In what was probably the largest gathering of Goldman Sachs employees ever to occur at a Brooklyn destination not containing the words “Peter” and “Luger,” a few dozen of Lloyd Blankfein’s underlings made a brave trek to Bed-Stuy yesterday afternoon to watch their boss break ground on The Bradford, a low-income housing project financed by Goldman’s Urban Investments Group.
Blankfein has a soft spot for low-income housing — he grew up in East New York’s hardscrabble Linden Houses — and he looked happy to be back in his home borough under more fortunate circumstances. “I knew things would be better once I got back on native soil,” he said. He then repped his alma mater, Jefferson High, by trash-talking Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation president Colvin Grannum’s Erasmus Hall. “My senior year, you didn’t win a football game,” he said.
With police sirens blaring nearby and a 99-cent store abutting the lot, the scene at the Bradford presser was slightly more, shall we say, rustic than a typical Monday afternoon at Goldman’s 200 West Street headquarters. But Blankfein, wearing muted pinstripes and slightly square-toed shoes, was perky as as he talked up the firm’s longstanding commitment to helping New York’s less fortunate. “From time to time, we really, really enjoy being important to the lives of people.”
After hearing that the Bradford project was named after a type of pear tree that grows in Brooklyn, Blankfein waxed especially poetic: “I really like the idea that there is a flowering tree that’s blossoming here, indigenous to Brooklyn, rising out of an urban area,” he said.
Other boldface names in attendance included housing-development commissioner Rafael Cistero and Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who barged into the ceremony fifteen minutes late, gave Blankfein a manly slap on the back, and discreetly pressed a plastic-wrapped gift into the Goldman chairman’s hand. (A mint? A “Defender of Truth” lapel pin? We may never know.)
After shoveling dirt for the cameras, Blankfein mingled with a city councilman, slid into the backseat of a silver Benz parked outside the tent, and headed back across the bridge to Manhattan. All told, there are worse ways to come home.