With less than two months to go before John Banks assumes the president-elect position at the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, industry professionals are mulling the next chapter at the organization. Mr. Banks, the current vice president of government relations at Consolidated Edison, will replace Steven Spinola after the latter’s almost three decades as REBNY’s president. Here is some of the advice that real estate players had to offer Mr. Banks:
Barry LePatner, the founder of LePatner & Associates:
I would advise Mr. Banks to help direct additional industry support toward:
1) Recognizing that no construction project is well-served by falling prey to so-called “fast-track” projects that start construction before the design process is completed. 2) Negotiating agreements between developers, the city and the state with both union and non-union contractors to foster a recognition that both camps can find a place for a smooth working relationship that will bring down construction costs that will enable the city to continue to fund needed infrastructure projects. 3) Supporting more research into new technologies that will open doors to new industry that will bring greater efficiencies.
Faith Hope Consolo, the chairman of the retail leasing and sales division at Douglas Elliman:
A good leader is a good listener. My advice would be as he takes over that he seeks out and listens to a lot of different members. There’s a lot for him to get his arms around. To find his way, he’s going to do a lot of meetings and listen to a lot of people.
Jay Neveloff, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel aND member of REBNY’s Board of Governors:
The advice is to work collaboratively with the city. I think one of the challenges that the industry faces is knowing how to respond to the mayor’s focus on affordable housing and in that respect REBNY has to work with the mayor to formulate a roadmap, some predictability, to know how the city administration really wants to create the affordable housing, what the devices are, what the parameters are so that there’s some way to help the industry plan toward responding to the focus on affordable housing. That’s not questioning the need for affordable housing, but what’s the roadmap? How does the city want to get there?
Adelaide Polsinelli, a senior director at Eastern Consolidated:
He must be a strong advocate for the values the real estate community have brought and will continue to bring to the city at large. He must keep his eye on the fact that this city depends on the real estate community for its growth, strength, vivacity and fiscal health. I would like to see him establish an annual income/financial audit for all regulated apartment dwellers. We can never fix the housing affordability issue when there is no accountability for those who abuse the system. It would be my wish to see him overhaul the landmarking system, which has become a tool to stymie development, not preserve historic architecture, as was the original intent.
Chase Welles, a partner in SCG Retail:
Continue to employ Eileen Spinola [wife of Steven Spinola] who does all the work. I think she actually wants to stay.
Joseph Harbert, the president of the Eastern Region at Colliers International:
I believe we are at a unique moment with a new mayor with a mandate and a real estate community enjoying the blessings of a good market. We need to forge some unity around the issues of affordable housing and the plight of the low-wage worker in New York. I believe there actually is a confluence of interest on these issues. New York is the great city where I was born. I have lived a fortunate life. We need to make sure that others can be as fortunate by providing the environment that fosters good paying jobs and places where people can live that they can afford. I hope that John Banks can help find ways for our industry to play a leading and not a lagging role on these issues.
Robert Alexander, the chairman of the New York tri-state region at CBRE:
Banks should try to further stabilize the tax situation. What he has to be aware of is that the city can’t use commercial real estate taxes as a piggy bank in terms of increasing the mill rate and the percentage increase. Taxes are going up an average of 5 percent a year but inflation is 1.5 percent. That shouldn’t be.
With additional reporting by Tobias Salinger.