March 24, 2023

Frequent Flier: Flying When Your Name Is Prominent, but You Are Not

I was chief executive and president of Fox Music for 18 years, and in that position I was flying all the time, too. The locales got a little more exotic, from small Czech villages one week, to Australia or Thailand the following month. Now that I’m out on my own, after starting Kraftbox Entertainment last year, I’m still flying a lot.

The big difference is that I no longer have a big corporate travel office to make my reservations. Now I do it on my own, and honestly, I’m not particularly good at it, which is really embarrassing and humbling.

A few months ago, I needed to fly to London from New York City. I went online and bought my ticket, selecting a flight that left Kennedy Airport for Heathrow at 7:40. At about 4 that afternoon, I looked online to see if my flight was on time, and noticed that the Web site said, “This flight has already departed and arrived.”

I rebooted the site, assuming it was inaccurate. When the same information came up again, I called the airline, intending to let them know their Web site was wrong and they were experiencing some kind of computer glitch.

I made my call, feeling pretty righteous, only to be very politely informed that the flight indeed left Kennedy at 7:40. But that was 7:40 in the morning, not 7:40 in the evening, as I thought. The agent had the good grace not to laugh. I felt stupid.

Since I missed the flight, my entire itinerary, including my return flight to my home in Los Angeles, had been canceled. I elected to postpone my trip, and bought a coach ticket back to Los Angeles later that evening. It felt like a very long flight.

Everyone is thinking about Boston. The tragedy just plain hurts. I love that city and I’m sad. I’m praying for wisdom and strength.

I fly to Boston a few times a year for meetings, and occasionally benefit from the fact that I share my name with the much more famous Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. A few years ago, I flew from Los Angeles to Logan Airport in Boston a few days before a big Patriots playoff game.

As I boarded the plane, an attendant said, “We are so thrilled and honored to have you flying with us.” She mentioned that “everything has been taken care of,” and ushered me into a first-class seat. I asked no questions. I’m a frequent flier on this airline and thought maybe they were being exceptionally generous, except deep inside I think they thought I was the other Robert Kraft.

It got weirder when I landed. I usually take a cab to Cambridge, but my flight arrived late at night. It was freezing, so I hired a local car service. I waited on the platform as every other cab and car drove off, until I was finally the only one left outside, except for a long, black stretch limousine.

After a few more moments in the Arctic temperature, I tapped on the limo window and asked the driver who he was waiting for. He said, “Robert Kraft.” I said, “I’m Robert Kraft.” The driver gave me a withering gaze and said, “No you’re not.”

He knew what Robert Kraft looked like and he didn’t look like me. After some back and forth and a peek at my driver’s license, the driver relented and I got my ride. Beautiful, wonderful Beantown. I love it. And that driver.

By Robert Kraft, as told to Joan Raymond. E-mail:

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Square Feet: Harrison, N.J., Pins Its Hopes on Housing Commuters

A flurry of development is under way in this 1.2-mile-long town along the Passaic River, across from Newark. A 275-unit upscale apartment building was fully leased within seven months of its 2011 opening. On the heels of that success, other developers have broken ground on residential, retail and commercial projects in a redevelopment zone that circles the town’s New Jersey PATH station.

Nine developers have pledged $650 million over 10 years to transform 275 acres of abandoned, deteriorating manufacturing buildings into the next outpost on New Jersey’s Gold Coast. In all, a third of Harrison will be rebuilt, adding 3,000 units of housing to a town with 14,500 residents. When the work is finished, a community that was once a bustling manufacturing hub will depend on commuters looking for affordable, chic housing.

“What alternative do we have? It’s going to create jobs, I hope,” said the town’s mayor, Raymond McDonough, a retired plumber who has been mayor for nearly 18 years. “It’s going to create tax revenue for the town.” The amount of taxes the town can collect, however, will be limited by a 30-year tax abatement granted to the developers.

In the most critical improvement for the area, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will begin work this year on a $256 million upgrade of the town’s 76-year-old PATH station. Developers are pinning their hopes for the area on the PATH train, which provides a 25-minute ride to Manhattan.

