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Kramer Levin Taps Elise Wagner as Co-Chair of Land Use Practice 


Elise Wagner, who has been on the legal front lines of New York City’s zoning approvals for nearly two decades, has been elevated to co-chair of law firm Kramer Levin’s land use practice, Commercial Observer can first report.

Wagner, a partner at Kramer Levin since 2005, will lead the practice — which encompasses partners who have practiced together for more than 35 years —  alongside longtime co-char Paul D. Selver, the law firm announced Tuesday. She succeeds Gary Tarnoff, who held the co-chair position since 2019. 

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“To be able to be the co-chair of a department of people I really not only like but respect very highly as lawyers is a real honor,” Wagner told CO. “I am someone who actually enjoys managerial type work, which not everyone does, and I’m a very organized person who enjoys making sure things get done and focusing people on the decision at hand and what needs to be done.” 

Since joining Kramer Levin 18 years ago, Wagner has advised real estate owners, developers and nonprofit institutions to navigate land use issues. She has also coordinated the public approval processes for public-private development projects and provided consultation about cost-effective strategies for obtaining necessary approvals, such as the transfer of development rights.

Wagner’s Kramer Levin tenure has involved many high-profile commercial real estate projects. 

The veteran CRE attorney served as land use counsel for Plaxall in connection to the proposed rezoning of the company’s property surrounding the Anable Basin in Long Island City, Queens, to create a new live-work district along the waterfront. Wagner also secured necessary approvals for The Gotham Organization’s market-rate, senior and affordable housing development along with the headquarters for the Chinese-American Planning Council in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. 

Additionally, Wagner advised The Walt Disney Company on zoning and historic preservation issues during the sale of its West 66th Street campus and West End Avenue facilities to Silverstein Properties. She also simultaneously worked in an advisory role on Disney’s acquisition of 310 Hudson Street, which will be transformed into the company’s New York headquarters. 

“I think the experience of having worked on all sorts of projects throughout the city from very complicated projects and public-private projects down to some smaller projects that are important is critical, because what I really want to do in the future is showcase the depth and talent of the people in my department,” Wagner said. “For me, understanding how the zoning resolution works and how the regulatory process in New York City works is critical to clients and potential clients in understanding what we can accomplish for them.” 

Wagner has been an active member for many years with the New York Women Executives in Real Estate (WX) and in 2021 was honored as he organization’s Woman of the Year. On Jan.31, she will also receive a lifetime achievement award at City & State’s and AARP’s eighth annual 50 Over Fifty Awards. 

In addition to WX, Wagner works with a number of other real estate organizations, including serving on Urban Land Institute’s board of advisers. She is also on the board of directors for the New York Building Congress and board of advisers for the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy of New York University School of Law

While New York still faces many headwinds with CRE projects caused by changing behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the office sector, Wagner is confident the city will remain an active force going forward. 

“It has been very challenging for a while and it still is challenging, but my sense is that people are ready to move forward with larger development projects,” Wagner said. “I think the city is ready to buckle down and work with the private sector in helping to design projects that will create more affordable housing and create more jobs.” 

Andrew Coen can be reached at