For decades, New York’s influential real estate industry was able to achieve many of its policy goals by dipping into its deep pockets to back moderates in both parties. In recent years, however, tenant advocates have found their footing, electing progressive lawmakers, pressuring candidates to reject contributions from developers and pushing for legislative milestones such as the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act. With the ascension of Gov. Kathy Hochul and the election of New York City Mayor Eric Adams last year, the balance of power is in flux. Both elected officials have received significant campaign sums from the industry, suggesting they’ll chart a more moderate course than some activists are demanding. Meanwhile, elected officials have taken action to support tenants throughout the coronavirus pandemic. A growing number of lawmakers in Albany are getting behind the good cause eviction bill, which would make it harder for landlords to remove tenants.
City & State’s Real Estate Power 100 – written by journalist Alice Popovici – follows these shifting winds, identifying the industry executives, commissioners, lawmakers old and new, lobbyists, advocates and activists who are grappling over the future direction of real estate in New York.
A housing advocate who pushed for affordable housing in the SoHo rezoning, Jessica Katz was named to the newly created role of chief housing officer in New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. Katz, who previously led the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and oversaw a budget of over $500 million in another role at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, will work with Adolfo Carrión Jr., a real estate executive who is taking the reins at HPD despite a conflict-of-interest case when he was Bronx borough president. Katz will oversee HPD as well as the New York City Housing Authority and the city Housing Development Corp., which is run by de Blasio administration holdover Eric Enderlin.
Known as the men behind the $25 billion Hudson Yards megadevelopment – New York City’s biggest real estate development since Rockefeller Center was completed in 1939 – Stephen Ross, Jeff Blau and Bruce Beal Jr. are making history once more. Related Companies is teaming up with Essence Development to take over the New York City Housing Authority’s 2,054 Manhattan apartments and will assume responsibility for renovations estimated at $366 million. Gov. Kathy Hochul received a maximum $69,700 donation from Ross last year, and Ross, Blau and Beal’s combined financial contributions to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in recent years exceeded $300,000. The well-connected developers just brought on former New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea as president of commercial property management.
State Sen. Brian Kavanagh spearheaded the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act and sponsored New York’s eviction moratorium legislation last year. He continues to push for rent relief measures – such as the good cause eviction bill – for the hundreds of thousands of renters who could face eviction now that the moratorium has expired. He was also a key backer of the recently enacted legislative package that aims to fight housing discrimination. Yet, he now faces a primary challenge from Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, a fellow progressive.
New York City Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. opted not to run for council speaker and dropped a bid for Bronx borough president – but the Bronx lawmaker, now one of the senior members of the city’s legislative body, has maintained his position as chair on the influential Land Use Committee. In November, he was at the forefront of the council’s decision to buck the tradition of member deference and approve an Upper East Side rezoning that will allow the New York Blood Center to construct a new high-rise building.
Scott Rechler has been busy in the last two years, between launching a $1 billion fund to prop up residential, telehealth and logistics industries, investing in proptech companies (which blend technology and real estate) and partnering with TF Cornerstone on a deal for a proposed 1,500-foot tower next to Grand Central terminal. Rechler, who oversees more than 25 million square feet of real estate, has been a generous supporter of New York City Mayor Eric Adams and has a side gig interviewing influential New York political players on his podcast, “Recalibrate Reality.”
Where some see vacant buildings, Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan sees the opportunity to repurpose commercial properties shuttered during the pandemic into affordable housing. While REBNY is contending with the rising progressive left clamoring for more tenant protections, the influential organization remains the leading trade group advocating on policy changes in the real estate industry. Whelan in January indicated support for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed Affordable Neighborhoods for New Yorkers program, a rebrand of the expiring 421-a tax break.
Prolific real estate developer Douglas Durst – his eponymous organization controls more than 13 million square feet of office space, including One World Trade Center and One Bryant Park – became chair of the Real Estate Board of New York in January 2021 and has spent the last year navigating the ups and downs of the real estate industry. Employees of The Durst Organization and members of the Durst family reportedly contributed more than $9,000 to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign.
Although Steven Roth has made substantial deals in New York City lately, including a 730,000-square-foot office lease for Facebook, he recently predicted that the real estate market may be sluggish for years to come. Nonetheless, among Vornado’s newest projects is a 20-million-square-foot development at Penn Station – including the recently opened Moynihan Train Hall. Roth was a major donor to Andrew Cuomo during his time as governor, and the real estate developer helped Gov. Kathy Hochul set a fundraising record after she took office last year.
Marc Holliday, whose SL Green Realty Corp. is New York City’s largest office landlord, has led in other ways throughout the pandemic, driving the city’s reopening and delivering thousands of meals to front-line workers and first responders through its “Food1st” nonprofit. The company boasts 35.3 million square feet of property, including the 1,400-foot-tall One Vanderbilt. Holliday was named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team and had Adams speak at the firm’s 2020 investor conference.
