Owners Magazine 2017: Interviews With NYC’s Top Landlords



At the risk of stating the forehead-slapping obvious, it’s been a strange 12 months.

SEE ALSO: Mr. Right Now: Mayor de Blasio Continues Wooing Real Estate Developers

There’s been a mixture of good and bad real estate news that can paint a picture of continued stability or darkening clouds on the horizon, depending on your point of view.

By October, the vacancy rate in all three major Manhattan markets for office space appeared to be falling, per Cushman & Wakefield data. Hundreds of thousands of square feet have been leased by Spotify, GroupM, Amazon and others. All of that is inarguably good news.

However, a year ago, few people knew that we were sitting on a retail powder keg ready to blow and take some of the biggest names in the industry with it, like Toys “R” Us, Aerosoles, Payless, Radio Shack…you get the idea. This is inarguably bad.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a magazine like this one.

Yes, the data, the deals and the numbers are critical to understanding the state of real estate. But it’s also important to get a sense of what the key players are thinking right now. That’s why we asked 36 of the biggest names in the business what their vision of the market looks like.

We’ve supplemented these questionnaires with our own reported features.

Last year, New York was considered immune to the vicissitudes of the world economy because we were always a safe, stable place to park cash. That looked like less of a sure bet when China announced new outbound investment rules. Lauren Elkies Schram examines the topic in her story in this issue.

Some in the real estate community long hoped for a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year’s mayoral election and put substantial money behind Paul Massey (one of their own) to take the reins of City Hall before that fizzled out. At the risk of propagating a Dewey-Truman blooper (we ship this magazine before Election Day), Aaron Short reported what developers are expecting and hoping for in de Blasio’s second term.

While many developers have spent the last few years touting the Far West Side of Manhattan, there is actually quite a bit of activity on the East River, something that Rey Mashayekhi examines in depth.

Finally, Liam La Guerre looked at something that’s always been written off as anathema to real estate developers: technology. It turns out, the shrewd owners are not only interested in tech, but they’re also developing their own. — Max Gross 

Nicholas Bienstock

Managing Partner, Savanna

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Sometimes the best investment decision is the deal you don’t buy. We have been choosy in our acquisitions and are ready to deploy a large pool of capital as opportunities develop in 2018.

What was the worst? Believing that the New York Giants were poised for a run at the Super Bowl.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Ironically, Midtown South and Downtown, which used to be the “poor stepchildren” to Midtown, feel like they are healthier and in better supply-demand balance than Midtown. Many attractive tenants in all sectors, but most prominently those in the TAMI sector, don’t particularly want to be in a glass and steel building on Park Avenue in the 50s. They want to be in a hip, cool loft building in Chelsea or Flatiron. We are seeing weakness develop in the Park Avenue corridor. Major tenants like BCG, BlackRock and KKR are vacating millions of square feet of older properties in Midtown to move to state-of-the-art new buildings in Hudson Yards or the Financial District. While disruptive for particular submarkets, I believe these trends are terrific for New York City, which has an aging infrastructure that needs new or renovated buildings to remain competitive on the world stage.

Where’s retail at the moment? My two teenage daughters love to shop. They try things on in stores. But they buy online. In the old days, if you were a middle-market fashion retailer like the Gap or Ann Taylor, you sold out of stores located all over New York. Now, as sales shift online, you still need a handful of high-profile, high-traffic “showroom” locations in places like Fifth Avenue, Soho and Times Square, where customers can try on all the models and sizes. But you don’t need a store every 20 blocks.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? We see strong appetite for investment from Korea and growing interest in investment from Japan, but the pace and volume of offshore capital is clearly reduced. China is taking action to reduce the flow of money out of the country, and there are a lot fewer Russian oligarchs investing in New York compared to a few years ago.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? No. We continue to build out space for our tenants, and we almost never build space in the old model of enclosed, perimeter offices. All tenants, with the possible exception of law firms, are looking for a more open plan with a handful of interior offices and open bullpen spaces with benching systems along the window lines.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Quality of life matters. The City Council recently passed a piece of legislation decriminalizing public urination in the streets of New York. Why would you make it legal to pee on the streets? This strikes me as dysfunctional and out of touch with reality.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Congrats on universal pre-K. Now, focus on the difficult job of being mayor: keeping the streets clean, the streets safe, the snow plowed and the potholes filled. Be a practical problem solver, not the national spokesman for progressive causes or a future presidential candidate. Recognize that business is not the enemy; it is the friend of a healthy New York. Recognize that charter schools are not the enemy; they offer the promise of a better education to many needy children who have been the victims of an educational system that has failed them for generations.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? You have not been able to get anything significant done other than by executive order. There are a small handful of things that may be able to receive bipartisan support: infrastructure, repatriation of offshore capital, the dreamers, etc. Get something bipartisan done. Then get something else bipartisan done. Those accomplishments will create momentum. (Sadly, I don’t think he will listen.)

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740. But I would not buy any ultra-high-priced New York City residential real estate until we work through the oversupply of super-high-end condos that are on the market or coming to the market soon. It is going to keep coming down for the foreseeable future as the oversupply is absorbed. The middle market, however, is fine and is, perhaps, underbuilt relative to demand.

Mets or Yankees: The Bombers. All rise!

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Antigua.

Master of None or Broad City: Had to Google them. Never watched either show.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Love them both. The choice depends on the location and the product.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Ugh. Give me a practical centrist. Mike Bloomberg.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: I drink $1.50 New York City street vendor coffee. Love it.

Marty Burger

Chief Executive Officer, Silverstein Properties

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To spend more of my time on the leasing side of World Trade Center. In the last year, we did 15 or 16 leases filling 4 World Trade Center, and we’re working on a tenant for 2 World Trade Center.

What was the worst? Probably focusing my team on trying to win 245 Park Avenue—we got outbid by a couple of hundred million dollars.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, everything has a price. Typically when there’s movement in the office market, vacant space gets back filled. Everything in New York City can get built without creating a glut—the city doesn’t have enough new office stock to stay competitive with the world markets. We’ve only replaced 7 percent of our office stock with new space over the last 20 years—compared to 50 percent in London and 80 percent in Hong Kong. When you take all the new New York City space that is being built and not yet committed between now and 2023, it accounts for 2 percent or less of our existing market. So I don’t think the office market is oversaturated.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Retail was hit with a double whammy. Retailers in general aren’t doing well. Really successful outlets that were opening 100 stores a year are now opening 10 or 15, and the ones that were opening 10 or 15 aren’t opening any. [Plus,] people paid a lot for retail spaces—the ground floor of office spaces—and they’re not [accepting] a price that doesn’t give them a good return. They’d rather leave them vacant.

It’ll take time—it’s a cycle. Like office and residential cycles. But is retail gone? I don’t think so. It’s just a matter of getting the right fit in the right location.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Amazon really got everybody’s attention—Westchester, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Atlanta, pretty much every municipality—because it’s such a big carrot: 50,000 jobs, millions of square feet. If they’re looking for the cheapest they could go pretty much anywhere in the middle of the country, but cost of space should be the least of their concerns. Most important is access to new talent. You want a place that has A) the best transportation, B) a great pool of people to draw from.

When we look at the lower tip of Manhattan, it has the best access to all this talent—Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Jersey City, even Long Island. There are 10 million people to draw that talent from.

Should they go to the World Trade Center? We could put together a campus for them. They could take the top of 3 World Trade Center. We could work with Durst to get them the top of 1 World Trade Center. We have the potential to build 2 World Trade Center and 5 World Trade Center. We could put together 7 million square feet. We’re not doing the negotiating, but we could immediately deliver 3 and 1 and build 2 and 5.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? I think it depends on the firm. If you take an ad firm like GroupM, which took 700,000 square feet at 3 World Trade Center, the old financial trading floors [provided] a good open-space plan. For them, it seemed to make a lot of sense…I don’t think investment bankers want open air. They want offices. But the trading side of the business is different. So it really depends on the firm.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I’d like to figure out how to build multifamily housing in New York City. Right now, it’s nearly impossible. Any residential site needs to go condo, and that’s a shame. New York City needs to do something to create a program to encourage multifamily. We need to promote affordable housing. I’m not advocating dropping [affordable] requirements, but right now it doesn’t incentivize us. I fully applaud de Blasio’s 200,000 affordable units goal. I don’t think he’s going to hit that mark, but there’s a way to.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: White sandy beach in Maui.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: I can’t pick one—they’re both our architects!

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Any other kind of coffee.

John Catsimatidis

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Red Apple Group and United Metro Energy Corporation

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Steering clear from a number of scams and con games where people tried to solicit me.

What was the worst decision you made? I don’t know if there was ever a “worst decision.” There are, of course, a number of small decisions where I wish I would have waited for more information, but never any “worst decision” that affected my company or family. I mean, I wish I bought Apple 20 years ago, or Amazon, but who doesn’t?

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Many people will tell you it is…I believe it is not. To do business, you still have to be in New York City, Midtown! With all due respect, people are not going to drive to north Jersey, eastern Long Island or Connecticut for a meeting. I believe above 34th Street, lower than 42nd Street still offers potential.

Where’s retail at the moment? Retail remains in tough circumstances. The commercial rent tax, which everyone is paying in Manhattan (below 96th Street), is out of control. It is bizarre because this is a tax on a tax, and business owners are even paying tax on the real estate tax itself. (New York City’s politicians started this in 1963 when it was struggling to pay out higher welfare benefits. It was originally for “big companies” that had a minimum of $250,000 in rent. Now, everyone is paying $250,000 in rent! The money from this tax has soared from less than $500 million after inflation in 2000 to $816 million today!) This is damaging to everyone. Retail will suffer even more as internet operations and sales continue to combat retail stores. The bigger stores who can deliver to New York will continue to wipe out walk-in customers. As part of this, the bike lanes installed in Manhattan and other commercial districts during the past four or five years are detrimental to the traffic, which retailers and restaurants depend on.

