic endeavors. You've been notably philanthropic towards the NYU Real Estate Institute, many schools, and museums. The Museum of Jewish Heritage you've been notably involved in. Can you tell us how you've balanced in your personal life and in your professional life your philanthropic goals?

LS: I think they're part and parcel are the same thing. To be a complete person, you need to open your eyes to see what's going on around you. And when you find yourself being able to be with some success, you just have to realize that there are people out there who desperately depend upon help from people who are more fortunate, right. So one of the things you just have to do is come to a decision early on that you're going to participate, you're going to help. I remember on graduation my father said, “Remember, you have an obligation now to give back.” And so as time went on I did and I became involved with the university. And with time I became a member of the board of trustees. I'm probably the oldest board, I was the youngest at the time when I first joined the board, and today I'm the oldest by far. But NYU has been a very important part of my life. Their medical center has been a very important part of my life. So we have various scholarship programs going at both institutions that my wife and I are both dedicated to feel tremendously important. In terms of needs, there are humanitarian needs in New York for millions of people who are suffering because they don't have adequate assistance. They can't handle, they can't cope for themselves. And so one of the things we did early on is to become involved in the largest local charity in the world. It's called United Jewish Appeal and Federation Jewish Philanthropies and what we do is we affect the lives of two and a half million New Yorkers. Jewish, Gentile, blacks, whites, straights, gays, pinks, yellows, whatever. If you're a human being and you have a need there are a hundred different social service network agencies that provide all kinds of humanitarian needs to two and a half million New Yorkers every year, regardless of race or creed or anything else. It’s fantastic. When I gave three years of my life to chairing that organization, that's one of the most wonderful things I could have done with three years of my life. Where I found the time, I don't know. But I will tell you it's the best thing I could have done. And so being involved in an array of these Mashima Jewish Heritage, one of the founding members there, was very important. I felt the need to do it and so our involvement here in a broad range, a significant broad range of charities has been a very important part of my life and my wife's life. She became involved at higher education, she was chairman of the board for eleven years of her trustees and up at Hunter College. She has two degrees from that institution and she felt the need to get back. So what we do and what we've done, we hope and expect that our children will follow suit and by golly, were watching to see and it's happened. So it's not so much what you say, it's what you do and people watch what you do and in many cases, follow your example and our kids are doing exactly that. Hopefully, our grandchildren will do the same.

LK: What do you do when you're not running this massive real estate empire?

LS: My father was a classical musician. He taught me the piano and I remember as children, my sister and I would got asleep every night with my father playing Chopin's etudes, waltzes, Serpas. It was just absolutely, invariably Chopin. Every once in a while, there would be a little Beethoven, a little Schumann, the Brahms, but invariably classical piano music. We grew up hearing that so, as it turns out, music became a very important part of my life and that has never changed. I'm on the board of the New York Philharmonic. I love the concerts, I mean it's just adored. Now we're going through, redesigning what's going to be called Geffen Hall. It was Avery Fisher Hall, now to be David Geffen Hall and that building is going to go through everything. So that's going be quite exciting as well. There’s a lot of interesting things happening and being part of it is great fun.

Lk: Thank you so much. It has been a true pleasure to sit here with you today. This is clearly a career highlight for me and I can't speak for anyone else, but it certainly is for me.

LS: Thank you very much.


About Kenneth Weissenberg

Kenneth Weissenberg CPA, Tax Partner in Real Estate Services, is experienced in tax saving strategies and negotiating sales and acquisitions. He represents owners of some of the most well-known real estate properties in New York City.

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