After nearly four decades at the helm of one of the city’s leading affordable housing developers – managing projects such as the 530,000-square-foot Bronx Point mixed-use development and helping rebuild the Rockaway Peninsula after Hurricane Sandy – Ron Moelis has transitioned into the role of chair at L+M Development Partners. Lisa Gomez, who previously worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Silverstein Properties and the New York City Economic Development Corp., was promoted to be the company’s CEO on Jan. 1.
A family-owned developer known for reshaping the industrial waterfronts in Dumbo and Williamsburg – most recently with the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Refinery – Two Trees has been a noted contributor to both New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ political campaign and the nonprofit Adams controlled as Brooklyn borough president, One Brooklyn Fund. Jed Walentas, who became Two Trees’ CEO in 2011, announced The David Prize, a new annual award in 2020 granting five New Yorkers $200,000 each to complete projects addressing various challenges in the city.
As head of New York’s leading tenant rights advocacy organization, Michael McKee has been focused on championing the interests of renters during the pandemic, including backing an extended eviction moratorium, pushing for rent regulation and supporting funding initiatives for affordable housing. TenantsPAC has been a fierce advocate for tenants’ rights for decades and has supported pro-tenant lawmakers like state Sens. Jabari Brisport and Brad Hoylman.
Daniel Garodnick’s journey entered a new chapter when New York City Mayor Eric Adams appointed him to chair the New York City Planning Commission and to serve as director of the Department of City Planning. In previous chapters, Garodnick represented the Upper East Side in the New York City Council, helped negotiate a deal to save affordable housing at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, nearly became council speaker and brought in a herd of goats while running the Riverside Park Conservancy.
Recently named head of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council after its former president was indicted on charges of fraud, Gary LaBarbera continues to lead its New York City chapter. He has pushed for legislation to prevent wage theft and to require developers to pay prevailing wages on construction projects that receive public funding. He also applauded recently passed legislation aimed at improving workplace COVID-19 safety practices.
Appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul to lead New York’s economic comeback through the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Knight and Kevin Law bring varied skills to their respective roles. As the former head of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., Knight has a track record of leading significant revitalization projects in Southeast Queens. Law is part of the leadership team at Tritec Real Estate Co. and a longtime co-chair of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
As cousins running the real estate company founded by their grandfather nearly a century ago, William and Eric Rudin manage a combined portfolio of more than 30 residential and office buildings, including the 30-story 3 Times Square. Eric Rudin, who is also chair of the Times Square Alliance, has praised the neighborhood’s resilience as it rebounds from the pandemic. William Rudin, a former Real Estate Board of New York chair, has reportedly donated $18,000 to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign.
COVID-19 may have rocked New York City’s commercial real estate industry, but Rob Speyer is confident that the corporate office is coming back – albeit with some upgrades. Speyer, who chairs the advisory board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and previously chaired the influential Real Estate Board of New York, oversees more than 20 million square feet of real estate in the city, including the 65-story Spiral, an office tower that will be home to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Together, Brian Kingston and Ben Brown oversee some of New York City’s most vibrant real estate properties – including the 14-acre Brookfield Place shopping center built on the site of the former World Financial Center, Manhattan West in Hudson Yards and and a 39-story commercial office building now undergoing a complete remodel at 660 Fifth Avenue. The company’s 67-story One Manhattan West office tower in Hudson Yards serves as headquarters for the National Hockey League.
In New York City’s largest real estate transaction at the time, Larry Silverstein bought the World Trade Center complex just six weeks before the 9/11 attacks for $3.25 billion – and has since been credited with rebuilding ground zero and the surrounding area. With 2 World Trade Center and 5 World Trade Center still awaiting construction, Silverstein recently purchased a Financial District apartment building for $248 million and is also planning a mixed-use project in Astoria, Queens.
“The world’s biggest corporate landlord” according to Fortune, Blackstone is reportedly adding to its existing $368 billion global portfolio by buying real estate investment firm Bluerock Residential for $3.6 billion and a downtown Manhattan apartment building for $930 million. A key player on the company’s real estate team is Nadeem Meghji, who came on in 2008. Unlike Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, a Donald Trump ally, and President Jonathan Gray, a Democratic donor, Meghji is less involved politically, apart from his lupus advocacy and fundraising.
As head of the agency that oversees the development of affordable housing programs in New York, RuthAnne Visnauskas is poised to play a major role in the distribution of a recently announced $539 million New York State Homeowner Assistance grant designed to help homeowners who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visnauskas, who has been in her role since 2017, also heads a $20 billion statewide initiative to create affordable housing.
Carlo Scissura has held several key roles in New York politics, including as a top aide to former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and leader of the New York Building Congress. His next stop was reportedly as president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corp., although he recently said he would remain in his current role. At the Building Congress, Scissura pushed to tear down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and to greenlight the long-stalled Gateway rail tunnel.
