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The Sit-Down

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

The Sit-Down

Adelaide Polsinelli—a Commercial Real Estate Maverick

Adelaide Polsinelli on the roof of her listing at 116-119 South Street. (Lea Rubin Photography)

In an industry dominated by men, Adelaide Polsinelli has held her own since entering the profession 29 years ago on the residential side at Century 21 Real Estate. Ms. Polsinelli, a senior director at Eastern Consolidated since March 2012, is juggling a dozen exclusive listings, the bulk of which are in East Harlem. She is co-listing two mixed-use buildings in the South Street Seaport, one of which is home to the Paris Café, for $25.8 million. Ms. Polsinelli talked with Commercial Observer over lunch at the café about the Seaport, her favorite deal and the advantage of working at Eastern Consolidated. Read More

The Sit-Down

Robert Weisz Diversifies with a Big City Purchase

Robert P. Weisz

Robert P. Weisz has long been a recognized name in commercial real estate circles north of New York City. With over three million square feet of office, retail and warehouse space, his company RPW Group is one of the largest commercial real estate developers in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Recently, Mr. Weisz made headlines by deviating from the suburbs and delving into New York City real estate for the first time. Last week, Mortgage Observer reported that Mr. Weisz had closed on his acquisition of a 162,000-square-foot office building at 240 West 35th Street for $80.2 million.

Commercial Observer spoke with Mr. Weisz about his decision to invest heavily in suburban markets, why he has opted to diversify his portfolio by moving into Manhattan and what the future holds for the suburban office park. Read More

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

The Sit-Down

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

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

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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