A lot of developers want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is it a good idea or a bad one? Amazon is a great company, an excellent paradigm for internet-based businesses. However, it will further kill street store locations that are dependent on traffic. If everything can be delivered by Amazon in New York City in three to five hours no one has to go out to neighborhood stores anymore. Amazon’s presence will translate into the death of more retailers.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? The hurricanes are a product of our earth. There have been periods where we have gone without hurricanes or at least major ones. These conditions have not changed my beliefs on where to invest. In response, I am seeking to build better quality facilities that are stronger, more durable. As an example, the Tampa/St. Petersburgh region where I am building at this time has not suffered a major hurricane in 90 years. When the latest hurricane hit this area, it was Category II, a large storm. Meanwhile, right now by my Coney Island boardwalk development, I am installing foundations that are 160 to 175 feet deep. I believe the earth’s climate is the result of thousands of years. It is not real to believe that over decades and several centuries, what mankind has been doing causes profound changes in weather. If governments and politics want to make adjustments that they think will affect the climate, let’s all do it, gradually over the next 25 to 50 years so these policies do not ruin the economy, raise taxes and bring about job losses.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? The City Council needs to adopt laws which will embrace what business owners want to invest in New York City. There needs to be demonstrated proactive, friendly outreach. The commercial rent tax is an example of abuse which should be halted by the City Council. Adding to the unfriendly arena includes the punitive traffic congestion and parking fines. And people coming in from the outer boroughs should not be castigated.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I recently had 15 minutes alone with President Trump. I expressed my appreciation for how he is transforming the federal policy-making attitudes from the Obama administration that banks, corporations and business executives were perceived as enemies of Washington. President Trump has been changing this—which has created more confidence for businesses to make investments and create jobs. Since President Trump started, the market seems to have increased in value by $5 trillion.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: I do not watch either of them; I stopped watching late-night television.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue, which offers “places to hang things” rather than having all-glass.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither. Extremism in any direction is not good.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Isaac Chera

Principal, Crown Acquisitions

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Becoming partners with Steve Wynn; buying 50 percent of the retail at the Wynn in Las Vegas.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Retail is having growing pains…It has matured in its current state and needs to figure out what it’s going to be like for its next phase. Humans will always need interaction and entertainment and experience; let’s see which retailers can deliver that.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? Great one for New York—it might become a test platform for the future of retail. With all that brain trust located here, it’s only natural that they would test here.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Yes. It’s still the safest place to invest in the world, so whoever has money and can get it here will invest.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Any that would streamline the process of development in New York that still maintains its safety and security regulations.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Make it simpler to do business in New York City—especially for small businesses.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Maui.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City. 

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Stern. 

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Ric Clark

Senior Managing Partner and Chairman, Brookfield Property Partners

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Acquiring the leasehold for 1100 Avenue of the Americas on the corner of West 42nd and [Avenue of the Americas] at Bryant Park. Because of our ownership of the adjacent Grace building, we saw an opportunity to execute a renovation that would not only modernize the building but would create vibrant connections with Nickerson Plaza to the north and Bryant Park to the south. Once we began to share our design ideas with interested tenants, I knew that we were going to be able to create something special.

What was the worst? I don’t spend a lot of time looking back, but no major blunders. We have had a very busy year.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? With unrenovated, 50-plus-year-old buildings? Sure. There is plenty of opportunity for new or redeveloped properties.

Where’s retail at the moment? Despite reports about the death of retail, for those willing and able to shed the models of old and embrace the behavior and desires of today’s consumer, the future of retail is bright. We’ve had success at Brookfield Place by creating an experiential destination balancing restaurants and fashion with animated public and social spaces. We are taking this concept to Manhattan West and think this will be a model for the future.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Where should it go? They are forward-thinking and well led, and given the jobs they would bring and the culture of innovation they would help foster or enhance, any city would benefit by their presence, New York included.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? The risks of coastal flooding and climate change generally have been a part of our due diligence and operations planning for some time. With sound due diligence and resiliency planning, hopefully we are making sound investments. We are building two residential buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront at Greenpoint Landing with Park Tower, which will be one of the first developments to incorporate new FEMA flood regulations and an integrated flood protection strategy to protect the site and the community behind it. We also just doubled down after Harvey by acquiring our second large downtown Houston office portfolio.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? No, but it will if things are allowed to deteriorate. As a city, transportation is one of those things we have to get right, or we will suffer painful, long-term consequences.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Nonpartisan elections. It would increase voter participation, favor consensus builders and make general elections in our city matter.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Get the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) done quickly. It is a big idea, and its impact to economic development in Brooklyn, Queens and the entire city would be felt for a long time.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Construction safety is critically important. I haven’t encountered anyone who thinks otherwise. But the legislation has significant holes in terms of how many workers are going to be able to pay for and obtain training. The industry is looking to how it can best help address the needs of those workers. The cost to larger projects, which historical data show have been among the safest in the city, is not the concern, but there is real concern about the financial impact of the legislation on smaller contractors and projects.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? The world is re-urbanizing as the populations of cities worldwide are swelling. New York City is no exception. Programs like Affordable New York are an important catalyst for housing creation. The reality is if you want to build rental housing, particularly leasing at below-market rents in New York City, it requires a subsidy due to the burden of property taxes and the cost of land and labor. We cannot afford to let programs like that lapse.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon brought the Tonight Show back to New York, but they’re both great.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: Not in the market so haven’t seen them.

Mets or Yankees: Fan of the Wilpons, but I root for the Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Haven’t had the pleasure of working with either, but I admire Bjarke’s design for 2 World Trade Center.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: No.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Whatever is closest.

Charles S. Cohen

President and Chief Executive Officer, Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Revamping and reopening the Quad theater in Greenwich Village and buying the Larchmont Playhouse in Westchester. [These moves were] designed to add important cultural amenities to the communities they serve.

What was the worst? Truthfully, not aware of any.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, but it needs to find its equilibrium point.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Retail is very challenged at the moment, largely due to landlords asking unrealistic rents.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? It’s a great idea because it would further enhance New York’s image as a leading high-tech hub.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? It’s definitely slowed down.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? No, because we remain committed to developing the most secure, structurally sound buildings that are able to meet today’s weather challenges.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It was definitely harder to get around the city this summer, which I believe was particularly bad for retailers.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? The open-space model is stronger than ever.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Create more incentives to entice developers to build cultural amenities that benefit our communities.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Continue to support the real estate industry.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? It could, but it would be worthwhile. Safety and security should never be short-changed.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? There are tremendous benefits to having an inclusive city, although there are some downsides as well.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Continue to focus on national security, tax reform and job creation here in the U.S.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: I’m not a coffee drinker.

Christopher Conlon

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Acadia Realty Trust

What was the best decision you made in the last year? All decisions around DeKalb Market Hall (our Brooklyn City Point food hall) have been good ones. DeKalb Market will reach our year-three sales projections in its first year. A game changer for City Point.

What was the worst? Not taking at least a one-week break on Nantucket this summer. First time I missed in 14 years. I will make up for that in summer 2018.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Not our business but we enjoy the banter among some of our friends.

Where’s retail at the moment? Retail is at another inflection point just as we have seen time and again over the last several decades. Challenges from shifting consumer behavior and the acceleration of ecommerce will separate winners from losers. Those who can offer differentiated products, service and experiences will stand out. Rents will soon stabilize after drifting from the highs of 2015/2016.

What happens now? Submarkets like Soho, Madison Avenue, 34th Street and others will see vacancy rates stabilize and absorption begin. Market rent discovery in these submarkets (and many others) is sparse. Pop-up and structured deals will continue to make up a significant percentage of the leasing activity.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? It would be amazing for New York. That kind of innovation, job creation and capital allocation for our area would only produce great things. I doubt it will happen here. Expensive, congested, limited air travel and transportation options, etc., all make this an uphill battle for New York. But I’m rooting for it!

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? We see no shortage of foreign or domestic capital still eager to make investments in New York. New York enjoys a unique global attraction to all investors similar to what is seen in London and Hong Kong. Truly unique and rare.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinions about climate change? Because of very well-evolved and strict building codes in our area, as well as elsewhere around the U.S., our commercial structures are extremely well built and likely able to withstand much of what mother nature will deal to us. That said, future investments will be weighted carefully by us in areas where coastal flooding is a real threat. Not much can protect against extraordinary storm surge and flooding.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? No.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I would love to see a mandate imposed on all city agencies to process applications more efficiently. In the last several years, this has slipped tremendously. Speed of execution while respecting well-established guidelines and statutes often makes the difference especially in new developments.

What could Mayor de Blasio do to win your heart? I can’t win answering this question, so I will pass. But I would only say that real and reliable incentives in connection with aggressive affordable housing strategies will go a long way.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? While virtually all new legislation adds costs and delays (often one in the same), it’s hard not to support safety initiatives. We put a premium on worker safety and have an exemplary construction track record to show for it.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Pros: healthy diversity. Cons: erratic and unreliable programs to support it. The mayor and the governor need to find a way to collaborate effectively on this.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Act more mature. Stop tweeting. Check your ego. Surround yourself with highly respected professionals and then let them do their jobs. All great business executives do this well. Bring that talent (which I strongly believe you possess).

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Howard Stern…I’m a morning guy.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue. A classic.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees. Always.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Maui…Or any world-class beach.

Master of None or Broad City: Ray Donovan and Walking Dead. Best TV in a generation.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central. A classic.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Duh. We developed DeKalb Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern. A classic.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie…He ignites young people, and while his message is often misguided and confused, I love his passion.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: I am a tea drinker. Le Pain Quotidien Breakfast Tea.

Tommy Craig

Senior Managing Director, NY Tri-State Region, Hines

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Joining the National Pension Service of Korea (NPS) to make a $525 million investment in One Vanderbilt, becoming an equity partner as well as development manager.

What was the worst? We still have [60] days left.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Only for buildings not suited for the demands of today’s workplace environment. There was and is strong demand for buildings such as 7 Bryant Park and One Vanderbilt, whose standards are responsive to the requirements of open space, higher employee density ratios, better light and views, etc.

