Lease Beat

SL Green Signs Equinox in Plaza District

10 East 53rd Street

Upscale fitness club Equinox Fitness will open a new four-level center in 2016 at SL Green Realty Corp.’s 10 East 53rd Street in the Plaza District, the landlord announced earlier this week.

The full-service fitness club, which operates 73 centers in major U.S. markets, London and Toronto, signed a 25-year, 32,000-square-foot lease, officials with SL Green said. Read More

The Lobby

REBNY Appoints ConEd’s John Banks Next President

John Banks

The Real Estate Board of New York picked John Banks, the vice president of government relations at Consolidated Edison, as its new president, effective March 2, 2015, REBNY announced today.

Mr. Banks, who served in the Koch Administration and as a City Council staffer prior to assuming his current role at Con Edison in 2002, will replace current president Steven Spinola, who is stepping down after almost three decades as REBNY’s president. Read More

The Lobby

REBNY Elects New Commercial Board Leaders

REBNY Commercial Board of Directors

The Real Estate Board of New York elected brokers from Massey Knakal Realty Services and Cushman & Wakefield to lead the influential professional and advocacy organization’s commercial brokerage board of directors, REBNY announced today.

Massey Knakal partner James Nelson will lead the board, which meets monthly and oversees the activities of the various commercial brokerage committees within the decision, while Joanne Podell, a vice chairman at C&W, will act as vice chairman. Mr. Nelson’s chairmanship follows that of William Montana of Savills Studley, who led the board for five years. Read More

Market Reports

Report: Ground Retail Rents Rise Along 13 of 17 Corridors

Manhattan Retail Rents

Median retail asking rents in Manhattan grew eight percent in the last six months and 12 percent over the past 12 months, according to the latest biannual retail report released this morning by the Real Estate Board of New York.

Median retail asks for all kinds of spaces now run for $104 per square foot versus $93 per square foot last fall, while average ground floor rents increased along 13 of 17 corridors tracked by the report. The stretch of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 59th Streets remained the most expensive retail area in Manhattan at a median asking rent of $3,500 per square foot and its closest competitor, a Times Square area that encompasses Broadway and Seventh Avenue between West 42nd and West 47th Streets, stayed in second place with a median asking rent of $2,225 per square foot, the report found. Read More

Real Estate and Politics

Congress Votes to End Condo Owner Filing Requirement

U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously last week to end a federal filing requirement for owners of condo buildings with more than 99 units that ensnared developers in litigation following the financial crisis of 2008.

During the downturn, lawyers for condo buyers began trying to break the purchase contracts by arguing in court cases that the owners hadn’t accurately complied with a 1969 law named the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act that required owners of buildings to register with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and then the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Read More

Power Broker

Brokering Insurance and Real Estate Advocacy

Robert Morris

When a lender required more endorsements from real estate investment and operating company Madison Capital in order to close a large transaction one snowy Friday, the company with $2.1 billion in 21 New York City assets faced a problem: the underwriters’ offices were closed. That’s when Robert Morris of the Rampart Group, whose friends call him Robby, sprang into action. The insurance broker and president at the full-service insurance company that his grandfather started in 1965 took matters into his own hands and drove his car to the underwriters’ house through a snowstorm to get the necessary endorsements. The transaction closed the following Monday.

Mr. Morris, CLU, LUTCF, a 42-year-old married father of three, connects real estate clients with carriers of all types of insurance. But he also takes to the airwaves and the papers to warn of potential trouble on the horizon for his clients. With concerns about the New York state Scaffold Law, warnings about the Washington maneuverings around the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act reauthorization and cautionary words of wisdom on the dangers of hacking, Mr. Morris is touching on issues that affect the entire real estate industry even as the affable Long Island native equips property owners with protections.  Read More

Real Estate and Politics

Critics Question REBNY Over Cuomo Disclosures

Steven Spinola

A week after a three-month investigation by the New York Times substantiated earlier reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s staff shielded the Real Estate Board of New York from scrutiny before disbanding the so-called “Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption,” good government advocates called for the public release of all documents related to the defunct commission and raised questions about REBNY’s political sway.

