2021 Power 100

Commercial Real Estate’s Most Powerful Players

By May 14, 2021 1:40 PM
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The 100 most powerful people in commercial real estate in 2021.

For the past 14 months, we’ve all held our breath, waiting for a return to normal that kept getting deferred. And then … something happened.

Vaccines that were greeted with a great deal of skepticism were rolled out in a timely, efficient, highly successful manner. A modest promise of 100 million doses by the Biden administration’s 100th day was raised to 200 million. And, through this and a renewed emphasis on masking, the country went from an awful track record of managing the pandemic to the envy of the world.

With the vaccines especially, there’s been a stark reversal in the mood that had engulfed real estate (and beyond).

Week after week, big companies have been issuing return-to-work directives. Leases are being signed. Deals are being closed.

“When a pandemic ends, people return to cities and go totally nuts,” Savanna’s Nicholas Bienstock told Commercial Observer. “They celebrate, they go to restaurants, they go to bars, they travel, they go to sporting events, they go to the theater and museums; they party and they spend like there is no tomorrow! Remember that the last pandemic in 1918-1919 was followed by the Roaring ‘20s.”

Bienstock is not the only one saying this. “We’re very optimistic that New York City in particular will return to pre-pandemic levels sometime within the next 12 to 24 months,” said Mitchell Hochberg of Lightstone.

And now that the worst of the pandemic is seemingly behind us, it’s an opportune time to look at the real estate landscape, and see who navigated these treacherous waters deftly and positioned themselves best for the future.

Last year, we viewed those invested in storage, industrial, life sciences and multifamily as the players whose stock had risen; that holds true in 2021.

But there were other things that we weren’t quite expecting. Some of the biggest deals of the year were movie studios. Proptech investment wasn’t stifled by the pandemic, its importance rose. New York state legalized cannabis this year. Who are the players in this budding asset class? And will this be the thing that saves retail?

America is not the same country it was 14 months ago. The murder of George Floyd forced the country to grapple with wide gulfs in inequity. Is real estate doing anything about this? (The answer: Not nearly enough. But we tried to bring to light those who were.)

These were among the many considerations in drawing up our annual list of the most powerful women and men in real estate during a time when the country might be on the cusp of a great rebirth.—M.G.

By Tom Acitelli, Rebecca Baird-Remba, Adam Bonislawski, Mack Burke, Andrew Coen, Greg Cornfield, Cathy Cunningham, Julia Echikson, Sarika Gangar, Larry Getlen, Chava Gourarie, Max Gross, David M. Levitt,
Keith Loria, Nicholas Rizzi, Aaron Short, Patrick Sisson and Celia Young


Linda Foggie

Turner & Townsend


Joanna Frank

Center for Active Design


Letitia James

New York State

84 +1

Craig Deitelzweig

Marx Realty

85 +2

James Whelan

Real Estate Board of New York

86 +2

Leslie Himmel and Stephen Meringoff

Himmel + Meringoff Properties


Laurie Grasso

Hunton Andrews Kurth

90 -9

Ari Rastegar

Rastegar Property Company

94 -2

Carlo Scissura

New York Building Congress

96 -5

Jonathan Mechanic and Melanie Meyers

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson


David Grutman

Groot Hospitality


Kyle Bragg

Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ


Rich Maroko

New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council


Mike Witynski and Michael Calbert

Dollar Tree Stores; Dollar General