Where’s retail at the moment? Retail is in a structural transition, but for New York City, tourism and experiential retail change the analysis somewhat. The city would be well served by addressing areas which today are characterized by high rent blight in order to re-energize the streets of so many important neighborhoods.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? In any war for talent, New York stands a good chance of winning. A natural place for Amazon and its employees would be in our Trinity Real Estate Portfolio in Hudson Square.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? In 2017, Hines worked successfully with three different offshore equity partners on three different transactions (One Vanderbilt, Welltower and 375 Hudson Street). These represent developments and acquisitions, including both residential and commercial uses, with equity capital commitments aggregating $1 billion. All three parties took a view of New York as a long-term and strategic market, singular within a global context. Retaining a culture that affords businesses’ competitive advantage, a high quality of life and is appealing to new entrants to the workforce will be the driving factors for New York City to continue to appeal to foreign money.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes change your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Remembering 9/11 and the heartfelt support we got in its immediate aftermath from around the world, I am sure all New Yorkers hope to help in some way the impacted communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. As for the science or pseudoscience of climate change, what is man to the mountains and rivers? We should be taking precautionary steps to adjust our practices because there is opportunity for betterment.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? We are doing a lot of both types of spaces in our Hudson Square portfolio. Having moved our own office to new space in a prewar building Downtown at 345 Hudson Street, we have deep conviction that the right physical environment can contribute to the joy and success of executing work. We will see more activity-based work and hybrid space in that portfolio and elsewhere as the workplace accommodates rapid change and a workforce spanning generations.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Given the size and variety of so many construction activities throughout the New York City market, we support the most suitable contractors and workforce matched to any given project on a case-by-case basis. We are proud of the work we are doing and have done union construction at One Vanderbilt, 53W53, 7 Bryant Park, etc. Safety is a high priority on all of our job sites and is probably best handled through the way subcontractors and their workforce are qualified on each project by general contractors or construction managers and owners or developers, rather than a one-size fits all legislative mandate.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Phipps Houses, the oldest and largest not-for-profit owner and developer of affordable housing in the city, and witnessing the exceptional leadership of Board Chairman Ronay Menschel and CEO Adam Weinsein support the mayor’s goal of creating more affordable housing. We must be committed to the creation of affordable housing for all New Yorkers, from our poorest citizens to our working class, who provide so many essential services. This is critical to New York’s ongoing quality-of-life priorities.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump what would you say? Start by adjusting your style: The loudest duck gets shot first.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Neither. My kids may be hip, but I am certainly not.

740 Park Avenue or One57: One57.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither. Looking for a middle path.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

David Dishy

Partner and President of Development and Acquisitions, L+M Development Partners

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Probably one of the deals we decided not to do, whether because of unrealistic pricing or perhaps a questionable partner; we have also been fortunate recently to recruit some talented people who I think will help set L+M up for long-term success.

What was the worst? Only time will tell, but I’d imagine there will be some serious candidates.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Do not underestimate the power of the recent rezoning, One Vanderbilt and the coming-LIRR’s East Side Access to give the area a new boost. Perhaps a greater focus on street-level liveliness and enhanced pedestrian and bike circulation would also help. But, I still think the most dynamic and interesting growth will be Downtown.

Where’s retail at the moment? I tend to believe that rumors of retail’s demise are greatly exaggerated. In our small universe, we have had great interest in our retail offerings, whether they be in Williamsburg, South Bronx, Newark, [N.J.], Essex Crossing or by City Hall Park. You may have to temper some pricing expectations, but the operators’ interest is there.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? It is a good idea for so many obvious reasons and only made bad if too many resources are wasted to lure them here. I like Brooklyn, I like Newark and I like Harlem, but the right answer I think is the strategic center of New York City: Long Island City.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? My primary reaction to the hurricanes was just deep sympathy for the impacted people and communities. After Katrina, and before I joined the firm, L+M actually spent a considerable amount of time in New Orleans helping to rebuild and re-invest in affordable housing and community development, and so I guess it is possible that similar needs could emerge. Building-wise, any serious person developing today is both statutorily and practically obligated to plan and build in a more resilient and climate-aware manner, which we do on pretty much every project. In terms of changing one’s opinion, I am dumbfounded that any rational person—without a vested financial interest in not believing—does not accept climate change as scientific fact.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It’s hard to say precisely how, but I guarantee you that with every miserable subway experience, there’s a negative incremental effect on workers, residents and employers as they contemplate where to pursue a career, live happily or build a successful business. This is a dangerous and corrosive trend that hopefully the new leadership at the MTA will reverse with great energy.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? As a builder-developer, we are intensely focused on safety at project sites and on effective training and preparation; so, the fundamental objective here is crucial. Whether the bill was crafted in the most effective, well-considered manner is probably not of much relevance anymore since it is now law. We are looking forward to helping see that it is implemented successfully and in a way that ensures continued access to job opportunities for the broadest range of New Yorkers. There will be real costs, and the goal is really to ensure that those costs translate most directly into safer, better workplaces.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? A successor to 421a now exists is the biggest pro. Clarity and predictability is always good, and the program is critical to induce new production, which is ultimately a key part of an overall housing strategy. The affordability options are reasonable and will help create a broad range of outcomes. Cons: With the additional wage requirements and with the now-limited allocation of volume cap to 75-25 projects, it remains tough to find viable non-legacy rental opportunities, but hey, no one is shedding tears for developers—I get it.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I would probably begin with “Mr. President, I was wondering…Why would you choose to be such a petty regressive bully when you could try to be an effective leader?” Then, if I was not ushered out, I would suggest that the path to greatness would still seem to rest with bold, optimistic, big-hearted moves. So why not be the man who positioned America for enduring greatness in the 21st Century by investing brilliantly in physical, technological and educational infrastructure? And then on my way out, after recalling how The Donald made me feel important decades ago when I was a junior city planner working on Trump City, I probably couldn’t help but say, “Oh and by the way, can we just agree that your whole Obama-birther thing was obscene and you owe the man and the American people an apology? Yes? Great. Thanks.”

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 15 CPW.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees—since childhood but cannot claim serious fan status.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: GCT (though I wish the Oculus had made this a tougher choice).

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Essex Street Market and the new Market Line.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Both—together. Imagine it.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Sanders—not even close.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Any other but with sincere respect for Starbucks.

Douglas Durst

Chairman, The Durst Organization

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Buying 1800 Park Avenue.

What was the worst? Watching too many episodes of Game of Thrones.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, older Midtown buildings are doing great. New construction in Midtown is iffier.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Amenity, service and experience retail will do fine. Traditional retail will continue to retrench.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? It’s a great idea for Amazon. New York City is the greatest recruitment tool that exists. We could easily accommodate them at the World Trade Center with no infrastructure investment.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? No, we learned our lessons during Sandy. The impact of that storm has informed everything we have done since.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? Not really. Some of our employees enjoyed the fast ferry from New Jersey.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Prebuilt is flying off the shelves at 1 World Trade Center. There’s nothing wrong with open plan, but most tenants are learning that jamming as many employees into the smallest space possible is a mistake. The impacts on retention, recruitment, morale and productivity far outweigh the short-term economic savings.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? A reform of the broken, regressive and opaque property tax system.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Reform the broken, regressive and opaque property tax system.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? That law is a mess. Its flaws are myriad. How is [the Department of Buildings] supposed to institute an ID system for 140,000 construction workers without spending a dime?

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? The biggest flaw is that our elected leaders have not used their bully pulpit to get the public’s buy-in for this necessary and sensible housing program.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? It’s hard to picture a universe where that would ever happen.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Colbert.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: VIA West 57th.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Hudson River Park.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: A greenmarket.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie—he could be one of my cousins.

Jake Elghanayan

Senior Vice President and Principal, TF Cornerstone

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Together with MSD Capital, we bought out Andrew Penson’s partners in the ownership of Grand Central Terminal and now control the landmark’s air rights. That has been a fun deal and the air rights should create opportunities for new office developments in East Midtown, which we think will remain New York’s primary central business district after the hype of the Far West Side wears off.

What was the worst? We missed one deal in D.C. over a few dollars, which is always disappointing.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, the impact of densification is trailing off, and the scale of new supply is small relative to the market.

Where’s retail at the moment? It will probably get worse before it gets better, but eventually business models will develop better to marry the in-store and online shopping experience.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Where should it go? I believe that the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront from Long Island City to Dumbo is going to coalesce into a distinct office submarket catering to technology and creative businesses. The north LIC waterfront offers the best location for a large user like Amazon because of the size of the contiguous development area, diversity of public transit, and proximity to Cornell Tech.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? I have minimal insight into this topic, but I hear yes.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Yes, this has long been a focus of ours and accelerated after [Superstorm] Sandy. Above-ground mechanical systems, flood gate barriers and porous plaza landscaping are among the design features we’ve adopted.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? Not significantly, although we believe long-term investments in the public transit system are essential.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? We are converging into an appropriate middle ground, where organizations realize that they need to design their office space to get the most productivity from their human capital, which is far more expensive than rent. We have some tenants with no printers and hot desking, and others with private offices along a window line.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? A revamped J-51 program that would create some real estate tax abatement for residential conversions of antiquated buildings that set aside a percentage of the apartments for affordable housing.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Rationalize the building code and continue efforts to streamline the Department of Buildings.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Construction safety is very important to us. We hope the bill has that effect.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? There were compromises, but we are comfortable with the end result; without it, there would be almost zero new development of rental housing, which would ultimately exacerbate affordability issues. My dad would be upset if I didn’t also mention that this type of development incentive might not be needed if multifamily and commercial properties didn’t shoulder a disproportionate share of the city’s property taxes.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I would remind him of the seriousness and complexity of the office and that the president also serves as our country’s moral standard bearer.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Van Bramer.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 606 West 57th Street.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal:Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Eataly.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Literally any other kind of coffee.

Justin Elghanayan

President, Rockrose Development

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Continuing to invest in New York City.

What was the worst? Too much time wasted following political developments coming out of Washington.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? With new construction pulling tenants out of the aging office stock, owners will need to put capital into their vacated properties and reposition them as well-located value plays.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? The retail environment is changing, and we will continue to adapt to the market, adjusting space sizes, uses and price per square foot. In emerging retail markets such as Long Island City, retail demand is very strong.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? I think it would be a great thing. New York City has everything Amazon is looking for—a booming tech sector, a young, highly educated workforce and a walkable, transit-oriented, eclectic city that everyone wants to work and live in. We can produce the commercial and residential space Amazon needs in a variety of locations.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace. Who’s investing? Yes, it’s still coming and continuing to drive up costs.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Superstorm Sandy was all the warning we needed to take the impacts of climate change seriously. Since then, we’ve retrofitted our properties to plan for more frequent extreme weather events, and long-term planning is always part of Rockrose’s investment strategy.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? No, it wasn’t too bad ultimately. Luckily, New York City has a lot of public transit options.

Is the open space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Collaborative space works in many industries, as long as it’s creatively combined with private areas and offices. This has allowed us to prebuild larger spaces than in the past.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I’d take another look at congestion pricing.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Let the Rent Guidelines Board more accurately evaluate owners’ operating expenses when determining annual rent increases so that maintenance and development of the City’s housing stock doesn’t suffer.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Yes, it will increase the cost of doing business.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? The uncertainty for a long period of time was a problem, but now that Affordable New York is in place, I think it’s a program we can work with, and it will continue to produce affordable and market-rate units to meet the growing demand.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: One 57.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Ziel Feldman

Chairman and Founder, HFZ Capital Group

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Partnering with Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, ranked as the top hotel brand in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2017. We are collaborating with them to open their first hotel in the United States, which will anchor our full-block site on the High Line and Hudson River designed by Bjarke Ingels.

