Walking the REBNY Ballroom: Hungry Brokers, Angry Lapidus

Speeches were casually ignored, drinks were spilled and bonds were formed at last Thursday’s 116th annual Real Estate Board of New York Gala, which this year drew an estimated 2,000 brokers, owners, advertising buyers and real estate reporters to the New York Hilton for an evening of conviviality, honorifics and hushed deal making. Among the fray was Commercial Observer staff writer Daniel Geiger, who during the course of the evening saw his stenopad tossed by an irate real estate broker and who unabashedly accosted Studley’s Woody Heller in the hotel’s bathroom, all for the sake of the story. Below, a timeline of gala comings and goings, from the innocuous gossip down to the downright obnoxious. 

1391 REBNY 116th Annual Banquet 1.19.121 400x271 Walking the REBNY Ballroom: Hungry Brokers, Angry Lapidus5:45
The 116th annual REBNY banquet is just getting started at the New York Hilton. Chicago Title is having an invitation-only party on the building’s second floor.

5:46 As usual, the night’s official festivities begin with a cocktail party in the room adjacent to the Hilton’s main ballroom, where the dinner is held. Jason Muss, a principal at Muss Development, stands near the entrance to the room with Jared Kushner (owner of The Commercial Observer), Jared’s wife, Ivanka, and Fried Frank chief Jon Mechanic. “I love this party. It’s a great place to catch up with people,” Mr. Muss says.

5:50 The cocktail reception is quickly filling up. Simon Ziff, a principal at the financing company Ackman Ziff, stands near the open bar with his wife. “It’s overwhelming,” Mr. Ziff says. “Think of all the people here. A few seconds to say hi to each. That’s a lot of seconds.”

6:00  Hal Fetner, a developer who is building two prominent residential buildings with partner the Durst Organization, steps over to the bar. “The feeling in the room is always tied to the health of the market,” he says. So what’s the vibe? “Ask me later. It’s too early to tell. But I think things are good.”

6:01 John Santora, an executive at the real estate services firm who recently helped negotiate an agreement between landlords and the union that represents building employees, 32BJ, is chatting with C&W appraisal expert Brian Corcoran. “A lot of people worked on that deal,” Mr. Santora says of the negotiations. “I can’t take the credit for it.”

Steve Spinola, REBNY’s president, greets guests in the main room of the cocktail space. “We had to put a few tables upstairs,” Mr. Spinola says, indicating that attendance at the banquet has picked up from last year. “We got a lot of last-minute calls from people who wanted to come.”

1173 REBNY 116th Annual Banquet 1.19.12 400x272 Walking the REBNY Ballroom: Hungry Brokers, Angry Lapidus

6:17  Alan Weiner, the group head of Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, one of the biggest lenders in the city, is chatting busily with Rob Speyer, one of the chief executives of the real estate firm Tishman Speyer.

Eric Deutsch, the former head of the Downtown Alliance who now is an executive at Montparnasse 56, a builder of observation decks, surveys the crowd. “My first job out of college in the early 1990s was with REBNY,” he says. “The market was terrible then and they barely had anyone at the banquet. They made me sit up front during the dinner to make it seem like people were here.”

6:30  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney strides in. “I just secured us $300 million, a high-speed-rail grant to develop a line between Boston and New York. It’s very exciting,” she says, taking a crab leg. After she’s done with the morsel of meat, she holds the shell and looks for the waiter. “Where do I put this thing?”

6:32 The room’s cocktail banquet is about 75 percent full.

6:45 Robert Lapidus, an executive at the real estate investment company L&L Holding Company, becomes enraged when The Commercial Observer asks him if he is bidding on a leasehold interest in the Flatiron office building 114 Fifth Avenue, as is rumored. “We’re not here to talk about fucking business!” he yells, grabbing The CO’s notepad and tossing it.

Gary Green, head of the building services company Alliance, briskly and very politely retrieves the notebook while Mr. Lapidus hurls epithets at The CO. Acting like a true gentleman—and also looking the part in a finely cut tuxedo—Mr. Green apologizes for his friend. “You can’t do that! Knucklehead!” The CO overhears him say to Mr. Lapidus.

