Albert Laboz, United American Land

2013 Owners MagazineFavorite charity? 

Chai Lifeline. It’s an incredible organization that helps children that have been stricken with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, as well as their families. The organization realizes that, when a child is ill, the entire family is affected. It gives moral and financial support to the families, while helping them navigate the unknown world of doctors, hospitals, insurance and possible treatments. Their flagship program, Camp Simcha, is a summer camp for afflicted children, where they can take a brief respite from their hospital rooms so that they can enjoy summer camp like any other normal child (under medical supervision).

Real estate prediction for 2014? 

With interest rates creeping up, there will be a reverse in the cap-compression-driven rise in pricing of commercial properties that we have seen in the past 24 months. Downtown Brooklyn will continue to be strong in every sector. With H&M’s 30,000-square-foot store rumored to be performing very strongly on Fulton Street, other retailers will surely follow. The Soho office and retail submarket will continue to be strong. However, several buildings on Spring and Prince Streets have traded at such high pricing with the anticipation that retail rents will achieve $800 per square foot to justify such pricing. Such rents have heretofore never been achieved and seem unfathomable. The tech industry will continue to be the economic driver in the office market.

Who will become New York City’s next mayor?  

It looks like Bill de Blasio.

What real estate policy should New York’s next mayor make a priority?   

The next mayor is going to make key appointments to the City Planning Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Department of Buildings and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, which will all have a lasting effect on the future of the real estate industry. The next Landmarks Preservation Commission should be more judicious in designating buildings and districts, as there are many designations that do not merit it. Moreover, the commission does not have the funding nor staff to handle the workload it currently has, hence making permit application time consuming and costly by way of lost rents for pending applications. The Department of Buildings must be more user-friendly. In the gray areas of the code that are unique to a project, the D.O.B. should have smart people that can be fair and responsive to reconsideration requests. The commercial real estate industry pays its disproportionate share of the city’s budget with incredibly high real estate taxes. The next mayor must redress this crippling issue.

What is one aspect of your business you wish you had more time for? 

I am so busy with the immediate issues and projects at hand that I wish I had more time to develop relationships with others in the industry. That is unrelated with the issues at hand, but that can come to fruition in the future.

Greatest fear: 

New York City has experienced a renaissance in the past 20 years, due in large part to the huge reduction in crime, making it the safest big city in the nation, with 52 million tourists annually. My greatest fear is that the crime rate will revert back to that of the pre-Giuliani era, which will be devastating on all levels.

If approved, the Midtown East rezoning initiative will: 

Will take 10 years to bear fruit.

In the film version of your life, which actor would portray you? 

I would be happy if no film of me was made.

Foreign real estate market you’d most like to invest in: 

To be successful, one must know what he/she knows and know what he/she doesn’t know. It is hard enough to be successful in New York City, a city I know well. To invest in a foreign market with its unique laws, markets, culture and currency is not something we know nor will do. Besides, there is no greater city than New York.

What should happen with Madison Square Garden and Penn Station? 

With 500,000 people using Penn Station daily, making it the nation’s busiest station, it makes no sense that it is a subterranean, cramped, crowded maze. Since to do whatever is necessary to move the Garden and build a new, modern Penn Station will require monumental costs and political will to match to overcome competing interests, I do not see anything happening any time soon, despite the Garden receiving only a 10-year permit extension, after their billion-dollar renovation.

What New York City building should be torn down? 

The Hotel Pennsylvania (former Statler), across from Penn Station. Vornado has it right to tear down this behemoth and build a modern office building that could be the catalyst to renovating Penn Station.

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