What was the worst? Luckily, there was not one. 

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Yes. There is not enough new development taking place in Midtown, so people are seeking out areas like Midtown South, Meatpacking and Hudson Yards. We are developing an office building in NoMad, where a lot of creative and tech companies want to be. As residential developers, we’re seeing many trends that can be incorporated into office buildings. Communal experiences are vital, similar to those that can be found at hotels, so people can convene across multiple spaces like lobbies, stadium seating and food areas.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? Amazon would be great for New York City, because it would result not just in an increase in jobs but the city’s tax base as well. We are also assisting the city of Philadelphia with their proposal for Amazon, as we own almost eight acres near Temple University adjacent to a major Amtrak transportation hub. It is important for Amazon to be in close proximity to corridors of transportation between major cities.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Yes, and we are actually seeing the pace accelerating. Most of the foreign money we see coming to New York is from the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? No.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? No.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Create a homeless shelter siting commission. Property tax reform. Reinstate police authority to enforce quality-of-life violations.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is it going to change the cost of doing business in the city? It’s unrealistically restrictive and increases the cost of construction.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? All financial incentives to create affordable housing are great as the city continues to be in desperate need of it. However, the empowerment of the local City Council members to veto any development will continue to prevent many worthy projects from being built.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I would just tweet.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: One57.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Neither, I prefer Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Both!

Winston Fisher

Partner, Fisher Brothers

What was the best decision you made in the last year? The best decision I made was to run the World Marathon Challenge—seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. It was a life-changing experience for me personally and served as an important fundraising tool for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? It’s a good time to be a tenant leasing space given all of the new supply whether from new product or emerging neighborhoods. Conversely, New York City is experiencing economic growth in multiple sectors that is mitigating the effects of so much new supply.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Traditional retail is moving toward experiential, brick-and-click and locally based options, which can’t be replicated online. While it might seem that this trend has impacted the real estate market, I feel the true effects have yet to be felt.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? I think it’s a good idea for Amazon to open its next headquarters here. New York has incredible educational institutions, a diverse and dynamic workforce, great public transportation and it’s rich in culture. I believe there are multiple neighborhoods that would allow Amazon to have its own identity while also taking advantage of all the wonderful things New York has to offer.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? I’m someone who firmly believes in climate change, and sadly we are seeing the effects worldwide of global weirding of our weather. This is clearly going to impact real estate values in the long term, but I don’t believe that’s part of people’s investment calculus today.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It affected every business with employees in New York directly or indirectly. But it needed to be done, and it’s important that our leaders continue to focus on infrastructure. You can’t grow the economy without reliable transportation options.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Prebuilts: There is a significant amount of prebuilt supply, and it is being further impacted by work-sharing companies, such as WeWork and Convene. Tenants continue to shrink space and look for community workspace.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? New York City’s population is projected to rise from 8.5 million to 9 million by 2040. Companies continue to view New York as a vibrant source of intellectual capital, but one of the reasons they leave is the lack of affordable housing for workers. It is critical that we address this so New York City can remain economically viable in the 21st century.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

Mets or Yankees: Both.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Angry middle.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: As long as you make a good almond milk latte, I’m a buyer.

Scott Galin

Principal and Chief Executive Officer, Handler Real Estate Organization

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Focusing on capital improvements and repositionings of our core properties. The current market has been a challenge in regards to identifying acquisition opportunities that provide enough upside value to justify the pricing. We are well financed and ready to make additional acquisitions and investments on a case-by-case basis as the pricing delta narrows between buyers and sellers.

What was the worst? Believing the polls.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, Midtown has tremendous upside. The East Side rezoning will open up that entire corridor, and the West Side is nowhere close to being saturated.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Having been in the retail business for more than 35 years—both as a real estate owner and having built and run a national retail apparel company—I can safely say that the term “paradigm shift” has been overused. But this time it’s the real deal in regards to retail. Stronger brands and operating models that are more nimble and respond to changes in consumer buying patterns will survive and even thrive, while many will struggle, if not fail. There will always be a place for strong brick-and-mortar retailers, although going forward it may not look like what we’ve been used to seeing.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? This would be a huge win. The prize is good, the optics are even better. The overall tech resurgence, topped with Amazon, could open the doors to additional larger players coming to New York, wanting to be with the best of the best. As for location—any property we own a piece of!

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Yes, we’re still seeing considerable funds from around the world looking for a safe haven. Real estate is now seen as a steady asset class with more reliable returns. The desire to own quality real estate in New York is a constant. New York is still the gold standard for real estate investment in U.S.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Climate change is real and significant, but it hasn’t had material impact on any properties we own. We do have some interests in several properties in Miami, none of which were impacted by the storm.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? I commuted into New York City for 30 years, which often seemed like hell. But this year’s “summer of hell,” while disruptive, wasn’t nearly as problematic as we were told it would be. All things considered, many of my friends and employees said that it seemed far more manageable than they had feared.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Open-space model is good for certain tenants and will continue to have a place in the market.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? My heart belongs to my wife and children.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? It is critical for any city to provide reasonably priced quality housing for the working class. The financials can be a challenge to work out, but without this type of housing stock, we put too much pressure on the people we rely on to help this city function and thrive.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Watch more ESPN and less cable news.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Miami (I have a home there, so I may not be objective).

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither, but if forced to choose…Bernie.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Jamaican Blue.

MaryAnne Gilmartin

President and Chief Executive Officer, Forest City New York

What was the best decision you made in the last year? My best decision has yet to be revealed. Looking forward to the opportunities promised by 2018. Wait and see. The best is yet to come!

What was the worst? Not to buy at 550 Vanderbilt! Now, it’s so much more expensive! Victim of my own success...

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Not saturated but overrated. The future is in new 21st century buildings. We need to upgrade!

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Retailers who embrace the digital economy will innovate to find solutions and inventions in the built environment. While brick-and-mortar retail needs rethinking, hospitality is a growing consumer expectation in all aspects of daily living. This will offer savvy retailers the opportunity to disrupt the status quo and thrive.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? I think Amazon would rock it in Brooklyn. My concern is that many other great and emerging U.S. cities (think Denver and Detroit) will reach and bend to make the deal with Amazon. New York will have a tough time competing on cost and incentives.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Foreign capital flow may be less today than it has been in the recent past, but it is nonetheless alive and well. While China has trimmed its overseas investment policy, its money is green, and for the right opportunities, China will invest. We have seen that both Australia and Canada have upped their investments.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Climate change is real, and 2017’s natural disasters are proof of this sobering reality. My views on the need for sound and responsible policies have not changed, they have only intensified. As communities rebuild, lessons learned must be a consideration. As we modified FEMA standards and local building code after [Superstorm] Sandy, we must rebuild using smart and innovative means and methods. Climate change is not going away. I believe in cities. I support investment in gateway cities where diversity of people, ideas and products are in great abundance.

Francis Greenburger

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Time Equities

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To sell a couple of New York City assets that had appreciated greatly.

What was the worst? Not to sell a New York City asset for which I had a strong offer but slightly less than I wanted.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? The market has slowed down somewhat in part due to additional supply.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? The retail landscape has changed in New York. Tenants require lower economic rents and real estate taxes that can be realistically supported by their sales volume.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? Having Amazon would be a wonderful addition to New York City. Long Island City would be a possible location for them. 

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Although there are exceptions, Chinese investors are subject to government restraints in arranging to transfer funds out of China. This has caused a reduction in transactions by one of the most active group of New York City buyers.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Clearly, extreme weather patterns are here, and we all need to take a more defensive approach to where we invest and make our properties more storm resistant.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? I am sure this affected members of our staff, but I have not seen a broader effect on our business. 

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? The market still seems to like open space models. Prebuilts need to be more competitive from a cost point of view.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? To force building owners to fix exterior problems quickly and eliminate long-term scaffolding. 

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Create a master plan to close Rikers and bring cutting-edge borough-centric justice centers to New York City.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Safety is something we have to be able to offer. However, the training must be readily available and effective. 

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Pros: More affordable housing helps New Yorkers who cannot afford market-rate housing. Cons: Can we afford the subsidies required to make it affordable? Where is the balance? 

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I would try to assess whether he really believes in the policies he advocates or whether it is some complex political strategy that is hard to discern.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Not familiar with these.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Jeff Gural

Chairman, GFP Real Estate

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To finalize a structure that would enable the next generation to operate the real estate that we own and manage.

What was the worst? Expecting to make a lot of money on my casinos upstate and thinking that I would be receiving distributions instead of writing checks.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Typically, when you have a big project like Hudson Yards come to fruition, along with the World Trade Center project you will see a decline somewhere else. I think that is probably what we are going to see over the next few years in Midtown Manhattan.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? I think landlords like myself have got to adjust their rents and focus more on tenants that are not competing with Amazon and other online shopping networks.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? I would love for Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. We have the best and brightest people coming here every year to seek their fortune, and my guess is these are the types of people that Amazon would want.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? I really do not get involved with foreign money as it is just too complicated, and since we are long-term holders, having foreign investors usually does not work.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Clearly, climate change is real, and unfortunately under the current administration, it does not sound like they agree. My guess is we will continue to see major storms much more frequently than in the past, and that is not good for anyone. I certainly would be reluctant to invest in the coastal areas.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? I thought Amtrak did a good job in minimizing the impact in the repairs that had to be made at Penn Station.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I think the open-space model is becoming more and more popular, and I do not see that changing. Prebuilts will continue to be popular as tenants in many cases look for short-term leases as they expect to grow.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I think we need a solution to the homeless crises, and that should be the focus.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? I would hope that after the election the mayor would agree to review the system of real estate tax assessments, which is totally broken.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? I doubt if the construction safety bill is going to change the cost, and hopefully it will save lives. I worked in construction after college for many years, and I can honestly say that it is much safer now than it was back in the late 60s and early 70s.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Obviously with my granddaughter now employed in the city and looking for an apartment clearly the high cost of living here is a problem.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I would simply ask him to stop dividing our country and reverse course, to try to find common ground with the Democrats and to finally get something done in Washington.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: One57.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: White sandy beach in Maui.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Leslie Himmel

Co-Managing Partner, Himmel + Meringoff Properties

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Refinancing and locking in historically low interest rates. We built up our “war chest” of cash in order to pounce on great opportunities to continue to grow our portfolio.