Mary Ann Tighe, who has managed over 114.7 million square feet of real estate transactions and is credited with bringing tenants such as Spotify and McKinsey & Co. to a rebuilt World Trade Center complex, is optimistic about the real estate industry’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Tighe, dubbed one of the city’s most powerful women, recently told the Commercial Observer that some companies “are willing to pay historically high rents” to bring workers back to the office.
A co-chair of the New York City Regional Economic Development Council, Winston Fisher last year decried what he called a “punitive” tax policy toward businesses in New York, according to The City – and he wants New York City Mayor Eric Adams to push for workers’ return to the office in the city’s business hubs. Fisher oversees more than 10 million square feet of commercial space including Park Avenue Plaza – where Morgan Stanley recently signed a lease for 400,000 square feet of office space.
First-term New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez landed one of the more high-profile committee chairs last month when she was assigned to lead the Housing and Buildings Committee. The progressive Bronx lawmaker, who served in the Obama administration, has worked on affordable housing issues as an urban planner with the Regional Plan Association. She was also a member of her borough’s Community Board 5, was an adviser at City Hall and a senior fellow at the Pratt Center for Community Development.
The developer behind some of New York’s tallest glass buildings – including Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential skyscraper – Gary Barnett controls more than 25 million square feet of real estate nationwide and is reportedly planning to begin work on a $186 million project in the Theater District. Barnett donated $250,000 to a PAC backing Eric Adams and $50,000 to a PAC backing opponent Kathryn Garcia in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary last year.
As the coronavirus pandemic stretched into its second year, Judith Goldiner and Ellen Davidson kept the spotlight on tenants facing eviction, urging lawmakers to implement further rent protections to stem a potential wave of evictions once the moratorium expires. Goldiner and Davidson, who both work in The Legal Aid’s Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, helped move homeless New Yorkers from group shelters into hotel rooms in order to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and continue to advocate on their behalf.
Steven Cymbrowitz, who sponsored a bill providing rent relief during the first year of the COVID-19 crisis (along with state Sen. Brian Kavanagh), recently pushed to increase the value of rental vouchers to help homeless New Yorkers find permanent housing. Cymbrowitz previously served in leadership roles at the North Brooklyn Development Corp., the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and New York City Housing Authority. He has chaired the Assembly Housing Committee since 2017.
While running for mayor, Eric Adams laid out several proposals to fix up the New York City Housing Authority’s buildings. This includes selling air rights to fund repairs, continuing to support the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program and creating a NYCHAStat system to improve tracking for the sprawling public housing system. As of now, those tasks will fall to Gregory Russ, a holdover from the de Blasio administration who took over NYCHA in 2019 after running the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
Alicka Ampry-Samuel, the former New York City Council member representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Ocean Hill-Brownsville and East Flatbush, was appointed in January as the New York-New Jersey regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this role, she’ll oversee 170,000 apartments in the city and more than 100 housing authorities in New Jersey. Ampry-Samuel, who grew up in New York City Housing Authority housing, previously served as a senior adviser for the agency.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, who grew up in the New York City Housing Authority’s Throggs Neck Houses and went on to advocate for safer conditions as chair of the New York City Council’s public housing and investigations committees, vowed last year to make the issue his top priority in Congress. The South Bronx representative has also enjoyed the support of the real estate industry at a time when many Democratic lawmakers in New York have spurned big developers.
Cea Weaver, who helped enact some of the strongest rent protections for tenants in New York City history in 2019, is optimistic that activists will be able to move the needle even further this year – with some help from the Hochul administration. But without extending eviction protections for residents still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, Weaver argued recently in the left-wing Jacobin magazine, 7.8 million renters across the state could be displaced.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Jay Martin has been calling for more financial assistance for tenants and landlords alike. Martin’s organization represents 4,000 property owners responsible for 400,000 rent-stabilized properties in New York City, often works with the Real Estate Board of New York and has cultivated relationships with moderate Democrats in city and state government. Martin has argued against the pending good cause eviction bill in Albany and has asked Gov. Kathy Hochul for an additional $2 billion in funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Joseph Strasburg and Aaron Sirulnick, who represent 25,000 property owners in New York City, are adamantly opposed to the state Legislature’s good cause eviction bill. Strasburg recently characterized it as a “lease for life” bill since it would “strip landlords of their ownership rights and provide permanent tenancy at controlled, minimal rent increases.” The group, which has clashed with Democratic lawmakers, also filed a lawsuit challenging the recent extension of the city’s eviction moratorium and killed a city measure that would have barred background checks on prospective tenants. Strasburg has led the RSA since 1994. Sirulnick, who is president of Ditmas Management Corp. on Long Island, was elected chair in 2013.
The latest litmus test for progressive state legislators in Albany is whether they support good cause eviction legislation, which puts limits on the conditions under which landlords can refuse to renew a lease and caps increases in rent. The measure, which is gaining momentum in the state Legislature, is sponsored by state Sen. Julia Salazar, a democratic socialist from Brooklyn, and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter, who represents a district in and around Syracuse. Salazar also teamed up with Assembly Member Deborah Glick on recently signed legislation adding protections for loft tenants.
