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The Sit-Down

The Sit-Down

Rising Broker, Rising Markets: Derek Bestreich of Marcus & Millichap

Derek Bestreich

The success of Derek Bestreich’s eight-member investment sales team at Marcus & Millichap’s Brooklyn office embodies that of the borough’s next emerging markets. The group overseen by the married 32-year-old Park Slope resident closes sales in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush that represent the next wave of booming Brooklyn real estate. The University of Texas graduate with Queens roots began his career in New York City shortly after college as a cellular lease buyer for an asset-backed securities company, where he was cold-calling potential sellers and “hoofing it miles a day,” he said.

He started at Marcus & Millichap in 2009. The winner of the firm’s national achievement award for 2014, Mr. Bestreich also won his office’s rookie of the year and mentor of the year awards. Commercial Observer visited the firm’s Downtown Brooklyn office to talk with the broker who closed 90 investment properties in rising Brooklyn markets for a total of $185 million in transactions from 2009 to the summer of 2014, according to the company. Read More

The Sit-Down

ClearRock Properties Flips Buildings for Billions

ClearRock Properties

With a direct staff footprint of only five people working in space the company subleases from a law firm in Midtown, ClearRock Properties packs an outsized punch in office markets where big time partners afford the firm a much larger indirect staff. The boutique firm that Doug Winshall, a 53-year-old married father of two, and Steve Grant, a 49-year-old father of two, started five years ago boasts a portfolio of 15 buildings in the northeast, including an assemblage of properties in the South End of Stamford, Conn.’s transit-oriented Harbor Point development and a planned mixed-use residence at 331 N Street NE near Union Market in an upcoming neighborhood of Washington, D.C. But Commercial Observer quizzed the self-described “media-shy” executives on their impressive recent deals in the Manhattan office market and their business approach.   Read More

The Sit-Down

Extell Excels

Gary Barnett

Gary Barnett is the founder and head of Extell Development Company, a firm he started in 1989. As one of the city’s leading—and most divisive—contemporary developers, he has created amenity-laden condominiums like One57, the Orion and the Aldyn, hotels like the Hyatt Times Square and W Times Square and office towers like the International Gem Tower. Mr. Barnett started in the diamond trading business in Belgium and cut his teeth in the real estate industry buying shopping malls and office buildings in the Midwest. Extell’s current portfolio exceeds 20 million square feet. Commercial Observer recently sat down with Mr. Barnett in his conference room to talk about his aggressive development stance, his favorite project and the “poor door” controversy. Read More

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Talking Towers, Cities and Teamwork With Josh Kuriloff of Cushman & Wakefield

Josh Kuriloff

Cushman & Wakefield Executive Vice Chairman Josh Kuriloff’s office at the company’s Midtown headquarters features several models of Chicago’s Willis Tower; pictures of the 28-year veteran C&W broker with Bill Clinton, George Pataki, Colin Powell and Magic Johnson; and a desk covered in piles of research reports and client files. Mr. Kuriloff, a 55-year-old married father of two, invited Commercial Observer to visit last week for a frank discussion of his work representing clients like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Verizon and his thoroughly researched thoughts on the city’s future. Read More

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Triangle Equities Triangulates the Boroughs

Lester Petracca.

Lester Petracca is a tactician when it comes to traversing the public approval process and building value-added developments Whitestone-based Triangle Equities is known for its acumen and know-how when it comes to working with government agencies and securing the necessary public approvals to complete public-private development projects in the outer boroughs. With Lester Petracca, 58, at the helm since its inception in 1986, Triangle Equities has focused on developing projects that have catalyzed area-wide economic development and rejuvenation. Commercial Observer talked with Mr. Petracca last week, just hours before he was headed to Bermuda to relax and fish. Read More

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David Berley’s Plot Twist

David Berley. (Walter & Samuels)

David Berley has spent over half a century in the real estate business and the bulk of that time has been at the helm of Walter & Samuels. The Brooklyn native pioneered the commercial-to-residential conversion, but with property prices skyrocketing, the septuagenarian has dramatically shifted his strategy and today is closing retail condominium deals at a rapid clip. Read More

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Ring Cycle: The Kaufman Organization’s Grant Greenspan on the Ring Portfolio

Grant Greenspan of The Kaufman Organization. (Mike Nagle)

The Ring Portfolio, a collection of largely vacant buildings in Midtown South and subject of a fiercely contested legal battle, was earlier this year turned over to Gary Barnett’s Extell Development. The properties, in varying states of disrepair, represent nearly 1 million square feet of space, all in the middle of New York City’s most popular submarket. In April, Extell traded four of the Ring buildings to the Kaufman Organization via 99-year net-lease deals. The agreement left Kaufman with the significant responsibility of renovating and leasing the properties. One of them, 119-125 West 24th Street, is already on the market, while the other three undergo wholesale repositioning. Last week, Grant Greenspan, a principal with the Kaufman Organization, spoke with Commercial Observer about the acquisition process and the challenges ahead.  Read More

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You Can Go Home Again: Glenn Rufrano is Back at O’Connor Capital Partners

Glenn Rufrano.

Last November, Glenn Rufrano returned to O’Connor Capital Partners, a real estate investment, development and management firm where he worked for 17 years beginning in 1983. He returned to O’Connor—as chairman and chief executive officer—nearly six months after Cushman & Wakefield announced he would depart as that firm’s CEO, a post he’d held for over three years.

