President of development and partner at L+M Development Partners
In 2021, will you buy or sell any real estate? What kind?
Probably a bit of both. Mostly selling stuff that, due to capital structure, the timing is right, even if we still love the asset; buying, most likely, in the form of joint ventures with folks who may have some temporary challenges, but are looking for a solid partner to help bring a strong, multifamily vision to fruition.
How f@*$ed is retail?
We kind of prefer a less vulgar take on things. Let’s agree it’s time to rethink retail. Look at all the activity and happiness around outdoor dining and closed streets, and consider that New Yorkers and most city dwellers want to congregate and have “authentic” experiences, ideally with local shopkeepers.
So, if all of that retail space — rather than competing with Amazon — were contributing to a more vital street life, imagine how incredible that would be. Maybe the rents will not be the same but, over time, the city would be better for it.
How flexible are you with negotiating rents?
Holding out for pro forma rent feels like a dangerous game at the moment.
Has your “dead to me” list grown?
That list consists mostly of those who are unkind or dishonorable — and I’m not sure the pandemic has had much impact on its composition.
Are you in the market for financing?
Coming into 2020, we had probably seven to eight significant financings and a bunch of refinancings teed up. To many of our financial partners’ credit, and I hope, due in part, to the quality of our projects and sponsorship, we have managed to get most of those off the ground — which was definitely not inevitable.
Certainly, rates have helped, as has the fact that we were financing residential projects not coming online for two to three years. And, overall, the multifamily outlook at most banks remains strong. But we certainly took our requisite beatings along the way.
What would be the signs that things are NOT going to improve in 2021?
For starters, how about civil unrest triggered by the current president’s unwillingness to accept an unfavorable election outcome?
What do you think will NOT go back to normal?
In the beginning of the pandemic, I thought all the talk about how the world might change seemed silly. But, at this point, the conversations about how the rhythm of work/life balance could shift may prove very real, and the norm of 50 to 60 hours working in the actual office every week could meaningfully change.
On a different note, and at the risk of sounding a bit sanctimonious, I’d also love to think that a lot of men who have had a greater chance to spend time at home with their kids, and more fully appreciate the challenges of domestic responsibilities, might step it up to more equitably share those obligations. So, maybe the new “normal” could be less gender-imbalanced, which would be a positive legacy.
Who do you like for mayor in 2021?
Probably early for names, but I am partial to the more technocratic/executive model, and to someone who exudes a love for the city while fighting for both economic growth and issues of social justice. So, let’s see who checks those boxes and seems ready to lead an effective, pragmatic recovery.
What do you think the city and/or state should do to help both real estate and the city?
In the short-term, and notwithstanding the obvious financial challenges right now, there is not much substitute for the old-school objectives of keeping the city safe, clean and fair. Longer term, now is the time to be dreaming big about the future, and giving residents and businesses some optimism about the decades ahead.
So, whether it is a climate center on Governors Island, a new Moynihan Station, mixed-income housing at Sunnyside Yard or, perhaps, most importantly, a path to outstanding schooling for every young person regardless of any family’s economic position, the assurance that the city and the state are thinking big and long-term is essential.
How do you think the November election will affect real estate? How do you see a Trump win? How do you see a Biden win?
Given the magnitude of what is at stake, it feels unseemly to think about mundane, real estate impacts. But, if one cares about the restoration of honor, decency and competence in the presidency, and also wants New York City to have a shot of getting support from Washington, then it seems insane to want to see this president re-elected.
Where’s your apocalypse bunker?
A picnic blanket on Sheep’s Meadow.
Favorite at-home quarantine foods?
My daughters’ breads — challahs, sourdoughs, babkas.
Did you gain or lose weight during quarantine? Struggled not to gain.
Sourdough bread, banana bread, other? Yes. Constantly.
Which TV show have you binged? “Sopranos,” “Money Heist,” “Watchmen” … still waiting for “Better Call Saul” final season.
What restaurant did you go to when restaurants reopened? Pier 72 diner, Cafe Luxembourg, and outdoor dining at the Market Line at Essex Crossing.
Biden, Trump or Kanye?
He may not be perfect, but for this choice, the answer seems so painfully clear: Biden 2020.