REBNY President Steven Spinola hasn’t sat for an interview since news leaked on June 17 that he would step down by the end of next year, and the saga of the commission’s stilted examination of the 421-a tax abatements that Mr. Cuomo and state Lawmakers awarded to five developers last year has provoked queries about the nature of the prominent trade and advocacy group’s Albany activities. Read More

Real Estate and Politics

REBNY, Municipal Art Society Hail Midtown East Steering Group

Grand Central Station

A day after Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced they’ll lead a new Midtown East steering committee to make recommendations to the city on the area’s stalled rezoning, two of the committees’ most influential stakeholders expressed their support for the mishmash group’s ability to figure out the thorny issues surrounding the neighborhood.

After an intense debate over topics like building heights, air rights, transportation infrastructure and landmark preservation doomed last year’s proposal for 73 blocks around Grand Central Terminal, officials at planning and preservation advocacy group the Municipal Art Society and the Real Estate Board of New York pledged to work together on the committee in advance of a new push to rezone the area. Read More

Real Estate and Politics

Congresswoman Meng’s Bill Would Make Owner Write-Off Permanent

Rep. Grace Meng

Congresswoman Grace Meng, a Democrat whose district spans parts of west, central and northeast Queens, introduced a bill Tuesday that would enshrine a permanent tax incentive for property owners who make improvements to shops and restaurants.

The bill, entitled the “Tax Equality for Entrepreneurs Act,” would set in stone an increased tax break that Congress passed as part of a small business aid bill President Obama signed in 2010, but Ms. Meng said that the write-off or accelerated depreciation period for building owners who spruce up retail properties had expired at the start of the year amid the larger Washington conversation around tax reform. Read More


Minute by Minute at the REBNY Deal of the Year Awards

Richard B. Hodos

The Real Estate Board of New York doled out prizes for the Most Ingenious and Most Significant Retail Deals of 2013 in a ceremony at Club 101 at 101 Park Avenue last Tuesday night, and Commercial Observer came out to sample the open bar, scope the 18 nominees and gather snippets from the 250 brokers and insiders who showed up for the event. Read More

The Lobby

Spinola Retiring From REBNY After 2015

Steven Spinola

Longtime Real Estate Board of New York President Steven Spinola will retire at the end of 2015, the Financial Times reported today.

Mr. Spinola, 65, has led the trade group and influential real estate advocacy organization since 1986, and he called the reports of his departure “premature” in a message to the organization’s board of governors while acknowledging that the recent extension he signed through the end of next year will be his last. Read More


Doctoroff Honors REBNY Members at Awards Ceremony

Dan Doctoroff

Bloomberg LP CEO Dan Doctoroff preached the gospel of growth as he honored 10 award winners this morning at the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual commercial management leadership breakfast.

The former Bloomberg administration deputy mayor stressed the vital importance of commercial real estate to the city’s economy as he called for strengthening the “virtuous cycle” of prosperity ushered in by industry leaders following the recent recession. Read More

ICSC 2014

SCG Retail’s Chase Welles Talks Whole Foods, RECon and Tinder

Chase Welles of The Shopping Center Group5/13/14

Retail pro Chase Welles is a man with a mission. The executive vice president of SCG Retail represents some of the biggest tenants—Whole Foods, Kohl’s, LA Fitness—and is always looking for new locations for them. He and David Firestein owned Northwest Atlantic until a couple of years ago when the company merged with the Atlanta-based Shopping Center Group. Today, the duo owns 90 percent of what became SCG Retail, the Shopping Center Group’s New York division. On the week of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon in Las Vegas, Commercial Observer sat down with Mr. Welles in his Columbus Circle office to chat about his Williamsburg Whole Foods deal, Tinder and boating. Read More

The Air Up There

Could More Flexible Air Rights Policies Facilitate the Growth of Affordable Housing?

Could air transfers reforms

During the 1970s fiscal crisis, the city acquired significant quantities of property by way of owner abandonment and tax foreclosure, which it used in subsequent decades to subsidize affordable housing development. Virtually none of that land remains available today, however, and as we recently noted, the now-stratospheric cost of privately held land poses myriad obstacles to new affordable housing production, particularly in neighborhoods with good public schools, ready access to transportation and employment centers. Read More