What was the worst? Not taking enough vacation.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Hudson Yards is a whole “new city” and has pulled in many of Midtown East’s largest tenants. Because of this, Midtown East needs a dramatic revitalization, both as a neighborhood and at the individual property level. We’ve been very successful at turning around properties across the city, and based on our experience, Midtown East, with its superior transit access, has potential for a comeback.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? Retail is at an inflection point. Today’s strongest retailers in bricks and mortar are the ones that adapted to the rapid increase of online sales by rethinking the way they do business, adding layers of new experience for shoppers (“experiential retail”). Those that want to survive are following suit. Manhattan retail is going through a repricing and will rebound.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? I think it’s great that traditionally West Coast tech companies like Amazon and Google are expanding here. Their move revalidates New York City as a vibrant workplace environment with deeply talented professionals.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? We’re definitely seeing a slowing of foreign capital into New York, but the city remains an irreplaceable global business hub.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? We are surprised and disappointed in the deterioration of public transportation here.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? We’re seeing the open-space model replaced by a hybrid which features partially open space combined with private offices. Layouts are getting more creative with a greater portion of the overall office market dedicated to community spaces like kitchens and conference rooms. Lobbies, too, which are the first things tenants see, are a big focus. We’ve updated a lot of lobbies, particularly in our properties in Chelsea as well as at 729 Seventh Avenue.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? With zoning laws stuck in the days when New York City was a thriving manufacturing sector, I’d introduce legislation to help M-zoned districts become competitive by conversion to commercial or residential use or both.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Become more business friendly.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: White sandy beach in Maui.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

Marc Holliday

Chief Executive Officer, SL Green Realty Corp.

What was the best decision you made in the last year? We initiated a $1 billion stock buyback program. It took advantage of the big disconnect between our stock price, which has been volatile, and the underlying value of the assets we own, which is strong and stable. It is a risk but will ultimately be to the benefit of shareholders.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Not at all. Six consecutive years of record growth in private sector employment has driven demand for office space and kept vacancy rates under 10 percent across the district. Our buildings are running at about 96 percent occupied.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? I don’t think you can look at all types of retail the same way. Our High Street retail portfolio is in great shape, very well leased to good tenants at below-market rents. This year we also had leasing success in Times Square, but there are certain submarkets that have seen rental declines, like Soho and Fifth Avenue. Even in these areas there’s still good retail demand for space that’s priced right. Rents are just settling after a sustained period of huge increases.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? Yes, of course, Amazon should be in New York! No other place can match New York’s combination of talent, infrastructure and innovation. You don’t see opportunities like this every day to add 50,000 jobs and all of the economic activity that comes with it. It’s essential that the state, city and the development community work together to take advantage of opportunities like this to market the city as the most attractive location for companies like Amazon.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? The pace of investment has slowed a bit, but foreign money is still highly attracted to New York. The source of the demand is just cyclical—while Chinese investors were active in ‘15 and ‘16, now we see interest coming from Korea, Japan, Canada and elsewhere.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? Not so much! We’re heavily concentrated in East Midtown around Grand Central Terminal, which is really the premier transit hub in the city—and will only get better with our investments as part of the One Vanderbilt project. So we haven’t been that impacted by the ongoing issues at Penn [Station], but I sympathize with people who rely on it every day, and for the good of the city, we need to fix that problem and keep investing in our infrastructure.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? I’ve been a supporter of the mayor and a fan of the focus he brought to the East Midtown rezoning. In a second term, I’d love to see him address how real estate tax assessments can be reformulated to make them equitable among all the classes of buildings in New York City.

Jonathan Iger

Chief Executive Officer, William Kaufman Organization/Sage Realty Corporation

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Reinvesting in our portfolio: We couldn’t find anything to buy in the market that penciled out so we continued to reinvest our capital in our existing portfolio, which allowed us to continue to lead our respective markets. Coupled with our continued transition from a legacy real estate owner and service business to adopting workspace-as-a-service as our calling card has us well positioned to continue to attract and retain top-tier tenants.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No. The Midtown office market has plenty of runway as landlords continue to reinvest in their properties and companies continue to move to and grow within the city. Midtown is at the center of the global hub that is New York City. We have the infrastructure, the food, the entertainment, the hotels and the office product to continue to accommodate the city’s growth.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? The U.S. has the most retail square feet per capita, 23.5, while Canada is second with 16.4. We have long been oversaturated and coupled with the continued rapid growth of ecommerce, this is merely an economic regression toward the mean. As retail fights for our business, the experience they provide rather than the product they sell becomes the differentiator. I think it’s an exciting time for the consumer.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? There are always foreign capital inflows into New York City, and they are only heightened by global volatility. New York real estate is the safest.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Too many companies, and therefore landlords, adopted an open-space model without understanding how their employees work. The shift is not away from open space but toward true workspace utilization. How do we design an office that helps attract and retain talent by addressing the employees’ needs? Prebuilts were designed to allow companies to quickly move into space. As users become more cognizant of their space requirements, prebuilts become more difficult in addressing these needs. To address this trend, we have introduced a new prebuilt concept at 747 Third Avenue that provides the infrastructure to allow a company to move in and be fully operational within 24 hours.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Traffic congestion legislation. It is time to implement congestion pricing for Midtown. We have done a fantastic job making the city more walkable and ridable but have done nothing to mitigate the growing traffic issues.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: White sandy beach.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Literally any other kind.

Steve Kaufman

President, Kaufman Organization

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To keep working and not retire like many of my friends.

What was the worst? I’m sure there were some bad decisions; however, none come to mind at the moment.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, I think it is still a good balanced market.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? Retail is somewhat challenged. Online competitors continue to cut into sales overall. However, food service is part of the retail sector—delis, fast-casual restaurants, etc.—and has done very well. It seems to be carrying the market for us. 

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? As a New Yorker, I think it would be wonderful for New York. Our city can easily absorb the thousands of jobs that the company would bring, although there are smaller cities that could benefit more from the influx of jobs. They should place the headquarters wherever they can find 8 million square feet. Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx could be good spots.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? As a New York real estate person, Sandy changed our thinking on where to invest and how to build buildings in the New York area. The recent hurricanes in places like Texas and Puerto Rico just reinforce what we learned. We need to make sure our low-lying buildings are hurricane-proof. It has not altered my thinking on climate change. I still believe it is a reality that needs to be addressed.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? We have a number of employees who commute via the LIRR, and they found that the service actually improved. Overall, there was no significant impact on our business.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I’ve heard some tenants are not particularly happy with it. We still do put some private offices in our prebuilts. However, we are largely sticking with the open-space model.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I don’t have a particular piece of legislation in mind. The City Council implements a lot of regulations and fees that negatively impact the real estate industry. We manage to function despite this. It would be helpful, however, for them to take this into consideration.

What could Mayor de Blasio do to win your heart? Stop taking a city car to Brooklyn to exercise. 

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Overall, I believe affordable housing would be beneficial for New York.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Resign immediately!

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Both.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Starbucks.

David Kramer

President, Hudson Companies

What was the best decision you made in the last year? At a moment in time when ground-up construction financing for condos was hard to come by, we put together a great capital structure that included Starwood, the Related debt fund and the U.S. Immigration Fund for our library redevelopment project in Brooklyn Heights.

What was the worst? Thinking that it would be easy to navigate an inter-creditor agreement between Starwood, Related and USIF.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? We have a lot of neighborhood retail spaces, so we miss some of the ups and downs of the fancier retail realities. Of the 85 retail spaces we own and manage, we have stable rents and 87 percent occupancy.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? Global cities like New York are at such an advantage today. Let’s share the wealth; Amazon should go to a second-tier city where their arrival will be a real game changer. When I read headlines about an insurance company relocating from Hartford for New York, I feel much worse for Hartford than I feel good for New York City. 

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Our foreign investment has increased by infinity since we didn’t have any such deals before, and now we’ve had a few.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? If you weren’t already incredibly impacted by Superstorm Sandy in terms of thinking about resilience and building elevations, that would be Super weird. To be honest, we were pretty involved in embracing sustainability and resiliency long before Sandy, let alone Maria and Harvey.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? Not really. We’re more concerned about the L.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? The city elections should be held in even years with the state and feds so that there’s more participation, but I assume that would require state approval. I’d also focus on the unfair property tax system or congestion pricing, but those are also Albany issues. I guess if I had to focus purely on a city issue, I’d have an alternative to meet parking requirements in new buildings by building less parking and investing in local transportation infrastructure—bike lanes, etc.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? I’m already a big supporter—don’t be so negative, CO. I’d like to see fairer results at the Rent Guidelines Board, more in line with CPI and less feeling that the process has been politicized. 

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? The training will add an expense, but we all want a much safer industry.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Tough to think of any cons. It’s a tremendous commitment to affordable housing, and we’re proud to have contributed to the success of the plan.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Since I’m pretty sure he’s mentally ill and only wants to be president for 36 percent of the country, it’d probably be a waste of time. I guess I’d talk about the data on our warming planet and assault weapons. Maybe I’d bring charts that also had Trump’s name in a big font next to the data. Or I might just scream at the top of my lungs for 15 minutes. 

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: John Oliver.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: Brooklyn Heights Library Condo.

Mets or Yankees: Cyclones.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: One then the other.

Master of None or Broad City: There’s so much TV on, I don’t watch anything.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Old school.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Smorgasburg.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Yes.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: I’m a radical centrist.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: It’s a little embarrassing, but I still really love Starbucks.

Jeffrey Levine

Chairman, Douglaston Development

What was the best decision you made in the last year? I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico!

