REBNY Review: What Happened at the Biggest Real Estate Gala of the Year?


The rooms were packed with the biggest players from real estate, politics and business advocacy groups—a real who’s who of New York City.

There was mingling, networking, handshaking and hugging. Speeches were delivered to a half-attentive room and tribute was paid to those that the industry lost in the last year. And, of course, rivals Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo performed the common, elegant dance of avoiding one another throughout the evening.

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This was the night of the Real Estate Board of New York’s 120th annual banquet, held last week at the New York Hilton. We spotted the likes of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Alliance for Downtown New York President Jessica Lappin. Kings of the industry like Vornado Realty Trust’s Steven Roth were in attendance, as were Extell Development Company’s Gary Barnett, Rudin Management Company’s William Rudin, Tishman Speyer Chairman Jerry Speyer, RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler and so many more.

More than 2,000 REBNY members attended the event, which charged $1,100 a plate. John Banks, the president of the organization, and Rob Speyer, the chairman of the group, emceed the event and touted some of the year’s accomplishments.

This year’s video message focused on the need for more commercial development in New York, as well as industrial space and offices for life science companies.

“While there will be challenges and obstacles to this growth initiative, commercial vacancy rates are well below the national average, and there is strong demand for new office product throughout New York City,” Mr. Banks said in a statement. “We commend the administration for its analysis and efforts to address this critical need.”

This year’s honorees—Daniel Brodsky, Jeffrey Levine, Bill Montana, Edward Piccinich and Steven Marvin—accepted their respective awards and delivered remarks to the networking-happy crowd. Sisters Darcy Stacom of CBRE and Tara Stacom of Cushman & Wakefield accepted the Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award, which they received along with their father, Matthew Stacom, who died in January 2014.

But as the Big Apple’s brokers and builders wined and dined, a group of protesters gathered outside against what they called injustices by the industry. The citywide Alliance Against Displacement rallied against Mr. de Blasio’s zoning plan to create more affordable housing. The group in a flier announcing the protest called the mayor’s current proposal a “developer-backed scam” that empowered luxury development and pushed poor communities of color out of developing neighborhoods.

Standing in frigid temperatures, the group held up signs emblazoned with images of hizzoner with former REBNY President Steven Spinola, along with signs declaring, “Gentrification is the new colonialism.”

“From all across the city, we’re concerned about displacement and we’re concerned about the mayor’s development policies,” said David Tieu, a representative of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a community activist group that took part in the rally. “We’re here today to say that his complete development policy is a complete sham. It’s not building more affordable housing—it’s actually leading to more displacement and gentrification in the most vulnerable communities.”

Additional reporting by Liam La Guerre.