The New York-based O’Connor boasts approximately $3.5 billion in assets under management and its retail platform manages close to 14 million square feet of properties, with 3 million square feet in Mexico. The firm also oversees approximately 8,000 multifamily units. Mr. Rufrano joined Commercial Observer on the last day of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon in Las Vegas and talked about his departure from C&W, O’Connor’s business in Mexico and his bird troubles. Read More

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Quality & Quantity: Ron Lo Russo of Cushman & Wakefield

Ron Lo Russo. (Lea Rubin)

In the 14 months Ron Lo Russo, Cushman & Wakefield’s tristate president, has been on the job, the real estate services firm has changed its chief executive and hired Ray Kelly, the former New York City Police Department Commissioner—and those were just a couple of the big moves made by the company since Mr. Lo Russo, a 39-year-old New Jersey native, left Vornado for C&W. Mr. Lo Russo uses many superlatives when he speaks about his new firm—phenomenal is a common one—and there’s little doubting his enthusiasm for his job and colleagues. A year ago, Mr. Lo Russo told Commercial Observer he didn’t want Cushman & Wakefield to be the biggest commercial real estate player, but the best. The hiring of Mr. Kelly and the appointment of Ed Forst, a veteran of Goldman Sachs, as the company’s chief executive, is part and parcel of that. Mr. Lo Russo spoke with CO in his Midtown office last week as he looked back on the past 14 months and ahead to 2014 and beyond. Read More

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Gale Brewer and the Battle Against 7-Eleven

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in her 1 Centre Street office.

Gale Brewer has lived on the Upper West Side since 1970. She served as the area’s City Council member for 12 years, concluding at the end of 2013, before starting as the 27th Manhattan borough president. Ms. Brewer, who plans to open a ground-floor district office on West 125th Street, joined with city preservationists earlier this month to call for reforms to the landmarking process following the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s refusal to consider landmark status for the Rizzoli Bookstore building at 31 West 57th Street. As Manhattan Beep, Ms. Brewer is tasked with advising the mayor and City Council on borough concerns, providing feedback on all land-use matters, advocating for New York County in the municipal budget process and appointing members of the 12 community boards. Ms. Brewer successfully advocated for the passage of legislation while in the City Council that would compel landlords to fix repeat violations as well as a law that requires all city data be published online. In February, Commercial Observer chatted with Ms. Brewer in her office at 1 Centre Street about adjusting to her new position, her beef with 7-Elevens and the easiest and most challenging developers to work with. Read More

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Miki Naftali of Naftali Group is the Million-Square-Foot Man

Miki Naftali

Since its inception nearly three years ago, Naftali Group has completed or is constructing 1.05 million square feet of residential condominium, rental and multifamily development, including a Pace University dormitory at 33 Beekman Street. This year,  Naftali Group will be launching three condos—234 East 23rd Street, 261 West 25th Street and 206 West 77th Street—and a rental building, the Bergen, at 316 Bergen Street in Boerum Hill. In addition to his offices at 1700 Broadway, which houses 22 employees, Naftali recently opened an office in Delray Beach, Fla. Miki Naftali, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, received a lot of attention when he led the $450 million restoration and reconfiguration of the Plaza Hotel as the president and CEO of Elad Properties. Flanked by his marketing pro and an outside P.R. person, Mr. Naftali, 51, talked to Commercial Observer last week in the conference room at his offices about development trends, the Plaza and his and his wife’s future move to Manhattan.  Read More

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Empire State of Mind: Tony Malkin on Empire State Realty Trust

Tony Malkin. (Credit: Aaron Adler)

Last year, the Empire State Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust that counts the Empire State Building among its assets, went public. Under the symbol ESRT, shares in the REIT have traded up over 14 percent since the initial public offering early last October. The road to the New York Stock Exchange was a somewhat rocky one for the REIT, with a small, yet vocal group of investors rallying against the initial public offering. Undeterred, Tony Malkin, the chairman, chief executive and president of ESRT, pushed forward, confident that the consolidation and public offering of the portfolio formerly known as Malkin Holdings was the best route for investors. Nearly six months since the NYSE’s bell tolled for ERST, Mr. Malkin’s confidence is paying dividends. Having just signed LinkedIn to a 160,000-square-foot lease at the Empire State Building, ESRT is committed to redeveloping both its globally beloved 34 Street asset and other properties in the portfolio. Mr. Malkin spoke to Commercial Observer last week about ESRT’s road to its IPO and what’s planned for the future. Read More

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JLL’s Downtown Don: John Wheeler

John Wheeler. (Credit: Lea Rubin)

John Wheeler was tapped in March 2012 to run JLL’s lower Manhattan office after returning to the firm in 2009. He is a managing director at the company and has been with JLL for 14 years. He had two stints working on the principle side of the business for Gramercy Capital and Antares Real Estate Partners. Today he directs JLL’s efforts on Gramercy Capital’s 13.5-million-square-foot national portfolio. A couple of his key transactions have been a 500,000-square-foot sublease to Morgan Stanley at 1 New York Plaza and a 450,000-square-foot master lease to the City of New York at 180 Water Street. In his entire career, Mr. Wheeler, 52, has negotiated 13 million square feet of leases for clients. Last week, Commercial Observer sat down with Mr. Wheeler in his office at 140 Broadway and talked about lower Manhattan post-Superstorm Sandy, leasing prices being pushed from the bottom up and the newly distinguished submarket of the Water Street corridor. Read More