What was the worst? I renewed my New York Jets personal seat license.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? The abundance of vacant retail apparent in the middle and on the high end shows that in many cases landlords either need or want a rent level that exceeds what tenants are willing to pay. A combination of online shopping and consumer hesitance due to economic concerns has brought leasing to an impasse. Over the long term, it will be interesting to see how retailers change their strategies as a result of the impact of disruptive online retail platforms and a shift in the way consumers are spending their money.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? In as much as job creation is the key to growth, the entry of an Amazon headquarters in New York City would certainly be a wonderful occurrence. A company like Amazon spurs further economic development by attracting top talent (along with the likes of Facebook and Google, who have offices in New York City), which helps to create creative clusters of resources and niche innovation ecosystems.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? The dearth of major transactions in the multifamily, retail and commercial sectors in 2017 indicate that all money, including foreign, is not being invested at the same pace as recently as 18 months ago. It would appear that the political landscape is impacting Russian investments, and shifting government policies are curbing Chinese investments, leaving European and Middle Eastern money with an edge.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? The lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Superstorm Sandy in New York have already left a lasting impression in terms of where I invest and how I build. While waterfront living is desirable, it comes with the burden of dealing with the probability of continued flooding due to climate change. In as much as we have already experienced the impacts, we have altered our design models (both for existing buildings and new developments) to better withstand the repercussions of these events.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? While transit and commuter train delays were a nuisance, the recent addition of the West Side stops to the 7 train and the extension of the Q line were significant and much needed improvements. The additional services now being provided by the New York City ferry along the East River represent a long overdue utilization of a vital mode of transportation. I am also excited by the possibilities of the BQX as it will significantly decrease commuter times in these areas. On a personal level, the relocation of our Manhattan office to 7 Pennsylvania Plaza, adjacent to Penn Station, has significantly improved our company’s ability to move within the five boroughs.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? More and more companies, including my own, have adopted the open-space model. It is appealing from a functional and design perspective. The aggressive activity by many new companies in the shared-space concept could result in an oversupply in an economic downturn.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I would introduce legislation to control future municipal employee pension obligations to mitigate their negative impact on our city’s fiscal health.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? The current real estate taxation structure puts a great economic burden on many low- and moderate-income housing operating costs, which increase rents. It is also generous towards existing co-ops and condos. Our mayor should work with state government to correct this inequity.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? I am fully supportive of any measures that increase construction safety. It has always been my philosophy that I would never cut a corner or save a quarter at the expense of the safety of construction workers or the general public.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting, stop tweeting. Stop.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Pinstripes.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Maui.

Master of None or Broad City: Neither.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Jimmy Kimmel.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: I love my Nespresso.

David L. Levy

Principal, Adams & Co.

What was the best decision you made in the last year? So far, the best decision was to not listen to the buzz that office leasing is slowing down; in our buildings, that has not been the case. We continue to reinvest in our properties with new lobbies and amenities. We nurture and care for our buildings, and we have had, and continue to have, incredible results.

What was the worst? In any business, you can look back on a year and realize you could have or should have done a few things differently. In 2017 there were naturally situations like that, though not one that I could categorize as “the worst.”

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? While I cannot speak to all of Manhattan, I can say that the areas around great transportation are not and could never be oversaturated. As employers demand more time from their employees, being near the significant transportation hubs (Penn Station, Grand Central and Port Authority) has become critically important for many companies. Couple that with the boom in hotel development in the area, and we are far from oversaturated.

Where’s retail at the moment? The innovative will survive and food will drive the market.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? I don’t see how being chosen for Amazon’s new HQ2 could not be good for any city. Based on access to freight, access to the best labor pool in the world and access to the greatest city in the world, I would love to see Amazon settle in Sunset Park, [Brooklyn].

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? I think it’s important to ensure that all buildings are storm resistant and that proper emergency protocol is in place, regardless of geographic location.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It was much better than expected with no negative effect (and I take the LIRR every day).

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I don’t think the open-space model is going away, though the super high-density model is. Collaboration is not a fad, but treating employees like cattle is over. Getting great labor is the biggest challenge in running a business. Treating people like people is the way to recruit and retain them. This also relates to being near transportation.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Nothing comes to mind at the moment.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? The safety of our construction workers is extremely important. In order for the bill’s purpose to succeed, it is crucial that safety training is efficient and effective for all involved.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? Having affordable housing in New York, especially when real estate is so expensive, is incredibly important to the growth of our economy. We need to ensure that it’s affordable on both ends—for renters and for developers.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? That it’s time to grow up and be the president.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

Mets or Yankees: 100 percent Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: GCT.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Neither.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Both way too expensive for us.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Never have had a sip.

Anthony E. Malkin

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Empire State Realty Corp.

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Maintain focus on executing on our internal growth story.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Do not understand the question.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? The few credit tenants are focused on the best locations at rents they can afford. If you are in a fringe location or too big a store, no tenant [will take space] at any price.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? Amazon is in New York City and will grow, but it’s a bad idea to let one tenant dominate the market.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Better companies realize that just jamming people into benching is not open space. Open space means strategically orienting people who need to be in close proximity to each other and ensuring there are plenty of meeting rooms and quiet work spaces—not really less space per worker but better allocation of space per worker.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? We have got to do something about sidewalk vendors in congested areas. A handful of sidewalk vendors at key intersections screw up commuting and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of hard working New Yorkers. It’s ridiculous.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Limit sidewalk vendors to locations where they can fit.

Joseph Moinian

President and Chief Executive Officer, The Moinian Group

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Earlier this year we launched Moinian Capital Partners, a formal lending division that focuses on the hotel, office, retail, land and residential sectors. We continue to see the need and opportunity for strong, stable private lenders and are perfectly positioned to provide financing.

What was the worst? My decision to not drink coffee past noon.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? There’s been great momentum in office leasing over the past year, and I think new product on the market will result in vacancies remaining in the single digits for the next few years. I also anticipate a rent adjustment down the road—whether it’s higher or lower will depend on the state of the economy.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? There is no question that there’s less buzz around retail leasing, but I believe that as long as employment and tourism continue to remain strong, our retail will not be negatively impacted the way it has been throughout the rest of the country. We are anticipating a good retail year ahead and are in the process of making several updates to our properties to accommodate tenants.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? I think it’s a great idea, not only for Amazon but also for New York City. Having an added workforce of 50,000 talented employees would be an extraordinary event for the city. As for where it should go, there is no better infrastructure of new product that could fit Amazon aside from the Far West Side. If they chose that location, it would anchor the entire submarket for decades to come.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Yes—at the moment, I’d say Europeans have taken the lead, followed by the Chinese. We have, however, also seen a decent amount of investment from Canada, the Middle East and Israel. They all think of New York City as a safe haven for investment.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Being part of a family that is very environmentally minded, we have always tried and will continue to try to be responsible toward the environment. All of our projects that are underway or on the drawing board are being designed to weather potential natural disasters. We’re also working to comply with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to retrofit our older buildings in an effort to help fight global warming and create a cleaner and greener New York City.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? At all of our buildings, we offer two different styles of prebuilt: 1) Maximum number of offices that can fit in that particular square footage, or 2) an open-space concept.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? That every decision has to be made in a short, timely manner.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Work cooperatively with the real estate industry to devise additional plans to meet the ever-growing need for housing at all income levels within the city limits.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? The Affordable New York program will build upon the success of 421a. I’m a true believer that the real estate industry should help drive affordability. We’ve always been considerate of this issue, which is why we have the single tower with the greatest number of affordable units in New York City.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: I don’t watch TV that much.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: One 57 because it’s closer to my office.

Mets or Yankees: Knicks.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Maui.

Master of None or Broad CityI don’t watch TV that much.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: The new 7 train station on 34th Street.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. if I want to make money and Bjarke Ingels if I want to win a design contest.

Starbucks or Literally any other kind of coffee: Matthew’s coffee company. My son, Matthew, has had a lifelong passion for coffee and is launching a one-of-a-kind coffee company in the near future—it’s the best there is.

Laurent Morali

President, Kushner Companies

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Adding space to our home to better spend time entertaining our family and friends.

What was the worst? There was an amazing guitar that I saw at an antiques market, and I should have bought it!

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Hardly. There is some vacancy because the inventory is aging and there has been new competition (Hudson Yards, Midtown South, Dumbo).

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? People woke up at the beginning of 2017 realizing something had been unfolding for the last 10 years, specifically the rise of e-commerce and its consequences, one being the reduced relevance for brick-and-mortar street retail. Nowadays, retail is about high traffic (Fifth Avenue versus side streets in various neighborhoods) and entertainment and experiential destinations (e.g., Times Square attractions). When it comes to the existing stores, we’ll see more closures and out-of-business signs. We have to figure out new uses for these spaces. We are exploring a few ideas.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? It’s a great idea, which would be mutually beneficial to New York and Amazon. The New York metro area provides an amazing roster of human capital. They should go to our Watchtower building in Dumbo, [Brooklyn]!

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? New York City remains a very attractive option for all capital, both domestic and foreign. The countries that the money comes from vary over the years.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? We don’t own properties in Texas, Florida or Puerto Rico. It’s definitely something I would keep in mind before buying property in Florida or the Caribbean. The scale of what happened in Texas was a rare event, I hope.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? Not really.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I think it’s a constant evolution. Landlords need to stay on top of the shifting trends in office use.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Simplify the Housing Preservation and Development and Department of Buildings rules.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Take meaningful steps to make New York City the best place to live and work for everyone.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? Construction safety is of course very important for all of us. 

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? New York City was built and developed by immigrants. I think it’s important that New York City maintain its diversity, and as such, it should remain an attractive place to live for everyone, regardless of their means or origins. There are lots of ways to get there.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I’d ask him how New York real estate in the ‘80s compared to dealing with Congress.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 184 Kent.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris, May to June, and Maui, August to September.

Master of None or Broad CityI’m not much of a TV watcher. For me, the question is Fender or Gibson?

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Morris Adjmi!

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Literally any other kind of coffee.

Toby Moskovits

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Equity Partners

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Over the last year, I focused on completing my existing projects and didn’t make any new purchases. I consciously wanted to take a step back to see how the market evolves before looking at other development prospects. 

