Industry  ·  Players

REBNY’s 2024 Fellows Program Comes With a Twist

The 22 participants will for the first time get to advise industry leaders on issues confronting New York City now.


Last year’s Fellows Leadership Program, the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual six-month educational initiative for mid-career leaders, began with an overnight retreat at the Edith Macy Center in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. There the 24 participants bonded over the everyday challenges of working with people with disparate personalities and concerns.

“A lot of times you assume that everyone else has it all figured out and that you’re the only one that’s struggling with certain things. What we learned very quickly was, we all have problems we’re dealing with,” said Daniel Cobar, the director of operating initiatives at multifamily giant AvalonBay Communities and a 2023 fellow. “We had people at different levels, but we all have things we struggle with as leaders.”

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REBNY describes the fellows program, offered in accordance with the civic leadership training organization Coro New York Leadership Center, as “a high-impact curriculum of leadership training, networking exposure and other events that help rising stars shape the future of the industry.”

Now in its fourth year, the program offers participants over 28 hours of leadership training, including advice from senior leaders in the industry, in an effort to strengthen the demographic diversity of commercial real estate’s leadership ranks.

While this year’s mentors have not yet been announced, 2023’s participants heard advice from Bill Rudin at Rudin Management, Tishman Speyer Senior Managing Director Michelle Adams, and Trinity Wall Street Managing Director Sujohn Sarkar, among others.

In addition to sessions on leadership and days focusing on specific issues such as diversity and land use as well as environmental/climate justice, the program in 2024 is introducing a strategy day in which the 22 fellows can share their thoughts on the future of New York real estate with senior real estate leaders.

“We’re giving the fellows an opportunity to speak directly to our members, who are some of the biggest realtors in New York City,” said Yvonne Riley-Tepie, REBNY’s senior vice president of social impact. “This will be a collaborative back and forth about current issues. We’re trying to spark more divergent thinking because everyone is coming from a different level of experience. Putting all that brain power together will be great for New York.”

Riley-Tepie also notes that the program prepares the fellows to tackle a broad and complex range of commercial real estate situations.

“The fellows come in with a certain level of maturity, and, by the time they leave, they’re so much more prepared for what would face them in their day-to-day work,” said Riley-Tepie. “They also develop a network of people that they can lean on.”

For their part, this year’s participants are primed for the opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of what it takes to forge ahead in today’s complex commercial real estate landscape.

Dara Bachner, a project management director at brokerage services firm CBRE (CBRE), sees the leadership knowledge she’ll gain as a 2024 fellow as an opportunity to impart the guidance she has received from her own mentors.

“I relocated to New York over 10 years ago, and I was very lucky to receive consistent guidance and mentorship,” said Bachner. “Now I want to pay that forward to the next generation of industry leaders. I want to take the education I receive from this program and cascade those skills down to help others develop their unique path forward.”

Bachner also views the training as an opportunity to broaden her knowledge of how to approach various leadership challenges.

“I’m very interested in the opportunity to examine my current leadership style and identify any gaps,” said Bachner. “I’d like to learn new techniques to help positively influence people and creatively solve problems, and I’m also looking forward to learning new perspectives and exchanging information with new connections.”

Sebastian Morris, a marketing and communications director at property management firm FirstService Residential and a 2024 fellow, looks forward to the high-level discussions about key issues facing the industry.

“I am very excited for the initial classroom day, which will focus on diversity and land use,” said Morris. “This is extremely relevant to the current state of New York City development, especially considering affordable housing outlooks, the expiration of 421a, and the challenges in commercial-to-residential development in areas not zoned for dense multifamily buildings. Legislative shifts are polarizing and happening in real time, so I expect highly engaging conversations.”

Celena Batista, a residential property manager at The Durst Organization and a 2024 fellow, sees the program as an incredible opportunity for professional advancement.

“I think it will make a huge impact in my career,” said Batista. “Making these connections with people outside of Durst is really important, because I get to learn about other people’s perspectives, including what they do outside of residential, because I’m heavily focused in residential management. Seeing how the commercial leasing world works is very important to me because it gives me more industry knowledge that I can apply to my role at Durst. It’s about how can I improve my residents’ lives and my staffs’ lives.”

While the participants say they look forward to the program’s effect on their career advancement, the ultimate goal is to improve how the commercial real estate industry serves the city, and how companies can best work with their clients.

“Ultimately, what I learn and what I’m able to share will allow our CBRE teams to provide clients with exceptional outcomes,” said Bachner. “That’s what is very important to me — driving those outcomes.”

Editor’s note: 2024 REBNY fellow Celena Batista was not available for a photo.