6:46  Kenneth Fisher, a partner at the real estate investment company Fisher Brothers, tells The CO that this is the first REBNY banquet he has been to in five years. “Every time this year, I’ve been playing golf in the desert [at the Bob Hope Classic].”7:00

Jeff Roseman, a retail leasing executive at Newmark Knight Frank, squeezes through the crowd. “It’s a great place to see old friends.” He greets Steve Green, the founder of the city’s biggest landlord, the REIT SL Green.

7:05 “This is my childhood,” Helena Durst, looking elegant in a flowing dress, says of the banquet. “Do you like Christmas? Do you like Sunday dinner? That’s what this is for me. I have so many memories of coming to this party.”

7:09 Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and Councilwoman Jessica Lapin walk through the room together, busy in conversation.

7:15 Guests are being pushed out of the cocktail reception into the main dining room. The dinner is about to begin.

7:16 “Do I like this party? It’s OK,” Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City, says. “I go to a lot of parties.”

7:25 The CO bumps into Woody Heller in the men’s room and mentions to him a rumor that Will Silverman, Mr. Heller’s colleague at Studley, doesn’t sit at a desk but stands. “It’s true,” Mr. Heller says. “He has a swivel desk that can be lifted and he stands at it rather than sits. He says it’s more comfortable.”

Does Mr. Heller do the same thing? “I pace,” Mr. Heller says.

7:40 The crowd, now dense, is heading into the main ballroom.

7:41 Bruce Mosler, a top leasing executive at Cushman & Wakefield, chats with friends outside the ballroom. “A lot of my good friends are in real estate, so this is a fun night for me, I get to see them all,” Mr. Mosler says.

7:42 Paul Pariser, a chief executive of the real estate investment company Taconic, stands nearby. Known as an avid skier, The CO asks him if he’s been to Colorado yet this season. “There’s no snow!” Mr. Pariser replies.

7:50 Howard Michaels, of the financing firm Carlton, is making his way into the ballroom. “If you’re in the real estate business and you’re not at this party, you have to have your head examined,” Mr. Michaels says. “Want to know something? I almost didn’t come. That was the pep talk I gave myself.”

0671 REBNY 116th Annual Banquet 1.19.12 400x246 Walking the REBNY Ballroom: Hungry Brokers, Angry Lapidus8:00 Already murmurs are going around about where the after-parties are going to be. “I’m not going to an after-party,” says Bob Knakal, chairman of the brokerage firm Massey Knakal, which during the boom years threw epic REBNY parties. “I have dinner plans with my wife.”

8:05 Steve Berliner, an executive at the brokerage company Studley, flashes The CO a stack of his business cards, which he plans to hand out. “Tonight is the best recruiting night of the year,” he says. “I started getting recruited to Studley six years ago at this party.”

8:20 The CO tells Amira Yunis, a retail leasing executive at CBRE, that she looks stunning in her black dress. It’s true, the former model does. Asked what her plans for the year are, she jokingly grabs The CO by the shoulders and shakes, “Make millions and millions and millions of dollars!”

9:00 The ballroom is full. But few people are eating. In the center of the room, Mitch Arkin, an executive at C&W, is chatting. “I haven’t eaten yet,” Mr. Arkin says. “I’m not going to eat.” What is he using for fuel, a hungry CO asks. “Adrenaline.”

9:10 “After-party is at Nobu,” Matt Astrachan, an executive at Jones Lang LaSalle, tells his colleague Mitch Konsker and C&W retail executive Brad Mendelson. “JLL party at 10!” Mr. Mendelson booms.

9:15 Dessert is being served. Some kind of chocolate-coated-ball concoction. The CO is still looking for dinner, finds a steak and eats it. It’s not as rubbery as rumored, though it’s certainly overdone.

9:45  Steve Durels, SL Green leasing chief, and Paul Glickman, an agency leasing specialist at JLL, walk out chatting. The banquet is winding down.

10:00 Kent Swig, with a closely cropped beard and carrying a few extra pounds, makes his way out. “I’m having a beer,” he says.





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