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? There is a lot of opportunity in retail right now, especially in Brooklyn. We are seeing a historic evolution in the sector and how consumers buy products. Brick-and-mortar retail is becoming more experiential. There are many brands capitalizing on this opportunity, such as GANT, which offers food, beer and other nontraditional retail amenities in its Williamsburg store. This new direction for retail has become a driving force and is putting pressure on the traditional stores.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? I think it’s a great idea for Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Of course Brooklyn has a special place in my heart, so I think 25 Kent [Avenue] and East Williamsburg would be the ideal location. Amazon would create an amazing ecosystem wherever they choose to be, which will ultimately allow other businesses and industries to grow. This could be a huge economic benefit to Brooklyn and the entire city. It would have a transformative effect.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Foreign money is slowing down because of the new rules with disclosures on LLCs. However, this is a great time to be a developer in New York City, as there is still money on the lending side of the business. There has been a massive growth in residential, commercial and hospitality investing.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? I was in contract on 25 Kent during Superstorm Sandy, which was a very interesting time for me as the property is right on the waterfront. The storm made me rethink the design and consider waterproofing components. It is important to be aware that hurricanes and other natural disasters will inevitably hit us and with more frequency. However, the world has gotten much more progressive in design, especially for buildings on waterfronts.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? The workspace of the future is about making sure there is a diversity of spaces to spend time in within a work environment. I think we are evolving from pure open space to mixed-use spaces that allow employees to engage with co-workers in a variety of ways. This includes communal areas, recreational areas and spaces within our offices which allow our employees to alternate the environment in which they work and foster creativity. Instead of employees escaping to the “third space,” bring it into our workspaces. We see the same thing in prebuilt offices, where companies are thinking shorter term and want the ability to move into turnkey spaces without the energy and effort needed as part of a buildout.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I would create economic incentives and zoning increases to support local businesses looking to develop new buildings and reinvest in existing ones. It would be great to give them the ability to create a foothold in their community and to watch them evolve from local owners to landlords. This would support the area’s economy and provide more sustainability to local businesses to grow, while providing space for new companies to move into the community as well.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? It’s good to see the new incentives coming in place. It will encourage the next wave of developers to make investments in low- and middle-income housing, which are critical to the long-term vitality of New York.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? I am the daughter of an immigrant. My father was born in a displaced-person camp after World War II. I would tell him to embrace immigration and give immigrants the tools they need with the same passion that made them come to our country in the first place.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Neither. I don’t watch much TV.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Robert A.M. Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Toby’s Estate Coffee in Williamsburg.

Jason Muss

Principal, Muss Development

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Holding the line on rents across the portfolio and not listening to many voices saying things were headed south. We have been rewarded with a flurry of leasing activity in our commercial and retail portfolio. We were also fortunate to sell out over 50 percent of our newest condo project, 1 Brooklyn Bay, upon opening in the spring and expect to sell out in the coming year.

What was the worst? Not defeasing a few property loans and refinancing earlier. (We expect to move forward with a number of financings in the coming months to take advantage of the rate environment we are in.)

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No. But there are waves of supply that ultimately need to be absorbed—historically that has happened in New York every time. 

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year…What happens now? We are coming off deals at several retail locations—and we firmly believe that if the asking price is realistic, there are tenants for pretty much any storefront in New York City but especially for well-situated locations of a size that don’t cause costs to be too high. Apparel is probably the most challenged category right now for retail, but traditional staples of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan neighborhood retail are adapting. (It should be noted that tenants still request long- term leases for space they are renting—which reflects their confidence that they will get a return on upfront costs and a belief that rents aren’t going down in five years.)

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? I don’t see how that can be a bad idea. New York City is a great place for such a company—we have everything they would need, especially the talent level we provide at every turn. Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown Manhattan or Midtown Manhattan would all be fine locations—providing access to transportation, culture, talent and first-class hotels. 

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? Not at the same pace as two years ago but still at a pace well in excess of what we have seen in past decades. (It’s also coming in as a source of equity for New York-based owners at a level that is unprecedented in the city’s history, so smart local operators on the ground are guiding the money.) New York remains an important destination for foreign capital—especially from Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? No—we are mainly local to New York anyway. No—we build to local codes and standards which are stricter than almost anywhere. And, no—we already adjusted after [Superstorm] Sandy.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It wasn’t so hellish. But if we don’t act fast, it really will be. The subway infrastructure needs to be strengthened as it is the lifeblood of the New York City economy.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I think what is being rethought is the notion of cramming as many people as possible into a space. The comfort and productivity of employees is more important than ever, which is rolling back the trend of higher density offices. This will affect open- space layouts. 

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? That any new tax or regulation on city businesses in the future would have to be approved by a 75 percent majority of the council. (And that the same review process mandated for zoning changes be enacted before potentially crippling new regulations on business are enacted.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park.

Mets or Yankees: Yanks.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Maui.

Master of None or Broad City: Neither.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: DeKalb.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Stern.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: All coffee is good.

Michael Phillips

President, Jamestown

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Embracing Instagram.

What was the worst? It’s been a good year.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Midtown needs to reinvent itself to be more than commodity office space.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? The service model is broken. Retailers need to reduce the friction at the point of sale and build affinity via digital channels in advance of people entering the store to ensure stronger long-term in-store sales.

Is the open space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? The pendulum always swings.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? More open, free-range dog space in Lower Manhattan and dogs allowed in all restaurants.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 220 Central Park West.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: Master of None.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Both. More is better.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Neither.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Think Coffee.

Dan Rashin

Co-Chief Executive Officer and President, Rockefeller Group

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Making the decision to start new industrial projects on spec in New Jersey and other parts of the U.S. The demand for industrial driven up by e-commerce growth, combined with equity and debt availability for that product-type, has rewarded virtually any developer that has made the same decision.

What was the worst? I think it’s too soon to tell.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? New construction in Midtown and Downtown has resulted generally in slow to no rent growth and increased concessions. That’s more a function of historic market behavior than anything else. In other words, yes, the pendulum has swung back from being a landlord’s market, but given consistently strong leasing velocity in Midtown in the long run, it will still prove the place to be.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? While Amazon needs to look at employee and real estate costs, its most important resource is talent. Amazon will go where there’s a highly educated workforce and world-class universities that can consistently turn out the talent Amazon needs. New York is overflowing with top-notch colleges and universities and has Cornell’s new tech-centric campus, in addition to an existing TAMI workforce. All of that combined with a desirable urban environment—culture, entertainment, parks and recreation—make New York an ideal landing spot.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? New York is always a desirable place for foreign investors who have many reasons to invest in the U.S. generally and in New York in particular. Our experience over the past year looking for equity has demonstrated that there is still plenty of foreign capital looking to get into New York. We also know firsthand because of our long-term partnership with Mitsubishi Estate that Japanese equity is still finding New York attractive. 

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? The hurricanes and the more recent wildfires in California have been tragic. From a business view, they serve as a good reminder that natural disasters can have a major impact on real estate. We all can get complacent until these kinds of events occur. Given our strategy and target markets, I wouldn’t say that our investment or building activities have changed, but the devastation underscores why it’s so important to take the very serious approach to risk analysis that we do.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? We’re right in the center of Midtown, but we do have employees coming from all five boroughs, Westchester, Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey. We certainly had individual instances of employees being affected, but on the whole, we seem to have been rather lucky.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? I think the open-space model will continue to gain traction especially as tenants come off 15 or more years in the same space, but I think it’s been pushed in some instances further than it should go. The model doesn’t work for everyone in every business. Productivity benefits from the collaboration that open space fosters, but the ability of individuals to focus and concentrate—i.e., to be productive—can be compromised if the model is pushed too far and creates distractions. New spaces will better address the need for quiet and privacy than the earliest open-space plans did. Prebuilts are not new; since I have been in the business, landlords have been using them to deal with challenged or encumbered space to attract smaller tenants who didn’t want to deal with designing and building their offices. They will never be a Class A landlord’s first choice. I think prebuilts are getting more attention now because the market is getting tougher, and high-profile companies like WeWork are competing for those types of users.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Johnny.

Mets or Yankees: Red Sox.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: The worse I look in a bathing suit, the more I’ve become a Left Bank person.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: I’m partial to Grand Central.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: We’d need at least 25 years to compare apples to apples. For now, Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Really?

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: I’ll check out our rent roll and get back to you.

Scott Rechler

Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, RXR Realty

What was the best decision you made in the last year? Staying disciplined. Since the beginning of 2016, RXR has underwritten over $40 billion in Manhattan office building investment transactions, yet we did not make any new investments until our most recent commitment to partner with SL Green to purchase an interest in One Worldwide Plaza. In a market such as this, selectivity is more important than volume.

What was the worst? Renewing my season tickets for the New York Giants! Besides that, the toughest daily decision I have to make is how best to travel around the city. It seems like every option is getting tougher and less reliable. Do I sit in traffic or wait on a crowded subway platform for a train that may not come? The future of our region requires us to address our transportation crisis after too many years of neglect.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, I do not believe the Midtown office market is “oversaturated.” After decades of no new supply (and, in fact, the loss of supply that still hasn’t been totally replaced since 9/11), we are in a market where office buildings average over 75 years old. Given this, I think newly constructed buildings or repurposed and modernized older buildings that are in highly accessible locations are, in fact, well placed to secure top-quality tenants. If anything, we need more development and redevelopment in Midtown and elsewhere to ensure that New York City remains competitive in the 21st century.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? It would be great for New York, and it would be great for Amazon. When Amazon put out its wish list for its new headquarters location, the company made clear that the qualities that it was seeking—talent, accessibility, sense of place, culture and diversity—are qualities that are embedded in the city’s DNA. Having Amazon choose New York City for its headquarters would be a huge validation of New York City’s emerging role in the global, technology economy and would provide Amazon with access to the best talent on the planet.

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? There is still a tremendous amount of foreign capital interested in investing in New York. The origin of that capital is fluid, though. We have seen a pullback from Chinese investors, but this has been offset by growing interest from investors from other parts of Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It certainly changed the commutes of many of our employees—as have too many other failures of our transit system. These failures are completely unacceptable and represent a grave threat to our region’s prosperity. With respect to the “summer of hell” specifically, as a company, we certainly prepared for the worst. Fortunately, the MTA prepared itself and riders for the impacts of the repair work, allowing our employees to adjust their commutes. Thanks to planning by the MTA, the summer didn’t turn out as bad as we had anticipated. We should look at this past summer more as a “summer of hope” in that it demonstrated that we can improve our transportation system and do it without reducing the region to gridlock, if we dedicate the necessary resources to doing so.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Our city’s transportation system is in a state of crisis. There are a number of steps that the city can and should be doing to address this crisis. For example, I would like to see legislation that expands traffic enforcement with punitive fines for behaviors that choke our roadways, including double parking, blocking the box, driving in bus lanes and abusing parking placards. The math is simple: If misbehavior blocks two of three lanes on a street, discouraging that misbehavior can triple the capacity of the street without paying for a single new mile of roadway.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? One of the greatest threats to our continued prosperity is the crisis in our transportation network. Of course, no single elected official can solve this crisis. Everyone in both the city and the state needs to step up. I would like the mayor to step back from opposing proposals like Move NY, claiming that they are regressive. They aren’t. These proposals would make how we fund our transportation system more equitable than it is today. Under these proposals, drivers in transit-rich areas, who tend to have higher incomes, would help pay for our infrastructure, the costs of which have been covered by all tax-payers (including those without a car). Meanwhile, tolls would be reduced for drivers in areas without transit options. The policy would relieve congestion and generate revenues that could be used to subsidize fares for disadvantaged New Yorkers and improve our roads, bridges and subways.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? I think its high-level goals are the right ones in that we have to make the city and region more affordable to people of all backgrounds and means. However, the challenge that we face when it comes to housing costs is that they are fundamentally driven by a supply-demand imbalance. In a situation like this (where 1.1 million New York City households are rent-burdened), we are not going to solve the problem—or even make a meaningful dent in it—just by creating 80,000 new affordable units. Only with more development will New York become more affordable. Conversely, it’s not possible to promote affordability if we aren’t making it possible to build more supply. We can create more supply if we build it across the region, rather than trying to fit more and more of it into a limited number of New York neighborhoods, which is another reason for us to invest in our transportation network.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? The country only succeeds if our president succeeds. But conversely, the president only succeeds if the country succeeds—and this means everyone, not just a fringe 20 percent or 30 percent of the country. I would urge the president to rethink his approach to governance, viewing himself not as the president of his base but the president of the whole country. There are big things that we could accomplish together and very little that we can accomplish if we are divided.

