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The Sit-Down

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

The Patient Negotiator: Paul Wexler of the Wexler Healthcare Properties Team

Paul Wexler. (Credit: Lea Rubin)

Though best known in New York for its residential brokerage business, Corcoran also lends its brand to one of the city’s most prominent health care real estate teams. Led by 30-year industry veteran Paul Wexler, the Wexler Healthcare Properties team has closed more than 1,000 leases and sales worth billions of dollars in the health care real estate space. Mr. Wexler has done deals with major New York hospitals and a variety of health care specialists. He has a unique perspective on the state of the city’s health care real estate market and spoke with Commercial Observer last week about the rise of walk-in clinics, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and more.   Read More

The Sit-Down

No Holding Back: Robert Lapidus

LeaRubinPhoto_IMG_9538

Robert Lapidus remembers Midtown South vividly. Not the red hot Midtown South of today, but the Midtown South from nearly a decade and a half ago, when his firm, L&L Holding Company, bought 150 Fifth Avenue. Rents in the building were $26 per square foot, the property was operating “like a hotel,” and the submarket Read More

The Sit-Down

Tucker Reed Won’t Sleep Until Downtown Brooklyn Becomes a 24/7 Community

Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Tucker Reed is sweet on Brooklyn—big time. A resident of Prospect Heights who enjoys frequenting the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mr. Reed is a champion of the city’s most populous borough. He is a ball of energy as he talks about all of the work the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has done with him as president for the past two years, from supporting the technology sector with the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition to establishing Downtown Brooklyn as New York City’s college town. About a year after Commercial Observer conducted the Sit-Down interview with Mr. Tucker, we wanted to check in and see how the nonprofit has been doing with the reinvention of Downtown Brooklyn. Read More

The Sit-Down

Kevin Hoo’s Tweet Victory

Kevin Hoo

Kevin Hoo’s prior experience with UBS AG and later Tishman Speyer allowed him to slip seamlessly into a role as a vice president at Savanna in 2011, where as an asset manager he handles everything from financing acquisitions to choosing building finishes, leasing them up and handling day-to-day operations. “We run a fairly lean team here,” he said. “My role has been to play the jack of all trades.” At Tishman Speyer, Mr. Hoo’s acquisition, development, design and construction roles saw him focusing on properties as iconic as Rockefeller Center and the MetLife Building, but as he tells it, Savanna’s recent repositioning of 245 and 249 West 17th Street, now home to Twitter’s New York City headquarters, is the most exciting endeavor he has been a part of. Read More

The Sit-Down

Stephen Ross’ West Side Story

stephen ross

Time Warner Inc. was rumored to be eyeing space at Hudson Yards as early as last spring, but only this month did the company confirm it would anchor Related Companies’ 30 Hudson Yards, an 80-story tower on the Far West Side. Concurrently, Related agreed to a deal to buy back the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle for $1.3 billion and will market space there for the first time since the building came online a decade ago. The complex deals, which include a significant financial commitment to Hudson Yards by Time Warner, are vital for the ambitious development and another victory for Related Chairman Stephen Ross, who has long championed the viability of his plans for the once-barren pocket of Manhattan. Read More