Jeffrey Gural, who controls more than 11 million square feet of commercial real estate, including such landmarks as the Flatiron Building and the Film Center Building, played a key role in bringing casino gambling to New York. A breeder of racehorses who also manages a racetrack in New Jersey, Gural reportedly contributed to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ political campaign. Gural joined what is now known as GFP in 1972.
With New York City’s construction industry struggling to recover after the pandemic, Louis Coletti cautions in an op-ed for amNewYork that “anti-development sentiment” on the part of elected officials will threaten the city’s comeback. Coletti, whose industry organization BTEA represents 1,200 contractor companies, recently pushed back against a proposed bill that would require general contractors to be licensed by the New York City Department of Buildings, calling the approach “one-size-fits-all.”
A former assistant secretary for housing for the state of New York during the Cuomo administration, Barika Williams leads research on affordable housing and economic development at ANHD, an organization that has helped build more than 123,000 units of affordable housing in New York City’s underresourced communities. Williams has argued that the proposed Gowanus rezoning and the 3,000 affordable units it could create would make the neighborhood more inclusive and diverse.
A powerful voice for 40,000 hotels and casino employees, Richard Maroko spent the past two years trying to secure benefits for workers in an industry that saw a 40% drop in business during the coronavirus pandemic. His Hotel Trades Council was an ally of then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the first union to endorse Mayor Eric Adams – a favor Adams has promised to return. And Gov. Kathy Hochul, who received an early endorsement from the union in the 2022 race, has announced a $450 million tourism initiative backed by the HTC.
Kyle Bragg played a key role in negotiating a set of comprehensive safety guidelines for reopening New York City’s commercial buildings and enabling its economic recovery after the COVID-19 quarantine. Bragg, who led his first strike at the age of 16, now represents 85,000 property cleaners, security officers, building engineers and other property service workers in New York City. He has served since 2019 as the leader of the influential union, which backed Eric Adams for New York City mayor and helped Adrienne Adams become New York City Council speaker.
Barry Gosin has overseen Newmark’s expansion and evolution over the past four decades – including an acquisition by BGC Partners in 2011, an IPO in 2017 and a subsequent spinoff in 2018. Last year, the firm acquired Knotel, a global flexible workspace platform. Last February, Pace University established the Barry M. and Jackie Gosin Center for Equity and Inclusion with a donation from Gosin and his wife, Jacqueline, to support the school’s efforts to combat racism.
Marcela Mitaynes, who successfully ran for office in 2020 after pushing for investments in affordable housing and helping to pass the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, recently joined activists protesting the end of New York’s eviction moratorium. The Democratic Socialists of America-backed lawmaker also participated in a hunger strike to help secure funding for the state’s excluded workers fund. She became a tenants’ rights advocate after she was evicted from her apartment of 30 years.
Backed by TenantsPAC during his successful campaign for Manhattan borough president, former Manhattan Council Member Mark Levine supports a boroughwide zoning overhaul that would make neighborhoods more equal. Levine, who was previously the New York City Council’s health committee chair during the coronavirus pandemic, and who centered his platform around public health and affordable housing, did not rule out the possibility of rezoning SoHo and bringing in new development – although he reportedly refused campaign funding from real estate developers.
The owner of high-profile New York City properties including Terminal Warehouse and 200 Fifth Avenue, L&L Holding Company secured a $911.4 financing deal for a 47-story building that will occupy an entire block on Park Avenue – with asset management firm Citadel expected to be an anchor tenant. David Levinson and Robert Lapidus, who co-founded the firm in 2000, recently floated a proposal for a casino based in Times Square – suddenly a more realistic prospect with Gov. Kathy Hochul coming out in favor of New York City casinos.
Co-founded by Douglas Eisenberg in 2011, A&E Real Estate now manages more than 240 rental properties throughout New York City and recently bought two additional buildings in Jackson Heights for a total of $59 million. The firm is reportedly interested in pursuing development projects in Gowanus pending the proposed rezoning. James Patchett, who joined the firm last year, was previously president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corp.
In July, it was announced that Hilary Spann will join Boston Properties, bringing more than two decades of experience in real estate investment and development, including at CPP Investments and J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The developer, which owns 11.7 million square feet and a total of 26 properties in New York – including Times Square Tower – recently bought a 470,000-square-foot building at 360 Park Avenue South for $300 million.
