A former Real Estate Board of New York chairman, Rob Speyer heads up his family’s 16 million-square-foot commercial real estate empire in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Tishman Speyer donated $25,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign last year – and although his firm will no longer welcome Amazon as a neighbor, it remains busy with Long Island City, Queens, tenants Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and WeWork. Speyer also chairs the advisory board to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
The Real Estate Power 50 continued
The Real Estate Power 50 continued
Bill Rudin – who heads a firm founded by his grandfather in 1925 – has a long history of advising city and state government. He was the longtime chairman of the Association for a Better New York, and now as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, he has prioritized affordable housing, tax reform and diversifying the city’s economy. In 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed him to the Fix NYC advisory panel on mass transit.
Marc Holliday took over as CEO of SL Green in 2004 and replaced the company’s founder Stephen L. Green as chairman earlier this year. In that time, Holliday has positioned the firm as the city’s largest office property owner while reshaping midtown Manhattan with One Vanderbilt, a 1,401-foot tower that paved the way for the East Midtown rezoning. Holliday is also one of the highest-compensated real estate executives in New York City.
A cinematically over-the-top New York union leader, Gary LaBarbera is boisterous and outspoken. He doesn’t shy away from fights with powerful people – as evidenced by his feud with Related Cos. over its use of nonunion labor at Hudson Yards. Shortly before Hudson Yards opened, the two sides reached a truce that could benefit them both – and now LaBarbera will look ahead to the next battle on behalf of the 100,000 workers he represents.
Extell Development is the developer behind some of the tallest buildings in New York City, including the 1,550-foot Central Park Tower and One57, which is over 1,000 feet tall. Credit for the skyscrapers goes to company founder Gary Barnett, whose love for vertical spectacle – and tactics to build them ever higher – has drawn scrutiny. Barnett, a major donor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, just hired Sush Torgalkar as president and CEO.
Jed Walentas left his mark on the Brooklyn waterfront when he bought the abandoned Domino Sugar refinery and transformed it into a mixed-use housing and commercial complex. Walentas came up in real estate at the Trump Organization in the 1990s, before joining Two Trees Management Co., which was founded by his father, David Walentas. He has backed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiatives and is a prominent supporter of the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar.
Larry Silverstein’s name has been associated with the World Trade Center site since the 1980s, when he built 7 World Trade Center and leased the space to Salomon Brothers. The developer, who famously signed a 99-year ground lease for the site weeks before the towers fell in 2001, has been instrumental in rebuilding the area. Last year, he opened the long-delayed 3 World Trade Center – and is expected to begin construction on the final tower.
“Brookfield’s New York team had a really big year in 2017,” company chairman Ric Clark told the Commercial Observer, which ranked him No. 1 on its own Power 100 list last year. The real estate powerhouse has a presence in dozens of countries and boasts some $87 billion in assets. Clark, who has been with Brookfield since 1984, sits on the executive committee at the Real Estate Board of New York. CEO Brian Kingston previously led Brookfield’s Australian business activities.
Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of the world’s largest private equity firm and, by some estimates, the world’s largest landlord, reportedly took home an eye-popping $786 million from The Blackstone Group last year. Blackstone manages $472 billion in assets, including about $120 billion in real estate assets. Schwarzman delegates day-to-day management to top deputies like Jonathan Gray, who negotiated the widely praised $5.4 billion purchase of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village with New York City in 2015.
Scion to the legendary LeFrak Organization and one of the biggest landlords in New York, Richard LeFrak is now more widely known as one of Donald Trump’s allies. The billionaire developer – who was reportedly asked by the president to help build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border – may also benefit financially from the Republican tax overhaul, which designates so-called opportunity zones that are eligible to be redeveloped in exchange for potential tax incentives.
Ron Moelis not only heads one of the largest affordable housing development companies in New York City. He has strong ties to outgoing New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who spearheaded the de Blasio administration’s efforts to create a record amount of affordable housing. The well-connected developer founded the Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy, which donated $2 million to New York University’s Furman Center, and founded the influential New York State Association for Affordable Housing.