Keith Rubenstein

Founder and Managing Partner, Somerset Partners

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To move our company offices from Manhattan to the South Bronx, where we are making significant investments to support and strengthen the community. We are committed to the future of the South Bronx and look forward to creating more opportunities, jobs, open greenspace and quality housing in the area.

What was the worst? Renewing my Knicks season tickets subscription.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? No, I don’t believe that’s true at all. The reality is that many office tenants still want to be in Midtown, and there is a great deal of new space that will be coming online in emerging submarkets.

Where’s retail at the moment? It’s no secret that the retail sector has faced some huge challenges this year. The real question will be about what happens next. My feeling is that rents across the city will further adjust to a changing market, spaces will eventually get filled, and we’ll likely see rents go up further after that takes place.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or a bad one? Where should it go? Bringing Amazon’s headquarters to New York would be a big win for our city because it would provide another source of job creation and local economic growth. The South Bronx would actually be a perfect location for Amazon because, for the company, it would provide fast transit access to Midtown, relatively easy access to airports and a wide array of housing options for locally based employees. It also just makes sense to create more jobs, economic benefits and long-term growth in the South Bronx, which was of course so underserved for so many years but is now becoming stronger than ever as a result of new public and private investment.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? We have always seen climate change and natural disasters as crucial issues to account for in any project. As the effects of climate change only continue to grow, it is something that will continue to be on my mind in future deals and planning.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? While I believe transit issues are crucial and must continue to be discussed, we were not negatively impacted by anything transit-related this year. Personally, I feel that Gov. Cuomo and the MTA are showing a great deal of leadership, under difficult circumstances, by advancing comprehensive steps to improve our transit infrastructure across the city. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in that leadership and will continue to do so as things move forward.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? I’ll be the first to admit that legislation is not my field, so this is a very hard question to answer. But if I were in that role, I would try to find ways to create even more jobs and opportunities in places like the South Bronx, just as people like Borough President Diaz Jr. and other city and state elected officials have been focusing on in recent years.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Come check out our new affordable boxing gym in the South Bronx! It’s called SouthBox, and we have an incredible trainer named Eric Kelly.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? I think construction safety should always be a top priority, so I’m pleased that the mayor and the City Council have been working to address the issue. It will certainly be important to implement the new initiative in a way that benefits workers while balancing costs, so I’m looking forward to following that discussion as it continues in the months to come.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? The bottom line is that it’s an improvement for all stakeholders over the previous 421a and will, therefore, help to enable more positive growth across the city. I can’t see any downside to that, and I think it showed Gov. Cuomo’s ability to strike a smart, balanced deal to bring back a much-needed program.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Spend less time tweeting and more time listening.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Fallon.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Stern.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Neither.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Filtered Coffee in the Bronx!

Gregg Schenker

President and Co-Managing Partner, ABS Partners Real Estate

What was the best decision you made in the last year? To continue to work hard while faced with the standard challenges of day-to-day business activities, while simultaneously maintaining high professional and ethical standards.

What was the worst? By nature, the ABS team and I are conservative, which causes us to pass on what are sometimes meaningful opportunities, though outside of our tolerance for risk.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Yes. Substantial job growth will be necessary to absorb the new office space being added to the New York City inventory.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? Retail rental values are off as much as 50 percent in some industries, which makes retail a bright spot for opportunity. When there is material and significant change, the resulting dislocation can create opportunities; this was referred to as “creative destruction” in the writings of Joseph Schumpeter. Over time values will adjust and find an appropriate economic basis. Retail is not going away—just changing. 

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? There has been less foreign investment in New York City over the past 12 months. There are many reasons—restrictions on moving funds between certain countries, greater transparency with the ultimate beneficial owner, the value of currencies, alternative investments and the political climate are all factors.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Of course—and these hurricanes confirmed that as a society we must change the way we care for the planet and work to eliminate inefficiency, carbon, waste and pollution. The extensive use of plastic is a major problem. Moreover, as our population continues to grow on an exponential basis, this problem will become exacerbated; sensible solutions are urgently needed.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? It was difficult for team members to get to the office and the slowdown caused a modest loss of revenue, even though the politicians worked to resolve the issue promptly. The huge benefit of mass transit is demonstrated when these systems are tested and stressed in this way.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? Yes, though not entirely. Like many trends, this might have moved too far toward the high-density environment. Open space is more efficient within a reasonable range depending upon use—recent reports indicate private space is critical and communal space is helpful for the collaboration and sharing of information and ideas. 

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? Awareness and communication regarding the importance of voting. I’d also like to create more public parks, public amenities, public schools and put an emphasis on improving infrastructure and mass transit. 

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? He is doing a great job by taking all New Yorkers into consideration and serving our city well. Affordable housing is a wonderful initiative to help New York City to remain diverse and to provide housing for the teachers, firemen, police and the broader New York City workforce.

If you had 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say? Some of your ideas are very good and could ultimately benefit our nation. However as leader of the free world, you play an important part of history. Please work with your team because you are stronger with the great people surrounding you (Rex Tillerson, for example) and only after building consensus, implement ideas together as a team. You have done wonderful work exposing and proving that Washington is in many ways dysfunctional—now it is time to bring people together for practical solutions to the problems. Bernie Sanders was pushed aside by Hillary, but many of his ideas appeal to a broad range of Americans, such as the idea for a single-payer health care system, which should be debated thoroughly and embraced.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Jimmy Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Mets.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: Left Bank in Paris.

Master of None or Broad City: I am not familiar with either.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central Terminal.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Bjarke Ingels.

Bernie Sanders or Roy Moore: Bernie Sanders.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: Literally any other kind of coffee.

David Sturner

Principal and Chief Operating Officer, MHP Real Estate Services

What was the best decision you made in the last year? We never gave up on the Department of Investigation lease at 180 Maiden Lane even when the deal looked completely dead.

What was the worst? Renewing my New York Giants season tickets.

Is the Midtown office market oversaturated? Not even close. If we do not continue to add 3 to 5 percent of new, modern, state-of-the-art properties to the 500-plus million square feet of inventory, we will fall behind the competition of other major cities around the country and the world.

Where’s retail at the moment? It obviously went through a lot of agony earlier this year...What happens now? Agony brings opportunity for MHP in this sector, so be smart about purchases and be ready to take advantage of the lowering of pricing. All asset classes have been overheated at some point or another in the cycle. Retail must target different uses. Food and beverage, wellness, hospitality and entertainment will fill some of these voids.

A lot of developers desperately want Amazon to open its headquarters in New York. Why is this a good idea or bad one? Where should it go? Amazon is the future. It would bring more jobs in the tech world. Bright young engineers and entrepreneurs feed residential, entertainment, hospitality, etc. New York City’s future depends on it. Ten years ago nobody knew what Airbnb was or that self-driving cars would exist or that New York City would have biotech. The city continues to reinvent itself, and as manufacturing leaves the city, the tech world continues to fill those vacancies. 

Is foreign money still coming to New York at the same pace? Who’s investing? It’s not the speed or pace but the continued allure of the U.S. and New York City that keeps money coming in from all parts of the world, especially the ones that are in chaos. As long as our country continues to be the beacon of freedom and opportunity, foreign capital will continue to be pushed into this country and New York City. We see Middle Eastern, Korean, and even Japanese money coming back.

Has the recent spate of hurricanes changed your calculus in terms of where to invest? Has it made you reconsider how to build your buildings? Has it altered your opinion about climate change? Climate change is real no matter if you think the cause is manmade or just a cycle of this planet, so we must build with these conditions in mind. Where you build as it relates to climate change is not as important as how you build and its resiliency.

Did New York City public transit’s “summer of hell” impact your business? How? The city survived well through the work performed at Penn Station. The work was very important. Any negative impact to the commuter is a problem, but the temporary issues of this past summer will be forgotten and the new services will make commuting easier going forward. Our infrastructure is 150 years old and was built for a much smaller population. The work was a necessary evil.

Is the open-space model undergoing a rethink? What about prebuilt? We think open space is a modern thought that will be rethought again and move slightly back to traditional office in time. We like prebuilts in some buildings but usually for smaller spaces. It’s a good option when breaking up a floor from a larger tenant.

If you were on the City Council, what’s the one piece of legislation you’d introduce? More and better public transportation.

What could Mayor Bill de Blasio do to win your heart? Same answer as above.

What are your thoughts on the construction safety bill? Is this going to change the cost of doing business in the city? We need to protect our construction labor force. Most costs are justifiable as some of the less professional developers are skirting safety laws, and it is showing with the increased rate of accidents on job sites.

What are the pros and cons of Affordable New York? There are no cons in making New York City affordable and fair. Build the Bronx up to where Brooklyn and Queens have moved—it’s all good for the city.

If you had 15 minutes with President Trump, what would you say? Nothing. Not sure he would listen.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel: Kimmel.

740 Park Avenue or One 57: They are both beautiful buildings but I’m an old school guy, so 740 Park Avenue.

Mets or Yankees: Yankees.

Left Bank in Paris or white sandy beach in Maui: The beach.

Master of None or Broad City: Broad City.

Oculus or Grand Central Terminal: Oculus.

DeKalb Market or Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market.

Robert A.M. Stern or Bjarke Ingels: Both are great; it’s a win-win.

Starbucks or literally any other kind of coffee: My home Nespresso.