A great beach read that combines compelling characters, New York City history, billion-dollar real estate deals and the incredible highs and lows of high-profile developers can be found within the pages of The New Kings of New York.
Author and journalist Adam Piore’s most recent book was released in April chronicling the lives and business deals of real estate developers who have shaped the landscape of NYC spanning over the last 50 years. Piore fine tunes every detail while describing the moguls and their deals as each chapter plays out like a movie. Readers feel like they are right in the room with these real estate titans as Piore chronicles their lives and intertwines it with the history of The Big Apple.
“I’ve been coming to New York City since I was a little kid,” says Piore. “My grandparents lived here, my parents grew up in NYC, and it’s changed a lot. I lived there in the ’90s and again in the early 2000s, and I saw it transform, and so I was curious, how did it go from a place where landlords are voluntarily burning down their buildings because there was so little, to a place where people are buying penthouses for $200 million? So, I wanted to understand the history of NYC, and what had changed, and how it changed and why.”
Piore is a published author and lifelong journalist who has written for numerous publications throughout his career, from Popular Mechanics to Business Week and Readers Digest, to Conde Nast Traveler, and many others, including The Real Deal, a real estate magazine based in NY. It was during his time writing for The Real Deal that he often wrote long-form profiles of prominent people in the real estate industry.
According to Piore, The Real Deal first approached him about writing a book after he had published his first book, The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human. Piore and the team at The Real Deal brainstormed on several potential ideas for the book, but Piore felt most interested in the idea of writing a book about some of the most prominent figures in real estate, detailing some of their most influential deals, their personal lives and motivations, and how these developers have transformed and changed New York City over the course of different real estate cycles.
In many cases, while developing the idea for the direction of the book, he was already well familiar with many of these figures and had written about or spoken to them before, so for the book, in order to get as detailed as possible, he spoke to them again, along with colleagues and associates, anyone that could make key deals and negotiations mentioned in the book seem as close to the reader as possible.
“It’s very easy to understand the stakes in the real estate industry,” says Piore. “Some of these characters, I already knew their stories, like Steve Ross, he owned the Miami Dolphins, so obviously, he was tremendously successful. So what was it about his personality and his approach? Ken Swig grew up pretty wealthy, and then his credit cards were frozen, and he was just put through the wringer. People in the real estate industry often go bust and then come back, so I just wanted to know how you could get through a crisis like that.”
While detailing these characters and their lives, he gives insight into how some of the city’s most famous buildings came about, and the drastic changes that shaped NYC over time, from Columbus Circle, Millionaire’s Row and later, Hudson Yards and The Highline, just to name a few.
Several of the characters mentioned might be recognizable for East Hampton residents, like Joe Rose, responsible for major projects like the redevelopment of Columbus Circle, who is on the zoning commission in East Hampton, as well as other characters who have a presence on the East End like Steve Ross, Ken Swig and Harry Macklowe, most known for introducing modern designs, like the Metropolitan Tower.
Ultimately, The New Kings of New York isn’t just a book about real estate, and Piore emphasizes it’s all about the characters and taking his readers on their journey.
“Good writing is in the detail,” says Piore. “You draw people in through the senses, so they forget what they’re reading, and that’s how you make it come to life for people. I tried to find things about Steve Ross and Ken Swig that would make them seem human and make people care about them. I tried to explain through the characters where we had come from so we can look at where we want to go.”