Mary Ann Tighe, the first female chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, has been renowned as a dealmaker since she brought Conde Nast to Times Square in 1996. Currently overseeing 2,500 employees at the global firm, Tighe actively brokers commercial leases across New York City. Last year, she helped CBRE compete with WeWork by launching Hana, the company’s coworking brand. She was recently recognized in the Crain’s New York Business Hall of Fame.
Fisher Brothers has a long history as a major developer of office towers in New York City, and in recent years it has returned to its roots by pursuing residential projects as well. In 2000, Winston Fisher, a former analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., joined the family-run firm, which was among the biggest LLC donors to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign, contributing $130,000. Fisher also co-chairs Cuomo’s New York City Regional Economic Development Council.
The commercial real estate industry is still adapting to WeWork, whose coworking model has rapidly altered the landscape. The company just became New York City’s largest office tenant, leasing 5.3 million square feet in Manhattan. Adam Neumann rebranded WeWork, which was founded in 2010, to The We Company and announced a set of new initiatives, including an elementary school called WeGrow and short-term residential rentals under its WeLive brand.
Robert Reffkin and Ori Allon launched Compass Real Estate in 2012 in New York to disrupt the real estate industry with a tech-driven strategy aimed at providing better information to brokers and buyers. The upstart company has drawn attention for its aggressive efforts, and has expanded into other major cities. The brokerage closed $35 billion in sales last year – but they are planning to curtail expansion this year, focusing instead on its existing markets.
Last year was a big one for Barry Gosin. The real estate executive celebrated 40 years in the industry while the Newmark Group closed on its purchase of RKF Retail Holdings LLC. The acquisition was just the latest major move by the company, which went public in 2017. Gosin has connections in the political sphere too: He has been a major donor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, contributing $50,000 ahead of a 2015 housing law renewal.
BFC Partners is behind some high-profile New York City developments, including Essex Crossing, where more than half of the 1,000 apartments will be affordable. The company will be building a 21-story Queens residential tower in partnership with a nonprofit that houses domestic violence survivors. Donald Capoccia, among the city’s first developers to mix low- and middle-income apartments with market-rate housing, is a founding member of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.
Michael McKee isn’t afraid to take on the powerful – and his push for tenant protections may finally find success in Albany, given Democratic control of both houses of the state Legislature. Yet he has expressed mistrust in Gov. Andrew Cuomo, warning that he “might try to water down tenant protections.” In the rent regulation fight, McKee will also face off against the Rent Stabilization Association, a foe that filed a $40 million defamation suit against him last year.
New York Mets owners Fried Wilpon and Saul Katz may be struggling to hire free agents while contending with ballooning contracts. But the duo hit a home run with Sterling Equities’ deal with New York City to build Willets Point, a joint venture with Related Cos. that has been on hold for over a decade. Current plans for the site include affordable housing and a soccer stadium in the area near Citi Field.
Headed by Carlo Scissura since January 2017, the trade group comprised of more than 550 organizations spent $50,000 lobbying New York City government last year. On its current agenda: approving congestion pricing, funding clean energy, making NYCHA repairs and more affordable housing. Also known for analyzing construction data, the New York Building Congress recently released a report declaring the city is experiencing a construction boom and construction spending citywide hit an all-time high of $61.8 billion.
Jeffrey Gural is a master at multitasking. He chairs GFP Real Estate, formerly Newmark Holdings and Newmark Knight Frank, which has lucrative stakes in dozens of New York City properties. He serves on a long list of boards, including the Real Estate Board of New York board of governors. He pressured the state to reopen bidding on a coveted casino license, which he won. He owns horse racetracks in New Jersey and New York – and even breeds horses.
A newcomer among New York real estate power brokers, Hu Gang recently increased the company’s stake in the Pacific Park megaproject – formerly Atlantic Yards – from 70 percent to 95 percent. The 22-acre development, which may not be completed until 2035, is one of the largest ongoing projects in New York City. The China-based Greenland USA is also expanding in Los Angeles at a time when many Chinese investors are leaving the U.S. real estate market.
