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Tishman talks on giving, building green and WTC.

"Sorry we had to do this over the phone," Daniel Tishman told me via cell as a car whisked him from meeting to meeting. "It's been a busy day."

To understand why Daniel Tishman is busy, one needs only to go to any major job site in town and look for the Tishman Construction logo. Chances are pretty good you'll see it hanging on a fence.

As chairman and chief operating officer of Tishman Realty & Construction Company, New York's largest such firm, Daniel Tishman oversees work on 7 World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, The Jacob K. Javits Center, the Goldman Sachs Building and the Bank of America Building at One Bryant Park, just to name a few of his firm's major intown projects.

Add to that management of Las Vegas' colossal Project CityCenter, other major projects around the nation, and his charity work with the UJA-Federation of New York, and it becomes clear why this fourth-generation Tishman boss sometimes needs to phone it in.

As the car peeled through town, we discussed his involvement with the Jewish advocacy group UJA-Federation, green buildings and the future of Ground Zero.

REAL ESTATE WEEKLY: Let's start with the UJA Federation. They're honoring you at a luncheon later this month. How did you become involved with them?

TISHMAN: My family has been involved in UJA since it became a federation. My first cousin once removed, who I refer to as my aunt, Peggy Tishman, was the first president of UJA. My grandmother had adopted a UJA site in the Bronx, which happened to be a facility for the elderly. As a young person I spent many hours helping the elderly up at that facility. I was further pressed into service after a serious lunch with my aunt one day. She said, 'it's time to step up to the plate.' Now, I'm just finishing up my third and final term as chair of the UJA's Real Estate Division.

REW: What were your duties as chair?

TISHMAN: Basically, to interface between UJA and the real estate community... It's very important for us to appeal to the whole community so we can be providing insight into philanthropy, especially to the new, young real estate professionals who are just starting their philanthropic careers and have an interest in Israel and our missions all over the world.

REW: Have you spent much time in Israel?

TISHMAN: Actually no, I've only been there once. My connection to Judaism is rooted here--more historical. I'm extremely interested in the Jewish populations that are isolated around the world. We still have one of those here. After a very significant research project, we found there are 280,000 Jews living under the poverty line in and around New York and a significant number of Jewish homeless. We often think of New York as being home to the most affluent of Jewish communities and in a way, we are, but there's still this huge drop off... Also, I'm interested in extremely remote Jewish populations in unexpected places, like Ethiopia or Iraq. After the start of the Iraq War, UJA helped relocate an extremely small Jewish population there. We're talking a few handfuls of people. Quite frankly, if UJA wasn't paying attention, that population would have just disappeared.

REW: Over the last few years there's been something of a boom in Green Building here in New York. Many of your projects--7 World Trade and the Bank of America building, etc.--have been recognized for their green design. What's caused you to build this way?

TISHMAN: I've always considered myself an environmentalist. I trained as a research biologist through grad school. Had it not been for a family business, I would be a scientist doing something somewhere in the world. Because this was my perspective, I've thought a lot about the environment and thought about how species interacted with the environment. I also had the ability to travel a lot and tended towards natural landscapes instead of cultural landscape. More forest than city places for me. I realized landscapes were disappearing at alarming rate. That's always been a part of my fabric.

In the business world, we interact with the natural world. We can interact responsibly or irresponsibly. We've always looked to make sure buildings appear visually to be in harmony with nature--that the architecture fits the surrounding environment... but until recently, we've ignored just how disharmonious [buildings] are in terms of how they operate.

REW: So what has changed?

TISHMAN: First you saw a few buildings going up in the early 1990s. Four Times Square--the Conde Nast Building--was the first sustainable commercial-grade speculative office building. The GAP built a green headquarters in San Francisco. Corning did one Upstate. It started a groundswell... The remarkable thing is that I've seen such an amazing acceptance. Nothing changes overnight, but 10-years ago, there were few that wanted to acknowledge that considering the environment was high on the list of things to consider in an office building. Now, I don't sit in a building project where people don't talk about sustainability. It's not green for green sake; it's green for economics' sake ...It takes oil and electric and steam to operate buildings. There's a huge correlation between environment and economy. It will drive us to things that make sustainable sense. That now has become commonplace.

REW: Turning our attention downtown, there have been architects named for Towers 3 & 4 at Ground Zero, and still talks of having the whole project, Freedom Tower included, up by 2012. This seems like a tight schedule. Can it be ready in time?

TISHMAN: The simple answer is there is a schedule that has been agreed to and that schedule is achievable. Like anything, it's only achievable if the pieces come together. [Tishman Construction is] the pragmatic entity that gets it done. I need to see that the steal gets bought, the concrete poured and the door handles are put in the right place. There are a lot of groups involved and they all have to understand there can't be interference if the commitments are to get met. It's a house of cards, move one and you have no more house. If everyone marches in lock step, the schedule is achievable. If we spend two years in discussion, then it's not achievable.
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Title Annotation:Tishman Realty and Construction Corp.'s Daniel Tishman
Author:Moran, Tim
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 17, 2006
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