Founder and Chairman at Douglaston Development
Last year's rank: 74
Jeffrey Levine is going back to where he started.
The founder and chairman of Douglaston Development, spent part of his childhood in the Linden Houses, a housing project in East New York. Now, his firm is the designated developer, selected by NYCHA, to rehabilitate the 1,586-unit complex.
“I probably am the only developer who has been designated for the renovation of a NYCHA housing project that actually has lived in the project in my youth,” Levine said, with a chuckle.
The rehabilitation is part of a $1.5 billion program, under which selected developers sign a 99-year lease for NYCHA properties, then renovate them and manage them.
In addition to the East New York project, Douglaston partnered with New York Botanical Gardens on another 450-unit affordable project on property owned by NYBG.
On the other end of the housing spectrum, Douglaston is moving forward with its residential skyscrapers right near Hudson Yards. The foundation of the 58-story tower at 601 West 29th Street was completed earlier this year, and the building has started to rise, Levine said.
Because Douglaston’s portfolio is primarily multifamily, both affordable and market rate, they have been less affected by the pandemic than retail and office landlords, Levine said. However, as the extra unemployment funds from the stimulus package dry up, and eviction moratoriums expire, it will be challenging for tenants to keep paying rent.
That’s why Douglaston, along with other developers and industry groups, created Project Parachute, a nonprofit that offers tenants legal and financial assistance, and has raised around $5 million so far.
“New York City, in my lifetime here, has been confronted with great difficulties in the past,” Levine said. “And, you know, we have always pulled together our efforts and overcome them.”—C.G.