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The 1999 New York Awards

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David Walentas
Covering the Waterfront

"I've been involved in a lot of development," says David Walentas, the would-be father of Brooklyn's dumbo. "But in a hundred years, this is the one that'll matter." The 61-year-old Walentas has literally gone gray waiting for his "world-class waterfront" -- part sixties SoHo, part nineties Montclair -- to materialize out of ten buildings acquired from Harry Helmsley in 1981 for around $6 per square foot. But this year, with dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) zoned residential and Brooklyn poised to become a high-rent retail wonderland, the power brokers finally began to move in. By January, Walentas's ClockTower, a sixteen-story warehouse-cum-condominium capped with four floor-through lofts and sweeping 360-degree views, was sold out for $70 million. Walentas himself took the fifteenth floor; the top apartment, with four clock-face windows, went for $4 million to a pioneer in digital medical imaging. Walentas's downstairs neighbor, Bliss spa owner Marcia Kilgore, paid $1.9 million. "That's $600 a square foot for raw space," Walentas says with a triumphant laugh. Another of his converted warehouses is 75 percent rented, and as the industrial tenants leave, the rest of his buildings will follow. But Walentas never intended to stop at a few status addresses. He's got his eye on leasing Fulton Ferry, an undeveloped city-owned "park" on the waterfront. Although the city continued to stall this year over the lease, Walentas commissioned architect Jean Nouvel (the one behind the reworked interior of the new Museum of Advertising in the Louvre) to design an ultramodern hotel-multiplex-mall, the sketches of which have already caught the admiring eye of Times critic Herbert Muschamp. Beside this translucent jewel between the bridges would be more retail shops, ample parking space, and a fully developed waterfront park with -- what else? -- an antique carousel as its centerpiece. With an indifferent city government and growing neighborhood opposition, there may be a Second Avenue subway before Walentas surveys his sprawling kingdom, but he's certainly got momentum on his side -- to say nothing of his unflagging optimism. "It can't not happen," Walentas insists, "because it's right."
Boris Kachka

Daymond John
Sweat Success

Daymond John doesn't dress much differently now from the way he did when he was waiting tables at Red Lobster in Queens seven years ago. The 29-year-old president and co-founder of the fubu (For Us By Us) clothing line has always worn "what he feels" -- and recently, that feeling has made him a millionaire. John was a pint-size entrepreneur starting at age 10, "handing out flyers, raking leaves, shoveling snow, cleaning out gutters, whatever." But when he was 22, he and three friends found a better way to hustle in their Hollis neighborhood: They manufactured a variation on the hip-hop-style tie-top hats with their logo and made $800 on their first day. By 1992, they had branched out into making clothes, and John persuaded neighborhood friend L.L. Cool J to wear fubu for a magazine ad. Suddenly, rappers like Brand Nubian were sporting fubu gear in their videos and concerts. In 1993, John took out a $100,000 mortgage on the house his mother left him, had his friends move in, and set up shop. Last year, fubu made more than $350 million in sales with over 500 garments in more than 5,000 stores worldwide. Its first Manhattan store is slated to open this spring. "You don't set out to start a trend," John says with a shrug. "You just do what you do."
Rose-Anne Clermont

Ann Kirschner
Computer Literate

How did a Princeton English professor trained to lecture students about Victorian literature manage to reinvent herself as a new-media executive who now talks revenue streams with venture capitalists? "I answered an ad in the New York Times for cable television," says Kirschner. "Which in 1979 was what the Internet was in 1994: totally unknown but new and exciting." In February, Kirschner took another leap into the unknown when she was hired to head Columbia University's newly created Internet company with the mandate to exploit the school's intellectual capital online. "If you look at all of that brainpower the way a programming executive would, you'd say, 'My God, I'm in the middle of the most interesting network of ideas ever,' " she says. "We want to tap into that fantastic content and deliver it to an international audience." Newness has always been a driving motivation: After working in cable, she got involved in satellite television and online ventures, including a stint as the founding CEO of NFL.com, which became one of the most successful sports sites on the Web -- even though she'd never been to a football game and had to have her brother prep her before meeting with the NFL commissioner. "My husband says I'm the only person who's gone from George Eliot to Jumbo Elliott in the course of one career. And of course, now I've sort of gone back to George Eliot again."Michael Steele

