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The Sit-Down

The Sit-Down

How the Walentas Family Ended Up With a $2B W’burg Project and Why Jed Calls His Dad David

Jed Walentas.

There are few names more synonymous with Brooklyn real estate (and Dumbo in particular) than Two Trees Management Company. Indeed, the company owns and manages much of Dumbo with 12 buildings comprising more than 3 million square feet of commercial and residential space. All told, the company’s holdings include more than 4 million square feet of built commercial, industrial and residential real estate throughout the United States.

Led by company founder David Walentas since 1968, Two Trees single-handedly transformed Dumbo—the acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass—from a neglected waterfront into one of the priciest mixed-use communities in the city. Read More

The Sit-Down

Peter Hennessy on the Next Step For DTZ

Peter Hennessy of DTZ.

What happens when a mid-sized, nationally renowned real estate services company gets acquired by a bigger, international real estate company?

That was the natural question that we had when it was announced late last year that the finishing touches were being put on the deal that had Cassidy Turley (the national real estate firm in question) being swallowed up by the even bigger property services firm DTZ. Read More

The Sit-Down

The Sit-Down: Howard Hughes CEO David Weinreb

David Weinreb.

In recent years, the South Street Seaport has found itself overwhelmed by financial problems, under water after Superstorm Sandy and still unchanged as the rest of New York City has continued to progress. Howard Hughes Corporation, which has control of the area through a long-term lease with the city, has put forth a plan to invest $1.5 billion in a SHoP Architects-designed, mixed-use 24-hour development. Among other elements, this multifaceted proposal includes a 42-story residential tower, restoration of the Tin Building, construction of pavilions under the FDR Drive, extension of the East River Esplanade, a new middle school and a marina. The proposal, which spans roughly four city blocks, has been the subject of much debate, and has been both embraced and attacked by local residents and elected officials. Read More

The Sit-Down

Commissioner Rick Chandler on His Second Stint With the Department of Buildings

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler (photo: Michael Nagle/for Commercial Observer).

Most of New York City’s 8.4 million residents are able to sleep at night rest assured their roofs will not collapse and their children’s school will not crumble thanks to the New York City Department of Buildings. Commissioner Rick D. Chandler is responsible for the day-to-day operations of this organization, ensuring that the five borough’s 975,000 buildings and properties are safe and secure. Mr. Chandler, a professional engineer, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last July; since assuming the position the following month, he has collaborated with other government agencies to advance the mayor’s agenda on universal preschool and affordable housing while simultaneously propelling his own department forward by streamlining and utilizing technology. Actually, Mr. Chandler was no stranger to the DOB; he had served as a borough commissioner of Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx for the department from 1995 to 2002. Most recently, he had been the assistant vice president of facilities at Hunter College. Read More

The Sit-Down

CBRE’s Stephen Siegel on the World Trade Center, Working With His Kids and Sarabeth’s

Steven Siegel. (Sasha Maslov)

Last September, Stephen Siegel co-represented Hudson’s Bay Company, parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue, in its plans to consolidate its New York City offices and relocate to 410,000 square feet at Brookfield Place. The transaction included additional space at 225 Liberty Street and 250 Vesey Street. That was the ninth largest lease signed in all of 2014.

Mr. Siegel is no stranger to big deals as the chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, where he has worked since the firm acquired Insignia Financial Group in 2003. Prior to the merger, Mr. Siegel was the president of Insignia Financial Group and the chairman and chief executive officer of Insignia/ESG, the latter of which was the commercial real estate division of Insignia Financial Group. (Insignia Financial Group acquired Edward S. Gordon Company, or ESG, then New York’s largest commercial real estate company, in 1996.) Read More

The Sit-Down, REBNY 2015

Spinola Signs Off After Nearly 30 Years as the Face of REBNY

Steven Spinola. (Arman Dzidzovic for The Commercial Observer)

On March 2, John Banks will officially become the president-elect of the Real Estate Board of New York (assuming the presidency by the end of 2015), relieving Steven Spinola of his responsibilities as REBNY’s president, a post he will have held for the past 29 years and has called “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Mr. Spinola, 65, began his tenure in 1986 during the Koch administration and has since been the public face of the influential city real estate trade association.

