By M. Bilal Lakhani
This is a vintage Brooklyn rags to riches story, with a twist.
It turns out that one of the most powerful men on Wall Street today, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, in the projects.
But unlike Jay-Z, Barbara Streisand and Brooklyn’s other storied icons, none of Blankfein’s former neighbors appear to recall this illustrious, prodigal son of the borough.
Blankfein, whose father was a clerk at the US postal service, grew up in East New York’s Linden Houses and worked his way up to lead one of the most powerful financial institutions in the world.
Blankfein earned a stunning $108 million in compensation during his first two years as CEO of Goldman Sachs. In 2008, he “paid cash for a $26 million penthouse in Fifteen Central Park West, a coveted Robert Stern-designed luxury tower. Blankfein’s duplex is said to include a chauffeur waiting room.”
Meanwhile, outside Linden Houses, residents were surprised to learn that Blankfein was raised here. Some were genuinely inspired.
“I had no idea he lived here,” said Tysha Winharris, a 13-year-old student at Fredrick Douglas Academy.
“It makes me feel like I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to,” he continued. “I want to become a video game designer. I want to be known for something too.”
Winharris says his mother can’t afford to move out of Linden houses.
“When I grow up, I’m going to make a lot of money and get my mother out of this ghetto,” said Winharris. “If I stay focused in school, I can do it. But the other kids… they don’t let me concentrate in school.”
Some were more cautious in drawing inspiration from Blankfein.
“I was born here but I never knew that he grew up in this building,” said 15-year-old Kayshawn Robinson. “I’m shocked… because I don’t see anyone from here doing something like that.”
“It’s a bad neighborhood,” he continued. “It’s just how it is.”
Older residents were also caught off guard and suggested that Blankfein should give back to his community, which they believe is being held back by crime and bad parenting from younger couples.
Incidentally, Blankfein serves on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization that aims to alleviate poverty in New York City. He has personally donated more than $850,000 to the organization.