Agree with him or not, Louis Coletti is unafraid to speak his mind. The longtime leader of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, the country’s largest contractor organization, advocates for his members on hot-button issues like union vs. nonunion labor – he acknowledges contractors are increasingly shifting toward building open shop – while also defending unions for benefiting both white and minority workers. He is also calling for efforts to increase the contracting capacity of minority- and women-owned business enterprises.
David Von Spreckelsen is no stranger to New York City’s corridors of power. He was an early fundraiser for Bill de Blasio, a relationship struck up when the then-city councilman helped push for a Toll Brothers’ development in Gowanus – although the plan was ultimately scuttled. Toll Brothers also donated $50,000 to de Blasio’s now-defunct Campaign for One New York fund. The company has more than half a dozen ongoing projects across the city.
The German-born Aby Rosen co-founded RFR in the 1990s and led development of a portfolio that includes the Seagram Building and Lever House. Rosen is also noted art collector, with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons in his portfolio. Rosen has been a major donor to Andrew Cuomo since 2002. Several months into his first term as governor, Cuomo appointed Rosen as chairman of the state Council on the Arts.
As the leader of the venerable General Contractors Association of New York, Denise Richardson is outspoken in advocating on behalf of the heavy civil construction industry. Last year, she penned an op-ed expressing reservations around design-build as a way to cut costs. The trade group also released a report in January that blamed slow construction on the state’s controversial Scaffold Law, which holds employers liable for gravity-related workplace falls.
A de Blasio ally who donated $10,000 to the mayor’s now-defunct Campaign for One New York, David Kramer is known in political circles for winning a contract for a contentious 36-story luxury tower in Brooklyn Heights. Since then, Kramer has led Hudson’s expansion from residential real estate to commercial properties, including a set of Bushwick warehouses now in the last phase of construction, which the company purchased for $27.8 million in 2016.
Joseph Sitt may be best known for his waterfront projects in Coney Island, but Thor Equities Group is also keeping busy with out-of-state acquisitions. The company closed on a $16 million property in Austin, Texas, in February, hinting that he wanted to tap into the city’s booming tech scene. Sitt is also the founder of the infrastructure advocacy group Global Gateway Alliance, which has drawn attention to the need for airport improvements in the New York City metro area.
Toby Moskovits and Michael Lichtenstein have made their mark in Brooklyn with high-profile properties like the Williamsburg Hotel, and the two have stayed busy in the borough and beyond over the past year. In July, the company bought two lots in Greenwood Heights for nearly $20 million. In November it announced a $100 million fund geared toward taking advantage of so-called Opportunity Zones, which aim to revitalize low-income areas.
Kasirer brought in $12.8 million in 2018, more money than any other lobbying firm in New York City. “We’re in the business of strategic plans” is how Suri Kasirer recently described her work. A de Blasio donor who has known the mayor for decades, Kasirer has handled many New York City megaprojects. The firm’s work has included Greenpoint Landing, help with rezonings for large firms like SL Green Realty Corp. and permits for coworking startup WeWork.
James Capalino, whose firm consistently ranks among the top lobbyists in New York City and Albany, handles plenty of real estate business before the city. The firm, which is known for its expertise in land use and zoning matters, has worked on a number of high-profile projects, including Hudson Yards and Chelsea Market. James Capalino, who helped transform the High Line into a public park, built his government credentials working in then-Mayor Ed Koch’s administration.
In 2003, Howard Lorber became the chairman of Douglas Elliman, a vast real estate brokerage firm whose presence stretches far beyond New York. Lorber’s political ties also extend beyond New York, having served as an adviser to Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and planned to host a fundraiser for Trump’s re-election. Lorber was appointed by the president to head the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Lorber reportedly earned a total of $10.6 million in 2017.
Joseph Strasburg represents the landlords of the approximately 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City and lobbies City Hall and Albany on their behalf. He keeps the trade group in the news, whether he’s suing a tenant leader for defamation or criticizing affordable housing developers for joining forces with housing activists. With a Democratic state Legislature poised to strengthen rent regulations this year, Strasburg has his work cut out for him.