Prior to serving as REBNY’s president, Mr. Spinola was the president of the New York City Public Development Corporation, which is now the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

In one of his last interviews as sitting president, Mr. Spinola sat down with Commercial Observer to reflect on his nearly three decades with the organization, which has quadrupled in size on his watch, and what life after REBNY holds for him. Read More

The Sit-Down

Faith Hope Consolo on Fashion, Politics and Fourth Careers

Faith Hope Consolo

It’s difficult to wrap one’s head around this, but Faith Hope Consolo—Douglas Elliman Retail Group chairman and self-proclaimed monarch of New York City retail—didn’t always work in real estate, and she isn’t originally from New York. The native of (Commercial Observer was shocked to learn) Cleveland started a modeling agency in college and then worked in interior design in Los Angeles before she started her real estate career, she said. Ms. Consolo leads a team of 25 in New York City and 50 others in 37 countries worldwide, and she invited CO to her Madison Avenue office for a wide-ranging discussion in her usual forthcoming way. She declined, with a not-so-subtle look, to move on our request for her age (although it is already out there for those curious enough to search) but she did mention she’s a widow to her third husband and doesn’t have any children. Read More

The Sit-Down

Savanna’s Chris Schlank on Making Class B Buildings a Thing of Beauty

Savanna founder and managing partner Chris Schlank. (Adam Jones/for Commercial Observer)

In a city where Class A properties consistently make headlines, Chris Schlank, a founder and managing partner of Savanna, has an eye for less-conspicuous Class B buildings. Throughout his career, Mr. Schlank has led the acquisition and redevelopment of more than 65 real estate assets totaling more than 19 million square feet, primarily within the five boroughs.

Just last week, Mr. Schlank’s firm, in conjunction with the Feil Organization, sold the 378,547-square-foot 21 Penn Plaza on southeast corner of West 31st Street and Ninth Avenue to TIAA-CREF. Mr. Schlank sat down with Commercial Observer to talk about this sale, his favorite job and the future of office buildings in Midtown East in a city that seems to be shifting westward. Read More

The Sit-Down

John Catsimatidis Talks Real Estate Deals and Monorails

John Catsimatidis

John Catsimatidis has a soft side. The businessman says he still misses Cottonball, the departed family cat for whom he built a cemetery at his East Quogue home. He wistfully reminisces about taking his (now grown) children “pumpkin hunting” and says he is collaborating with Rep. Carolyn Maloney to transport two giant pandas from China for New York City schoolchildren to enjoy.

But Mr. Catsimatidis, 66, is also a shrewd executive and the brains behind his multibillion-dollar business, the Red Apple Group, which has holdings in real estate, energy and grocery stores. Read More

The Sit-Down

Douglas Durst Talks Queens, Midtown and WTC

DURST IN SHOW: Douglas Durst has many irons in the fire.

It took years. It took wrangling from all sides. They brought in the best dealmakers in the business. But it’s finally wrapped up. (Mostly.) This week, Conde Nast finally dropped anchor at 1 World Trade Center.

This is a big deal for all involved, including (maybe especially) developer extraordinare, Douglas Durst who partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the building. Read More

The Sit-Down

Gregg Schenker: Midtown South’s Straight Shooter

Gregg Schenker

Fresh off of putting the finishing touches on the purchase of a retail property in Astoria, Queens, ABS Real Estate Partners President Gregg Schenker invited Commercial Observer in to his office overlooking Union Square. In a space decorated with family pictures and closing sale and financing binders, the 48-year-old married father of two explained the vision behind the 335-employee company and its 6-million-square-foot portfolio primarily in Midtown South. Mr. Schenker, a Manhattan native and New York University alum, also dished on new deals like the Queens acquisition he and an ABS team had just completed. The buy didn’t represent the company’s first in the boroughs, nor the last, he hinted. But before hitting the outer boroughs, CO asked the former Helmsley Spear broker how he and the other company execs knew to invest in Midtown South and why technology, advertising, media and information, or TAMI, tenants like the neighborhood so much. Read More

The Sit-Down

Laura Pomerantz–the Retail Maven

Laura Pomerantz. (Aaron Adler)

Last month, Laura Pomerantz, the principal and founding partner of Laura Pomerantz Real Estate, celebrated the one-year anniversary of her firm’s lease at 757 Third Avenue with champagne and cupcakes. She and her team of four brokers and eight employees moved into the space between 47th and 48th Streets five months after Ms. Pomerantz established her own firm. Also in September Ms. Pomerantz co-represented Hudson’s Bay Company in its 500,000-square-foot leases for a Saks Fifth Avenue at Brookfield Place, a Saks Off Fifth at 1 Liberty Plaza as well as office space in Lower Manhattan.

Over the last decade, Ms. Pomerantz says that she has closed over 8 million square feet in deals for clients including Bloomberg L.P., Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Giorgio Armani and Stuart Weitzman. Read More