Jamie Barrett
Star Pitcher

In a year in which advertising reached new heights (or depths) of perversity -- from Outpost.com's gerbil cannon to E-Trade's bunion-rubbing gigolo -- Fallon McElligot executive creative director Jamie Barrett makes an odd spokesman for restraint. "The dot-com advertisers have been taking big chances -- but with mixed success," says Barrett, 38. "There are other ways to turn people's heads than to shock them." This from the man who dreamed up MTV's unforgettably gross "Jukka Brothers" campaign? "Well," he allows, "if you didn't shock people with MTV, you'd be missing an opportunity." Using four rusticated, rump-baring Scandinavian siblings to promote the music-television giant isn't the only opportunity Barrett has taken of late. Comfortably ensconced for eight years at Portland's Wieden & Kennedy, Barrett decamped for Fallon's New York headquarters at the start of this year and promptly helped set in motion a fivefold increase in the agency's billings -- from $50 million to $250 million -- and the addition of major new accounts like Mindspring, FAO Schwarz, and govWorks.com. Few of these clients were looking for mind-bending grotesqueries like the Jukkas -- Barrett cites as a favorite the Conseco financial services spot with a panhandling Wall Streeter -- and that suits the adman fine. The ultimate goal, Barrett says, "is to be intrusive and memorable -- in a relevant way."
Ethan Smith

Keith Wright
Harlem Hero

Khalid Muhammad probably thought he would come to Harlem last September for his second "Million Youth March" and top the previous year's mayhem. And Rudy Giuliani and Howard Safir were surely gearing up for just that. Fortunately, there were cooler heads in the middle, not least of which belonged to Harlem assemblyman Keith Wright. "What was getting lost in this whole thing is that Harlem is a neighborhood," Wright says. "It's where people live. Where they raise their kids. Where they go to school. Where they go to church." To Wright, whose father is Bruce Wright, the well-known (now retired) New York judge, the last thing Harlem wanted was a repeat performance of the first march, or the ensuing near riot. And he should know. "I'm a native son of Harlem," he says. "I actually live in the same apartment I grew up in. I'm raising my two kids here." And so he and other Harlem leaders stole Muhammad's thunder and organized a youth conference at the Apollo Theater in October -- a sort of anti-Million Youth March event -- that drew 800 young people. That's real grassroots politics.
Michael Tomasky

Donald Trump
Reform Partyer

President Trump? At first it was like a wisecrack waiting to happen: What's he gonna do, open up the White House to gambling? Give Miss U.S.A. contestants ambassadorships? But then it actually started to seem like the unpredictable Reform Party was seriously considering The Donald for president. And Trump, of course, had no doubts that he was up to the challenge. "The toughest, roughest people you'll ever meet are real-estate guys in New York," he said with typical glibness. "If you can compete on that level, believe me, you can compete against Japan and against countries." Hotels, nuclear warheads -- what's the difference? What was most surprising, however, was that The Donald wasn't the only one who could see himself in the Oval Office. Suddenly, this amazing prospect was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. Part of this likely has to do with the sunny, untroubled way The Donald seems to go about his romantic life after four years of secretive, excruciating sordidness. On the Howard Stern show, Trump said of his girlfriend and possible future First Lady, model Melanie Knauss, "I mentally feel her up in public." "Marriage is a great institution," he added when asked whether the country was ready for a single president: "Some of us just haven't gotten it right. The guilt lasts about four or five minutes; then you get over it." Ken Starr vs. Donald Trump -- now there would have been a contest.


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