Dean Shapiro has focused on handling Oxford’s Hudson Yards project since he joined the firm 10 years ago, after leadership roles at Building and Land Technology and CBRE. Weighing in on pandemic-driven office real estate trends, he recently told the Financial Times that outdoor spaces are in high demand, as is authenticity. Shapiro is an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
Rafael Cestero has a plan for addressing New York City’s housing crisis, and it involves striking what he calls a “grand bargain” to renew community trust in affordable housing and boost economic recovery, he wrote recently in City Limits. Cestero, who has led the Community Preservation Corp. since 2012, has more than 30 years of experience working in affordable housing, including serving as commissioner of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
A veteran housing advocate who brings together various stakeholders to work on affordable housing projects, Rachel Fee says the state urgently needs funding to create housing for about 91,000 homeless New Yorkers. A year ago, Fee – who previously served as director of federal policy and programs at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development – led a coalition of 80 organizations that prepared a series of housing policy recommendations for the next New York City mayor.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams appointed Melanie La Rocca to the newly created role of chief efficiency officer, and he has yet to install an appointee to succeed her at the top post at the city Department of Buildings. Whoever succeeds La Rocca – who is still listed by the agency as its commissioner for the time being – will lead a key agency that regulates the real estate industry, ensures the safety of construction workers and enforces construction laws and codes. This includes investigating illegal apartment conversions, no matter how weak or how powerful the alleged perpetrators.
Ingrid Gould Ellen is an urban policy expert who has written extensively on residential segregation, housing and land use. She says the delay in the disbursement of emergency funding during the COVID-19 crisis has brought many tenants to the edge of homelessness – but that small landlords are also suffering financially as a result of missed rent payments. Ellen teaches courses on urban economics and policy at the widely respected NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
Douglas Jemal made a name for himself developing commercial properties in Washington, D.C., and has since made his mark in Buffalo – acquiring properties such as the 38-story Seneca One Tower, the former headquarters of the Buffalo Police Department and Boulevard Mall in nearby Amherst. Jemal, whom Buffalo Business First calls Western New York’s “most powerful person,” has said that the ambitious projects are an attempt to “leave something at the end of the trail.”
Funding for affordable housing, better broadband internet access and addressing residential segregation by rezoning neighborhoods like SoHo and NoHo are just a few of the items on New York State Association for Affordable Housing’s “wishlist” for 2022. The organization, whose members manage affordable housing statewide, is led by Jolie Milstein, who recently applauded Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget for its $5.7 billion five-year housing plan and investments in broadband infrastructure.
After winning a special election in late 2020, New York City Council Member Kevin Riley was named chair of the New York City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings and Dispositions, which reviews proposed landmark or historic district designations. This year, New York City Council Member Farah Louis took over the committee from Riley, who now assesses proposed zoning regulation changes as chair of the New York City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.
Since joining Hines in 1996, Tommy Craig has overseen the Texas-based real estate developer’s projects in the New York area, which over the last couple of decades have added up to about 16 million square feet. Last year, Hines announced that it had topped off its NorthLight at Edge-on-Hudson residential complex – part of a $1 billion riverfront development 25 miles outside of New York City – with the 246 units ready to begin leasing this year.
When it comes to bringing workers back to the office, JLL’s Peter Riguardi says clients are looking for amenity-rich buildings that will make the cubicle more attractive than remote work. Since joining the brokerage firm in 2002, Riguardi has helped cement its reputation as an industry leader in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, completing transactions for clients like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Bank of America, MetLife, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank.
Anthony Malkin is known for working at the intersection of real estate and energy efficiency – including a recent energy retrofit project at his firm’s most recognizable property, the Empire State Building. Malkin, who became president of the real estate trust in 2020 – and plans to pursue more investments – reportedly donated to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign. He also chairs the Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee of The Real Estate Roundtable.
A longtime affordable housing proponent, Donald Capoccia is behind the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment in Crown Heights – which transformed a former horse training facility into a mixed-use complex including a recreation center and more than 400 apartments for a total of $256 million. Capoccia, who is a founding member of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, is now planning a $160 million development that will significantly expand the McCarley Gardens low-income housing complex in Buffalo.
Though it is only in the planning stages, Don Peebles’ 90-story Affirmation Tower – an upside-down skyscraper that would stand out not only for its height and unique design but as a project developed by a mostly Black team – has been called New York’s “most exciting real estate project” by Architectural Digest. Peebles, whose nationwide real estate portfolio totals more than $8 billion, launched a $500 million fund to support MWBE developers in some of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.
Nina Kubota had big shoes to fill when she was promoted last year to lead the New York City School Construction Authority, which was previously led by Lorraine Grillo, who’s now in the Adams administration as first deputy mayor. But Kubota brings plenty of experience, having spent over two decades at the SCA, including as senior vice president for capital plan development and implementation. The SCA, which constructs school buildings across the city, has a strong track record of awarding contracts to firms owned by women and minorities.
Kasirer, which consistently ranks as the top lobbying firm in New York City, features notable real estate clients such as the Related Companies, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Boston Properties and the New York Blood Center, which recently won a remarkable Upper East Side rezoning battle despite opposition from local residents and then-City Council Member Ben Kallos. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application was one of eight the firm successfully guided across the finish line in 2021. Suri Kasirer, who founded the firm 25 years ago, has also cultivated ties with New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Teresa Gonzalez and Samara Daly joined Bolton-St. Johns as partners in 2020 after five years at DalyGonzalez, the boutique public relations firm they co-founded and still run. Gonzalez has experience working with real estate and corporate clients, and is well-versed in land use matters, while Daly has worked with mixed-use developers and nonprofits on projects at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Chelsea Hotel.
