Robert De Niro likes to say he and his partners started the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 to reinvigorate the lower Manhattan economy after the September 11 attacks. On this score, he has been successful--the previous nine festivals have generated nearly $660 million for the city and has attracted approximately 2.3 million visitors. As good as the festival has been for De Niro's community, it's probably been even better for the actor's bank account and investment portfolio.
New York Daily News was wise to this even back in 2007. De Niro first began loading up on Tribeca real estate in the late-1980s, when he and partner Jane Rosenthal bought an old Martinson Coffee warehouse and turned it into the seven-story Tribeca Film Center. Don't let the clinical, vaguely academic sounding name fool you--it's a retail center, a dressed-up version of something people not from Manhattan might (rightly) call an office park. De Niro's restaurant, The Tribeca Grill, occupies the first two levels of the property. Upstairs, there's office space and a screening room available for rent. This where the IFC Independent Spirit Awards are held, but the screen is also available, according to the Tribeca Film Center website, for "your next screening, company meeting, or birthday party." We'd expect nothing less from the man who cashed $20 million paydays for City By The Sea, Godsend, and Hide and Seek.
Along with the office space, De Niro has money in two more neighborhood restaurants, Nobu and Locanda Verde, and a controlling stake in the boutique Greenwich Hotel. In 2003, De Niro and Ira Druiker got $38.9 million in tax free liberty bonds to develop the property, which was an abandoned parking lot when De Niro snapped it up in 1991. (The actor also took $3.2 million in subsidized bonds to put on the first film festival in 2002.) Nightly rates at the 88-room Greenwich currently range from $495 to $5500, a nice payday when, say, a film festival is going on in the area. He also owns two bars and three theaters in the neighborhood.
In 2004, he spent $14 million to develop five lofts on Hudson Street, properties he quickly flipped for a profit. An important step in the revitalization the local economy? Maybe not. It was an important step in making sure De Niro didn't take a bath on the project--he bought the property at 116 Hudson Street back in the mid-1990s, well before September 11 caused the bottom to fall out of the downtown real estate market. That he was able to turn a profit just three years later shows how good the festival has been for neighborhood businessmen. Including Robert De Niro.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.