Douglas Durst

Douglas Durst (born December 19, 1944) is an American real estate investor and developer.

Douglas Durst
Born (1944-12-19) December 19, 1944
ResidenceKatonah, New York, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Alma materB.A. University of California, Berkeley
OccupationReal estate developer
Known forPresident of the Durst Organization
Net worth$650 million (1997)[1]
Spouse(s)Susanne Durst
ChildrenAnita Durst Kariolic
Alexander Durst
Helena Rose Durst Domino
Parent(s)Bernice Herstein
Seymour Durst
RelativesRobert Durst (brother)
Joseph Durst (grandfather)
Thomas Durst (brother)
Wendy Durst (sister)

Early life and education

Durst was born in New York City in 1944[2] to a Jewish family, the son of Bernice (née Herstein) and Seymour Durst. He is the younger brother of Robert Durst.

Durst's paternal grandfather, Joseph Durst, a penniless immigrant tailor from Austria Hungary, eventually became a very successful real estate manager and developer founding the Durst Organization in 1915. His father, Seymour, became head of the family business in 1974 upon Joseph's death. Douglas's mother died in a fall when he was a child.[3] Douglas graduated from the Fieldston School in 1962 and the University of California at Berkeley in 1966. He attended New York University's Urban Studies program for two years and then joined the family business then run by his father and two uncles, Roy and David.[2]


Douglas took over the Durst Organization in 1992 upon his father's retirement. He presided over the development of several major buildings in New York City:

Durst is a director of the Real Estate Board of New York.[2] Durst is known for emphasizing density and sustainability in his projects.[5]

New School University Center

Located on 14th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the New School university center was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and developed by the Durst Organization. The building is designed to LEED Gold standards.[6]

One World Trade Center development

In 2010, the Durst Organization bid on and won the right to invest $100 million in the One World Trade Center development becoming a co-developer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[7]

The contract negotiated between the Port Authority and the Durst Organization specifies that the Durst Organization will receive a $15 million fee and a percentage of “base building changes that result in net economic benefit to the project.” The specifics of the signed contract give Durst 75 percent of savings up to $24 million and stepping down thereafter (to 50 percent, 25 percent and 15 percent) as the savings increased. Durst had offered to work for a fixed $35 million fee, but the Port chose the incentive fee arrangement. Significant changes to the building have been made since his joining of the project,[7]

Bank of America Tower – One Bryant Park

In May 2010, Douglas Durst, former Vice President Al Gore, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially opened the Bank of America Tower. It was the first high-rise commercial tower to receive LEED platinum rating in the United States. The 55 story, 2.1 million square foot building located on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street was designed by Cookfox Architects.[8]

In June 2009 a group of banks provided Bank of America and Durst Organization $1.28 Billion to refinance the building. Bank of America provided half of the loan. The other parts came from New York Mellon Corp., Wells Fargo, Westdeutsche Immobilien Bank, and Helaba Bank.[9]

West 57

In the early 2000s, architect Bjarke Ingels met Durst when he was in Copenhagen with his wife, Susanne, a native of Denmark. He visited Ingels' studio in February 2010.[10]

In spring 2010, Durst Fetner Residential commissioned Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to bring a new residential typology to Manhattan. In 2011, BIG opened an office in New York to supervise W57's development and construction.[11] Completed in 2016, West 57 is a 709-unit, four sided, pyramid shaped tower of apartments on West Fifty-seventh Street.[10][12]

Philanthropy and charitable activities

Douglas is a director of The New School, The Trust for Public Land, Project for Public Spaces, and the Roundabout Theatre Company. He is a trustee of the Old York Foundation, which was established by his father, to help educate people about the history and ongoing problems of New York City.[2] Durst is also a prominent environmentalist and operates one of the largest organic farms in New York State.[2]

McEnroe Farm

In 1987, Durst purchased a piece of land from Ray McEnroe, the owner of an organic farm in Dutchess County, New York, some 100 miles north of Manhattan. He purchased the land to dispose of his horses' manure in an environmentally friendly way.[13] Durst later partnered with McEnroe, and now the farm is 500 acres, and among the top 25% of organic farms in the United States.[14]

Personal life

In 1967, he married Susanne Durst, a Danish national whom he met in Denmark after college.[15][16]


They have three children:[2]

  • Anita Durst, the founder of Chashama, a charity dedicated to locating affordable or free studio and gallery space for artists in New York City.[17] [18]
  • Alexander Durst, vice president at the Durst Organization responsible for development, project management, and operations.[19] He is married to Eva Billeci, senior project manager at the Durst Organization.
  • Helena Rose Domino, vice president at the Durst Organization; she is also a board member of Just Food, Governors Island Alliance, the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board[20] as well as President of New York Water Taxi and Circle Line Downtown[21][21]