Through their combined decades of experience in real estate and government, Kristen Lonergan, Samir NeJame, Stephen Rabinowitz and Edward Wallace handle a varied portfolio of transactions for clients. This includes the Real Estate Board of New York and helping to negotiate policy matters such as the state’s 421-a program. Lonergan co-chairs the firm’s New York real estate practice. NeJame, a former corporation counsel for the city of Syracuse, leads the firm’s state government law and policy practice in New York. Rabinowitz, who has been at Greenberg Traurig for nearly three decades, co-chairs the global real estate practice and the New York real estate practice. Wallace, who previously served as a City Council member representing Manhattan, is co-chair of the entire New York office.
A former New York City Council member from Brooklyn, Kenneth Fisher has carved out a reputation as a respected authority working “at the intersection of law, politics and community service,” as the New York Law Journal put it. Fisher handles zoning, land use and development matters for his clients, which include Two Trees Management, Lincoln Equities Group and Triangle Equities. He previously served as chair of the New York City Bar Association Land Use Planning & Zoning Committee.
A seasoned lobbyist who represents real estate clients interested in the proposed Gowanus rezoning – including Property Markets Group, Blue Stone BK LLC and A&E Real Estate – Ethan Geto reportedly sought then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ support on the project in 2018 and 2019. Geto, who co-founded Geto & de Milly in 1980, sat on the board of Adams’ old nonprofit, One Brooklyn Fund, and also provided pro bono services for the organization.
Long known as one of New York City’s leading lobbyists – with clients including Macy’s and Times Square Alliance – Jim Capalino has more recently overseen his firm’s rebranding as an urban strategy firm with a focus on sustainability and real estate, among other areas. In addition to releasing a webinar series throughout 2021 titled “The Future of New York,” Capalino released a poll in June that found that voters want the next New York City mayor to prioritize housing and economic recovery.
Fried Frank’s Jonathan Mechanic, Melanie Meyers and David Karnovsky have worked on some of New York City’s most high-profile real estate deals, including properties at Hudson Yards, Tishman Speyer’s Spiral building, and the 2.5 million-square-foot headquarters for JPMorgan Chase & Co. The firm recently renewed the lease for its 400,000-square-foot office – the largest real estate deal in lower Manhattan since the beginning of the pandemic. Mechanic serves as chair of the firm’s real estate department.
After helping secure city approval for a rezoning of the Special Flushing Waterfront District in 2020 – one of New York City’s largest privately funded projects, which is expected to transform more than 2 million square feet of waterfront property in Queens – Ross Moskowitz turned his attention to the SoHo/NoHo rezoning project, which was approved in December. Moskowitz, who has been at Stroock for more than two decades, was previously executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corp.
A real estate attorney with broad experience advising on complex transactions for clients such as New York University, The Walt Disney Co. and Related Companies, Jay Neveloff says Kramer Levin’s real estate practice has been resilient throughout the coronavirus pandemic – with the condominium team closing on more than $750 million in sales through early 2021. He has had a hand in some of the most notable real estate deals reshaping New York City neighborhoods, from Columbus Circle and Times Square to Greenwich Village and Tribeca.
Mitchell Korbey has more than three decades of experience working on urban planning and land use issues for government agencies, including former roles at the Board of Standards and Appeals and the Department of City Planning, as well as in private practice. In a recent op-ed in City Limits, he urged New York City Mayor Eric Adams to prioritize zoning projects despite any controversy they may spark. Korbey is also an adjunct law professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Although the boutique New York City lobbying firm Fontas Advisors doesn’t have a staff count in the dozens like long-established competitors like Kasirer or Capalino, it punches above its weight and has an undeniable presence in the real estate sector. Fontas, who founded the firm five years ago, has represented clients such as LeFrak, Silverstein Properties, Two Trees Management Co. and the New York Building Congress – as well as a range of corporate, tech and nonprofit organizations.
Gary R. Eisenman last year joined Rosenberg & Estis, one of New York City’s largest firms specializing in real estate. Eisenman has three and a half decades of experience in the field, ranging from counseling Fortune 500 companies on large commercial real estate transactions to holding key roles in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Administration. Eisenman, who previously worked in Brown & Weinraub, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Nixon Peabody LLP and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, is now of counsel in Rosenberg & Estis’ transactions department.
Meredith Marshall and Geoff Flournoy lead one of New York City’s biggest developers of affordable housing, whose most recent project – a 14-story, 340,000-square-foot mixed-use building in Bed-Stuy – has drawn some pushback from the local community board and then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. BRP is mainly known for its work in Queens, and recently broke ground on a 24-story, 542,000-square-foot project in the borough’s Jamaica neighborhood.
