Five Queens real estate and construction influencers
you need to know
When a politician takes credit for a major airport overhaul, a new rail tunnel or an expansive housing project, there’s a team of developers and construction companies who actually built it. When elected officials praise the creation of good jobs, there are business leaders and entrepreneurs generating the new opportunities – and a strong union movement that helps keep wages competitive. When government bureaucrats tout the thriving tourism industry, there’s a complex transportation network that gets them here – and plenty of attractions to draw in tourists.
The individuals carrying out these behind-the-scenes tasks are not elected, but often they are just as powerful as the officials that voters put into office. In this list, we put the spotlight on these players in real estate and construction – The Influentials.
Return to full list of the 25 Queens influencers.
Chairman and CEO, LeFrak Organization
Richard LeFrak’s holdings include more than 40 million square feet nationwide, according to The Real Deal. One of the largest properties is the sprawling LeFrak City housing complex in Corona, Queens.
But LeFrak’s influence doesn’t come entirely from that square footage, or from his vast fortune. He’s riding a set of presidential coattails, as he’s among the small group of President Donald Trump’s friends. After the inauguration, his role became semiofficial. Along with Steven Roth, another developer, LeFrak is heading up Trump’s infrastructure council.
The two real estate developers both got their start in Queens, and the relationship goes back decades. He appeared on a 2010 episode of “The Apprentice.” He was even a judge for the 2009 Miss Universe beauty pageant.
President, York Scaffold Equipment Corp.
After several tough years following the 2008 recession, construction in New York City has bounced back, and with it, scaffolding companies. Those companies own and put in place the infrastructure that supports construction: scaffolding, sidewalk sheds, debris chutes and other safety equipment. One of the largest and longest-lasting is the family-run York Scaffolding Equipment Corp., which was founded in 1928 by John Buettner Sr. and is now led by his grandson, Kenneth.
Buettner is first vice chairman of the Long Island City Partnership board of directors, but he has expressed concern in recent years about how long the business will be able to stay in that neighborhood due to rising land prices amid an ongoing influx of hotels and other non-industrial businesses.
President, F&T Group
Michael Meyer’s F&T Group is a major developer based in Flushing, Queens. The group recently finished two of the five buildings that will comprise the Flushing Commons project, which is one of the largest new construction projects outside of Manhattan. It will eventually include 600 condos, as well as retail and office space. F&T recently completed two other major mixed-use facilities in Flushing.
As president of F&T Group for more than 13 years, Meyer has overseen these projects and many others, working with F&T’s chairman and CEO, Michael Lee, and Vice Chairman Sunny Chiu to bring to life their vision for a neighborhood of high-end shopping and condos in Flushing. The company also has offices in Shanghai and Nanjing, China.
Chairman, Douglaston Development, Levine Builders and Clinton Management
Douglaston Development, Levine Builders and Clinton Management, which Jeffrey Levine founded in 1979, have grown to become major forces of residential development in the city. Recent projects by the Queens-based companies include high-rise residential buildings on the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
But the company’s portfolio isn’t all luxury. It also builds affordable housing, including affordable senior housing and assisted living properties in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Levine is a founding member of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, the trade group for affordable housing developers. He is active in several other trade associations, with top roles at the Real Estate Board of New York and the New York Building Congress. During former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, Levine served on the Mayor’s Commission on Construction Opportunity.
Founder and CEO, Judlau Contracting
“Bridge and tunnel” isn’t an insult for Thomas Iovino. Bridges, tunnels – and the tracks that run through them – are the lifeblood of his business, Judlau Contracting. Although now a subsidiary of Spanish company OHL, or Obrascón Huarte Lain, Judlau remains active locally.
Its biggest project in Queens is a tunnel for the East Side Access, a $10 billion endeavor connecting Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central Terminal. The company also built new stations on the Second Avenue subway, and won the contract to repair the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel beginning in 2019.