Douglas Durst suffered a severe leg injury in 1972 when a coal-fired water heater exploded in a Newfoundland house where he was then living with his wife and young family. “I should've died there,” Durst would later tell The New York Times. “It changed my whole outlook on life. I had to get more serious about what I was doing", he said, moving back to the family real estate business following months of recuperation. After suffering more than four decades of pain, part of Durst's lower right leg was amputated in 2015. He walks today with the help of a prosthesis.[22]

Robert Durst

In 2001, his estranged brother Robert Durst was charged with murdering a neighbor and dismembering his body in Galveston, Texas. Pleading self-defense, he was acquitted of the murder charge.[3] Douglas was interviewed by The New York Times in January 2015, and was quoted as saying about Robert: "There's no doubt in my mind that if he had the opportunity to kill me, he would."[23]

Douglas Durst told The New York Times in December 2015 that he believed, until 2001, in his brother's innocence regarding Kathleen McCormack Durst's "disappearance" in 1982. Contrary to his brother's assertions to the documentary filmmakers of The Jinx, he was never privy to his father's meetings with a lawyer and private detective tasked with investigating Kathleen's disappearance.[22] "I'm going to be a witness in Los Angeles" for the prosecution of his brother for the murder of Susan Berman, whom investigators believe Durst murdered because she knew details of Robert's role in his wife Kathleen's death, "so they don't want me to talk too much about anything after 2001", Douglas Durst said. Douglas never cared for the mental health of his brother. He did not enforce the psychiatric care Robert Durst should have received. The Durst family fortune did pay for the lawyers to keep Robert Durst out of prison. [22]


  1. Samuels, David (August 10, 1997). "The Real-Estate Royals. End of the Line?". The New York Times.
  2. Durst Organization website - About Us: Douglas Durst retrieved June 30, 2013
  3. Wall Street Journal: "Taking the Helm to Change City Landscape" by Dana Rubinstein December 10, 2011
  4. The Durst Organization: Timeline Archived 2015-12-25 at the Wayback Machine,; retrieved July 8, 2012.
  5. Sally McGrane, "A Danish Architect Brings His Mountain-Making Ideas to New York",, January 6, 2011.
  6. Karissa Rosenfield, "In Progress: The New School University Center/SOM",, January 9, 2013.
  7. David W. Dunlap,"1 World Trade Center Is a Growing Presence, and a Changed One",, June 12, 2012.
  8. Michael Gerrity, "Al Gore, Michael Bloomberg Open Manhattan's Bank of America Tower",, May 22, 2010.
  9. Henry Goldman, "Bank of America, Durst Get $1.28 Billion to Refinance NYC Tower",, June 26, 2009.
  10. Robbie Whelan,"New Face of Design", The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2012; retrieved October 14, 2012.
  11. "West 57th by BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group" Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine,, September 20, 2012.
  12. Wilson, Reid (12 July 2016). "Landmark Theatres To Operate Multiplex At 709-Unit VIA 57 WEST, 625 West 57th Street, Hell's Kitchen". Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  13. Sarah Bradshaw, "McEnroe farm wins honors",, September 12, 2009; accessed December 24, 2015.
  14. Virginia Citrano, "The Millionaire's Tomatoes",; accessed December 24, 2015.
  15. Justin Davidson, Curbed New York: "Pyramid Scheme - Bjarke Ingels reinvents the New York apartment building",, February 6, 2011.
  16. Tim Gregorski, Building Design + Construction "The owner's perspective: high-rise buildings",, December 9, 2012
  17. Jotham Sederstrom, "Anita's Way: Douglas Durst's Eldest Daughter Merges Art with Real Estate",, June 19, 2012.
  18. Raquel Hecker, the Villager: "Chashama — creating art where you least expect it" Archived 2013-09-01 at the Wayback Machine,, November 7, 2007.
  19. Durst Organization - About Us: Alexander Durst retrieved June 30, 2013
  20. About Us: Helena Rose Durst,; retrieved June 30, 2013.
  21. Durst Domino birth announcement Archived January 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine retrieved June 30, 2013.
  22. Bagli, Charles V. (December 11, 2015). "The Durst Dynasty's Rise, a Scion's Descent". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  23. Dwyer, Jim (January 1, 2015). "Douglas Durst, in Rare Move, Speaks About Robert Durst Ahead of HBO Documentary". The New York Times.
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