It’s an age-old New York real-estate bind: You find the perfect place, you fall in love and declare your intentions – only to learn it’s promised to someone else. When it happened in Harlem last week to office-seeker Bill Clinton, it fell upon Terry Lane – the head of New York’s Empowerment Zone, who’d arranged Clinton’s introduction to 55 West 125th Street at the behest of Congressman Charles Rangel – to help close the deal. “When I looked at the space, the owners said others had ‘expressed interest,’ ” says the 38-year-old former investment banker. “They didn’t say that they already leased it.”
Lane decided not to tell Clinton about it and waited until after the former president’s adulatory tour of Harlem to deal with the problem. But he remained confident that Clinton would eventually win the space. He served as Clinton’s host last Tuesday, and he saw the look in the ex-president’s eyes when he walked through the travertine marble lobby and up the elevator and gazed out of the open penthouse views over the roofs of Harlem, across Central Park to midtown. Lane explained the T1 lines to Clinton and pitched the neighborhood’s perks: FDR-free airport access, a fifteen-minute taxi ride to midtown. “I told him I’d love to go jogging with him, and he said he’d love a workout partner,” Lane says. He might have clinched the deal on the way down, when Lane idly mentioned the building could put a presidential seal on the floor of the elevator they were in. Clinton beamed and said, “That would be nice.”
Outside, Clinton used Lane’s shoulder for support as he glad-handed the happy mob that greeted him. “He looked radiant,” Lane says. They and their entourages bonded over a two-hour-plus lunch at Bayou, an Empowerment Zone-funded restaurant, where, over turkey andouille sausage, Clinton defended the Marc Rich pardon – explaining that top members of both parties had beseeched him to do it.
And it was there that Clinton, certain he had found a New York home base, proudly described the $800,000-per-month Carnegie Hall Tower flap as the result of his own success. “He said that eight years ago, they probably rented that place for below $40 a square foot,” Lane says. “But thanks to the strong economy he and Bob Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen created, they could charge higher rents now.”