Developers hope that the virtually unknown Harrison — unlike nearby Newark, which has struggled to shake its downtrodden image — can draw commuters priced out of the trendy Hoboken and Jersey City markets.

Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, of course, may lead to construction delays at the station and at other projects in the area.

More than two million passengers used Harrison Station in 2011. By 2022, the agency expects ridership to rise to 3.4 million. The station upgrade will expand the station platform to allow for trains with more cars.

“The jewel here is the train station. That’s your raw material,” said Jeffrey J. Milanaik, president of Heller Industrial Parks, which is demolishing several turn-of-the-century factories on a 10-acre parcel near Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard. Early next year, Heller will begin work on 95 rental units and 15,000 square feet of retail, the first phase of a $200 million plan to build 747 units of housing.

Other new developments are also under way: Advance Realty broke ground in September on a 50,000-square-foot research and technology center for Panasonic; Advance is also building, with Russo Development, a 326-unit rental property with 1,000 square feet of retail; Millennium Homes and the Roseland Property Company will break ground next month on 140 rental units on First Street; and work will begin this fall on a 138-room Element hotel.

Rents are lower in Harrison than in other towns along the PATH line. The average rent for an apartment in the new development is $1,863 a month, compared with $2,900 in Hoboken or $3,067 in Jersey City, according to data provided by Brian J. Whitmer, a senior director at Cushman and Wakefield.

“Harrison is the next step out,” Mr. Whitmer said. “If you can’t afford $3,000 a month to live in Hoboken, but you want new construction and entertainment, you can come to Harrison.”

For now, amenities are sparse. The new rental building, Harrison Station at 300 Somerset Street, has 12,800 square feet of retail, but only two spaces are filled, with a Five Guys Burger and Fries and a deli that sells some groceries. Pro Cuts, GNC, a dry cleaner and a Japanese restaurant are expected to open in the next few months.

“Harrison is really like new build,” said David Barry, president of Ironstate Development Company, which built 300 Somerset Street with the Pegasus Group. “We’re creating a neighborhood from whole cloth and trying to give it a sense of place.”

By the end of the year, the team will break ground on the Element hotel, an extended-stay hotel that will charge visitors about $150 a night. The seven-story hotel will sit across the street from 300 Somerset, wrapping around a 1,440-car garage the team built in 2010. The Hudson County Improvement Authority operates the garage and Harrison receives the revenue from it. Eventually, Ironstate and Pegasus plan to build five more apartment buildings with about 2,000 units and 67,000 square feet of retail.

Mr. McDonough hatched the redevelopment plan in 1998, and it has been plagued by setbacks ever since. The Sept. 11 attacks delayed the project. But by 2006, a 170-room Hampton Inn had opened along the river. And in 2007, the first condo development opened: River Park at Harrison, an 86-unit riverfront complex built by Roseland and Millennium. But by the time the second phase opened in 2008, the economy had collapsed and the developers struggled to sell units. Their problems were worsened by a neighboring property: a chemical plant that turned off buyers.

Even the successes had problems. After the $200 million Red Bull Arena — home of the New York Red Bulls, the major league soccer team — opened in the redevelopment zone in 2010, the town was mired in a tax dispute with the arena’s owners. Without the revenue stream, the town could not make bond payments on the $39 million it had borrowed to buy the land for the 2,500-seat arena. In 2011, Moody’s Investment Services downgraded Harrison’s credit rating to junk.

“The stadium has seriously endangered Harrison’s ability to maintain its governmental functions with the debt load that it’s now carrying,” said Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a government watchdog group.

The courts ruled in Harrison’s favor in January and in July the arena’s owners paid $5.6 million in back taxes. During the dispute, the town raised property taxes and cut municipal jobs. In August, Moody’s revised the town’s credit outlook to positive.

Red Bull declined to comment on the tax dispute, citing the continuing legal case. The owners could still appeal.

“It didn’t work out the way we planned, but we’re getting there,” said Mr. McDonough.

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