The French-born president of Kushner Cos. is expanding the firm’s hotel portfolio. Though its footprint in New York City is relatively small – it has a stake in more than 60 buildings, but in most cases has a minority stake – the family-owned company undoubtedly benefits from its affiliation with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. The firm also reached a deal last year to lease 666 Fifth Ave., which had become a political and financial liability.
Diane Ramirez has served on several committees within the Real Estate Board of New York and as an appointee to the state Board of Real Estate – but the real estate agency she co-founded in 1984 is making waves as well. With more than 1,300 agents, Halstead has grown to more than 30 offices, thanks in part to Ramirez’s vision and leadership. She received a Lifetime Leadership Award from the Real Estate Board of New York this year.
Pamela Liebman leads the second-biggest real estate brokerage firm in New York City. “As the world has gotten smaller, we want to get bigger,” is how she described The Corcoran Group to The Real Deal. She has been with the colossal firm her entire career, having started at Corcoran as a 22-year-old recent college graduate and rising through the ranks to run the show at the Realogy-owned firm. She was named to Crain’s Most Powerful Women list in 2017.
Kelly Kennedy Mack’s history with Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group goes back a long way. Mack leads the brokerage firm’s new development division as it represents some of the most high-profile developments in New York City, including the Hudson Yards project. With 34 projects lined up at Corcoran Sunshine, 2019 promises to be a big year for the New York University and Georgetown University alumna, who began her career doing ad sales and marketing for the Cartoon Network.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, the former president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Cos., made waves last year when she left the firm to help found the real estate development company L&L Mag. Gilmartin, who begins work this year on a 460-unit building in Chelsea, has played a role in the development of the Barclays Center, The New York Times Building and the Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech. She is on the Real Estate Board of New York executive committee.
With the New York City Council taking aim at the real estate industry and a new Democratic majority in Albany eyeing rent reforms, landlords are under pressure. So Jay Martin’s Community Housing Improvement Program is proposing self-regulation among its members – which own more than 400,000 rental units in New York City – in an effort to improve housing across the five boroughs and show that the city’s landlords can be part of the solution.
Among the steps Amazon could have taken with its HQ2 project in Queens? Hiring Greenberg Traurig before – instead of after – its disastrous rollout, as the firm is known for ironing out issues on land use proposals before they face public scrutiny. Edward Wallace, a former New York City Council member and Legal Aid Society lawyer, knows his way around the city and has worked for powerhouses like Extell Development Co. and Columbia University.
Former New York City Councilman Kenneth Fisher may have left public service, but he remains in the public sphere opining about politics and policy. A former chairman of the New York City Bar Association Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, the Cozen O’Connor attorney has a reputation as one of the city’s go-to lawyers for zoning and land use matters. In a city where the rules are notoriously complex, that’s a skill that’s always in demand.
Jane Goldman, whose father was once New York’s biggest landlord, co-chairs the $12 billion Solil Management portfolio and owns the company with her siblings. The country’s only female real estate billionaire, Goldman helps manage Solil’s 400 buildings in New York City, including high-end apartments on the Upper East Side and the Peninsula Hotel. She and her siblings oversee their family’s philanthropic trust, which gives money to higher education, cancer research and conservation.
Vicki Been stepped aside as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2017, but as one of the masterminds behind Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing plan, she left a lasting mark on city planning. Been is now in the academic realm as head of the city’s leading research center on housing policy, and last year, she was named co-chairwoman of the city’s Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform.
An effective behind-the-scenes negotiator, Héctor Figueroa heads one of the most powerful unions in New York City. Figueroa quietly struck a deal in 2017 giving union members prevailing wage jobs in affordable housing projects, and 32BJ SEIU showed up to support rezonings around the city. Figueroa, who cut his teeth as a student protester in Puerto Rico, also was a key labor supporter of Amazon’s HQ2 plan, which would have benefited his workers.
The onetime Republican nominee for governor of New York and an outspoken ally of President Donald Trump, Carl Paladino is more known for controversy than real estate. But Ellicott Development Co., which he founded in 1972, made him one of the most prominent developers in Western New York, and he continues to be ubiquitous in Buffalo. He also remains influential in New York’s Republican Party, leading the chorus calling for state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox to resign.