REBNY Gets Political at 2023 Gala

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The one speech that managed to get most of the Real Estate Board of New York’s gala guests to finally quiet down was when Mayor Eric Adams asked them to stand up for a housing deal.

Adams called on the landlords, brokers and other real estate executives in the room to call their Assembly members to back the reviving of the 421a property tax break, one of the sticking points that has helped delay New York State’s 2023 budget three weeks past its due date.

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“We need to get a housing deal in Albany this year. We need it,” Adams said during the gala on April 20. “If we don’t get 421a, then we cannot build affordable housing. We don’t build affordable housing, then you won’t have employees who are able to stay in this city and live here. … We need your voices.”

Adams made an impassioned appeal to raise the city’s residential floor area ratio cap to increase the density of new multifamily buildings and ease the conversion of office towers into housing, something REBNY itself has pushed for the state budget to include

While Adams scored a standing ovation, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to extend the 421a tax abatement was reportedly carved out of the state budget, along with all of her housing proposals. 

Other challenges to the industry, such as the slow pace of leasing and high availability characterizing the city’s office market, were clearly on the mind of attendees. After the drinks started flowing at The Glasshouse at 660 12th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, more than one attendee remarked in words not fit to print that the industry was struggling.

The gala itself, however, shifted to something like normalcy after plenty of changes during the pandemic. The sit-down dinner portion of the evening returned after it was ditched last year in favor of a more casual format and, in traditional REBNY fashion, plenty of guests remained standing when not chowing down on a two-course meal from Chef Daniel Boulud and the Gramercy Tavern’s Chef Michael Anthony

Gone, too, were a handful of measures instituted during the pandemic. Guests were not required to show proof of vaccination to attend, and few masks were spotted in the crowd. And at the cocktail hour following dessert, a handful of attendees could even be spotted dancing near the bar.

REBNY’s 127th gala gathered the usual suspects including Durst Organization Chairman Douglas Durst; Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of CBRE (CBRE)‘s New York Tri-State Region; Jay Neveloff, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel; Leslie Himmel, co-founder of Himmel + Meringoff PropertiesWilliam Rudin, CEO of Rudin Management; Bob Knakal, senior managing director at JLL (JLL); and New York Attorney General Letitia James. However, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who spoke at last year’s gala, declined to make an appearance. 

Those who spoke to the crowd this year struck an optimistic tone. Durst, at his final gala as REBNY’s chair, expressed his confidence that work from home would not become the new normal and that the city’s office market would not collapse. And New York City was back, said Adams.

At Newmark (NMRK)’s raucous after-party, David Falk, the president of the firm’s tri-state region, could be spotted playing an imagined basketball game with one of his colleagues (and winning). Though perhaps Newmark’s team had a few reasons to be more cheerful than most, given that the firm scored major investment sales brokers Adam Spies and Doug Harmon away from Cushman & Wakefield (CWK) in February. 

Among those honored at the gala were Newmark CEO Barry Gosin, who received the Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award; CBRE’s Tighe, who scored the Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award; C&W Vice Chairman John Santora, who won the Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award; Douglas Elliman’s Executive Managing Director Ely Pateras, who got the George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award; Avison Young’s Principal James Nelson, who snagged the Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award; Helmsley Spear Vice Chairman Frederick Marek, who received the Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award; and Dan Doctoroff, founder of Target ALS, who landed the John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award. 

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.