In December, Aaron Carr scored a $1 million victory in a class-action lawsuit against a landlord found to be receiving tax breaks under rent stabilization laws while overcharging tenants. In March, he filed a lawsuit accusing 88 landlords of discrimination against tenants who used Section 8 vouchers. Carr, who founded Housing Rights Initiative in 2016, has challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul to step up housing enforcement – and put his nonprofit “out of business.”
Doug Harmon and Adam Spies, who have handled some of New York City largest transactions – including the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for more than $5.3 billion – recently negotiated an $850 million deal for the sale of the American Copper Buildings luxury residential towers, in one of the largest residential real estate transactions in recent years. Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield in 2016, Harmon and Spies worked together at real estate investment bank Eastdil Secured.
Leading investment sales executive William Shanahan was recognized last year with the Real Estate Board of New York’s Most Ingenious Deal of the Year Award for his CBRE team’s work negotiating the sale of 330 Madison Avenue for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Among the other notable deals he helped engineer over the years is the 2006 sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for more than $5.3 billion.
K. Thomas Elghanayan and Frederick Elghanayan run the real estate empire started by their father in the 1950s and 1960s, and they now control more than 2.5 million square feet of office space in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Their most recent project, which carries a price tag of around $380 million, will bring nearly 800 apartments – 240 of them affordable – as part of the Pacific Park complex in Brooklyn.
Last year, Benjamin Prosky and the American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter hosted a three-part webinar looking at how New York City could build a more sustainable future post- coronavirus. Prosky, who co-founded the architecture information website Architizer, signed a letter in 2020 urging Congress to provide funding for New York City transit agencies struggling during the pandemic. He also served on a panel of experts who evaluated the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and made recommendations to then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Tenant organizer Esteban Girón is a leading voice in the fight against gentrification in Crown Heights and has been especially critical of the controversial Bedford Union Armory project, which includes a redeveloped recreation center and 415 apartments – about half of which will be market rate. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has pushed for an extension of the eviction moratorium and more comprehensive rent relief measures that address the pandemic’s long-term effects on low-income communities.
Rob Solano, who co-founded the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Churches United for Fair Housing in 2009, stands up for residents at risk of being priced out of their communities as real estate developers move in, driving up rents and putting homeownership out of reach. Last year, he joined other advocates and lawmakers in mobilizing support around recently approved New York City Council legislation to study the impact of development on communities of color. Solano is a member of Brooklyn Community Board 1.
Recently named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team for economic and workforce development, Joseph Sitt oversees more than 160 properties that total about 50 million square feet of property worldwide – including a Flatiron District building sold in 2020 to a member of the Qatari royal family. Sitt, who was a donor to the Adams campaign, is also founder of the Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy organization that focuses on improving New York City’s airport infrastructure.
A new measure in New York City requiring Airbnb hosts to register with city government before renting their homes for fewer than 30 days – similar to regulations in Boston and Santa Monica, California – has Alexandra Dagg speaking out in defense of her company and its impact on affordable housing across the five boroughs. Dagg, who has served as the home-sharing company’s regional policy director since 2020, argues that Airbnb is helping revive the city’s tourism industry and contributing to its economic recovery.
After spending part of 2020 as interim CEO at Mack-Cali Realty Corp., a New Jersey-based real estate investment trust, MaryAnne Gilmartin has turned her focus to MAG Partners – the firm she founded in 2020 which was recently selected to develop a 200-unit residential co-op in Chelsea. Gilmartin previously led Forest City Ratner Cos., where she played a key role in the development of The New York Times Building and the Barclays Center, among other high-profile projects.
Since its launch in 2015, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism has focused on creating a more sustainable urban environment through design, with proposals such as “Not Your Car” – which reimagines a Manhattan with reduced automobile reliance. Vishaan Chakrabarti previously served as director of the Manhattan office for the city’s Department of City Planning. The India-born architect Ruchika Modi, who oversaw the redesign of the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, is now the firm’s managing principal.
Since he founded Marino nearly three decades ago, Frank Marino’s public relations firm has been associated with high-profile names such as JFK Terminal 4, New York University, Chelsea Market, the Real Estate Board of New York and McDonald’s. Last year, the firm – which is jointly led by Frank Marino and his son, John Marino – began working with New Settlement, a 30-year old affordable housing organization based in the Bronx.
When New York City Mayor Eric Adams formed a number of transition committees late last year, he named Mathew Wambua to the group advising him on housing matters. Wambua, who served in City Hall as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development during the tail end of the Bloomberg years, is now vice chair of the New York office of Merchants Capital, a mortgage banking firm specializing in multifamily and affordable housing.
As New York City’s real estate market recovers from pandemic-related setbacks, Seth Weissman says his Urban Standard Capital – which manages $500 million in equity and investments nationwide – is seeing more demand for construction completion loans. Weissman previously worked for Perry Capital, a real estate equity firm and hedge fund, and served on Manhattan Community Board 4. He also was behind an independent expenditure backing pro-development candidates and founded Real Estate Has Your Back, which helped distribute 10,000 meals in Brooklyn and Queens communities hit hard by COVID-19.
