The behind-the-scenes power players in real estate

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City & State recognizes a group of little-known industry players who are doing big things.

The behind-the-scenes power players in real estate

You don’t have to be public-facing to get things done.
March 22, 2021

In New York and nationwide, deep-pocketed developers and high-ranking government officials are grappling with a pandemic that has rattled the real estate industry. And they’re coming up with solutions – thanks in no small part to a bevy of behind-the-scenes deputies and advisers in both the public and private sectors.

As part of this year’s annual Real Estate Power 100 feature, we recognize a group of these little-known industry players who are doing big things.

Helena Rose Durst

Principal, Durst Organization

Leading the Durst’s real estate empire with her father, Douglas Durst, Helena Rose Durst, a fourth-generation member of the Durst Organization, manages the firm’s residential portfolio. Helena Rose Durst is currently in charge of leasing more than 2,000 market-rate affordable units at Halletts Point in Queens and Queens Plaza Park. She oversaw the creation of nearly 2,000 rental units at locations like EŌS, The Helena, Frank 57 West, Historic Front Street and One Bryant Park. Ms. Durst is a board member on the Real Estate Board of New York’s board of governors. 

Jonathan Gouveia

Executive Vice President for Real Estate Development, New York City Housing Authority

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Jonathan Gouveia
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Since Jonathan Gouveia arrived at the New York City Housing Authority in 2019, he has spearheaded the push to generate more than $16 billion in capital investments to shore up its portfolio. Gouveia has wrapped up eight partnerships that will funnel some $2 billion to fix and improve 10,000 NYCHA apartments. His team completed air rights transfers at developments in Brooklyn and Manhattan, bringing in another $28 million for repairs. Recently, NYCHA closed on a 182-unit Bronx affordable housing development, finalized an agreement for $383 million in apartment and building system upgrades for 16 Manhattan sites, and completed another agreement for $434 million in large-scale construction upgrades at nine Brooklyn sites.

Holly Leicht

Executive Vice President, Real Estate Development and Planning, Empire State Development

Holly Leicht oversees Empire State Development’s planning for its surplus properties and subsidiary development corporations. Leicht previously served as the regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, where she managed the agency’s work in New York and New Jersey, including $15 billion in Superstorm Sandy recovery funds and $6 billion in affordable housing. 

Paimaan Lodhi & Basha Gerhards

Senior Vice President of Policy and Planning; Vice President of Policy and Planning, REBNY

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Paimaan Lodhi serves as the Real Estate Board of New York’s senior vice president for policy and planning, where he focuses on advancing policy discussions on commercial conversions. Frequently sought out by the media because of his expertise, Lodhi coordinates with REBNY members and government officials on a number of issues including land use, housing, economic development and construction. 

Previously a deputy director of land use for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, as well as a city planner and zoning specialist for the Department of City Planning, Basha Gerhards focuses on housing, land use and community development as REBNY’s vice president of policy and planning. Gerhards is also managing the recently launched Project Parachute, an initiative that brings landlords and nonprofits together to work on keeping tenants in their homes. 

Lara Merida

Program Director, New York City Department of City Planning

As the New York City Department of City Planning’s director of neighborhood studies, Lara Merida coordinates all citywide and neighborhood planning initiatives. In that capacity, Merida has overseen outreach efforts like those for the Bay Street Corridor rezoning on Staten Island, as well as plans for the Gowanus, SoHo and NoHo rezonings.

Rachel Loeb & Hester Muis

Acting President; Executive Vice President, Real Estate Transaction Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation

When James Patchett resigned as the leader of New York City’s economic development arm this month,Rachel Loeb took over. Previously, Loeb oversaw the agency’s strategy for real estate, asset management and planning. Last year, she reviewed EDC’s roster of 60 million square feet of real estate and coordinated with the private sector to determine where the city could set up emergency surge hospitals, coronavirus testing sites, vaccine centers and cooling centers and provide warehouses for personal protective equipment. 

As the organization’s executive vice president, Hester Muis leads the agency’s real estate transaction services and its public-private partnerships on city-owned property. Muis led negotiations on the ground lease for Zero Irving to RAL Cos. to redevelop the property into a 240,000-square-foot, 22-story tech hub near Union Square. Muis also oversaw the ground lease of city-owned property in the South Bronx to L+M Development, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with 542 units of affordable housing.

Liz Oakley

Deputy Commissioner for Development, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development

Liz Oakley had been the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s deputy commissioner for development for less than six months when the pandemic hit. Her office oversees new construction, housing incentives, preservation finance, supportive housing building and land development services, and storm recovery. She also manages the department’s housing production goals for the Housing New York Plan and for predevelopment work. Under Oakley’s leadership, her team was able to negotiate savings and work with partners to finance more than 29,000 affordable housing units in 2020.

Gary Rodney

Managing Director, Affordable Housing Acquisitions and Development, Tishman Speyer

Armed with more than two decades’ experience in developing and financing affordable housing, including as president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation, Gary Rodney was tapped last year to lead commercial real estate giant Tishman Speyer’s newly created affordable housing platform focusing on New York City. In his new role, Rodney will lead the firm’s efforts to buy, redevelop and construct affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families. 

Carl Rodrigues

Chief of Staff, New York City Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development

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Carl Rodrigues has served as the chief of staff to two deputy mayors for housing and economic development during his tenure in the de Blasio administration. Any developers who want to meet with the deputy mayor for housing and economic development know they have to go through Rodrigues first. Before coming to City Hall, Rodrigues managed teams responsible for real estate transactions and infrastructure financing at the city’s Economic Development Corporation. During the pandemic, he also ran the city’s production initiative and coordinated between city agencies and the private sector to figure out how to produce ventilators, surgical gowns and masks for New York City.

Chad Tredway

Managing Director, Head of Real Estate Banking, JPMorgan Chase

Chad Tredway heads JPMorgan’s national real estate banking operations, managing the team responsible for delivering debt and treasury solutions to real estate developers, investors, investment funds and real estate investment trusts. Tredway is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York’s executive committee, the board of governors and the diversity committee. 

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City & State
20210416