One of New York City’s leading lobbyists, Jacqui Williams has worked on real estate deals for clients including Ikea, Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Board of New York and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. She is a former director of economic development for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and a member of the influential Olori Sisterhood – a group of Black women who work as lobbyists, consultants and political directors.
Landlords in New York have been at the center of several contentious policy debates lately, from the eviction moratorium to the pending good cause eviction bill, and the Small Property Owners of New York group has been meeting with lawmakers and speaking out on behalf of its members. The grassroots organization, which is made of owners of smaller properties like Ann Korchak, recently called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to find more funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help tenants and landlords alike.
Genevieve Rand began to organize members of the Ithaca Tenants Union in 2020, after the cafe where she was working shut down due to the threat of COVID-19. At the time, unemployment assistance was backlogged and she was facing eviction. As a statewide organizer with Citizen Action, she has been instrumental in gathering momentum around pending good cause eviction legislation in Albany – with local versions passing in several upstate cities as well as a resolution in favor of it in New York City.
Nadir Settles handles a vast real estate portfolio as managing director of Nuveen Real Estate, which has been collaborating with real estate company Taconic Partners on a number of property investments since 2015. Among their most recent projects is a $600 million deal to transform an Upper West Side building – formerly occupied by ABC and Disney – into a life sciences hub. Settles is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York’s Board of Governors and Diversity Committee.
A strong proponent of the contentious, recently approved plan to rezone SoHo and NoHo – which could bring as many as 900 affordable housing units to one of New York City’s wealthiest neighborhoods – Will Thomas leads Open New York, a grassroots group that advocates for “housing for all and housing of all types.” His organization backed several winning candidates last summer – including New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez – and hired Asia Thomas as director of organizing and Logan Phares as political director.
Ben Carlos Thypin and Stephen Smith, who co-founded the real estate analytics brokerage Quantierra in 2016, weigh in regularly – on Twitter and in the media – on real estate development in New York City. Last year, Thypin said requiring permits for new hotel construction amounted to a “power grab” that would benefit existing hotels and the Hotel Trades Council. Smith criticized a measure requiring some Airbnb hosts to register with the city, saying it will deter people from visiting. They also helped the pro-housing group Open New York get off the ground.
A founding member of the New York Affordable Housing Management Association, Bernard Warren joined Webb & Brooker in 1990 and now focuses on implementing capital improvement projects and overseeing the firm’s portfolio of residential and commercial properties. Previously, Warren was a senior retail expansion representative for FedEx, and owned and managed properties in Harlem and Queens. He co-chairs the Real Estate Board of New York’s Diversity Committee.
High-profile hotel developer Sam Chang has been on what The Real Deal calls “a selling spree” lately – with the sale of the Times Square Hyatt, the Financial District Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites and the Midtown West Comfort Inn. Chang, who was instrumental in developing Manhattan’s West Side and still owns about 30 hotels in the city, said recently that he is ready to follow through with his long-rumored retirement.
As building owners and managers determine how to fully reopen commercial buildings, the Building Owners & Managers Association of Greater New York – which represents real estate professionals who manage about 529 million square feet of office space – has helped develop a set of safety measures such as thorough cleaning, mask requirements and social distancing. BOMA’s current chair is Matthew J. Duthie, a senior vice president of property management at Newmark who has been with the association for over three decades.
Rasmia Kirmani-Frye was recently named interim executive director at Hester Street, an urban planning nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations to develop and implement various civic engagement, environmental and cultural projects. Kirmani-Frye, who was director of the office of public-private partnerships at the New York City Housing Authority between 2015 and 2018 – where she founded the Fund for Public Housing – and previously served as director of the Brownsville Partnership, was also named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ housing transition committee.
Howard Rothschild is a legal expert with significant experience handling negotiations at the intersection of real estate and labor. He recently reached an agreement with the influential union 32BJ SEIU that will require union members who work in residential and commercial buildings across New York City to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Rothschild has served as the president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations since 2009 and started working at the RAB in 1984.
After joining WeWork in February 2020 following the ouster of company founder Adam Neumann, Sandeep Mathrani helped keep the company afloat during the pandemic by laying off 8,000 employees and closing down some company offices. But the future looks more promising after the company signed a $150 million partnership with real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield that will “help office tenants create flexible workspaces,” according to The Real Deal.
In December, Will Blodgett founded Tredway – a new real estate development firm that will focus on “acquiring, preserving and developing affordable housing throughout the country,” he told Commercial Observer. Blodgett – who was a donor to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign – previously co-founded the real estate firm Fairstead, where he oversaw deals totaling more than $4 billion nationwide. He also worked for Related Companies and was a special adviser to the New York City Housing Authority.
Corrections: An earlier version of this feature had the incorrect year for when Howard Rothschild became president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. This feature also had an incorrect figure for the budget that Jessica Katz had at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council.
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