The Real Deal New York

JSR Capital’s Jona Rechnitz: a mid-level investor with major league political connections

The real estate player is caught up in a federal investigation into Mayor de Blasio’s fundraising

April 12, 2016 07:00AM
By Ariel Stulberg and Kyna Doles

Bill de Blasio, the Apthorp at 2211 Broadway and Jona Rechnitz

Bill de Blasio, the Apthorp at 2211 Broadway and Jona Rechnitz

Before Jona Rechnitz got caught up in a federal campaign finance probe, he was just another mid-level wheeler-dealer in the New York real estate scrum.

The JSR Capital founder, formerly of Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments, owns just a handful of properties, with a focus on residential buildings with retail components, as well as individual condominium units, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.

Rechnitz, along with associate Jeremy Reichberg, is at the center of an investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political financing.

The pair allegedly provided gifts in exchange for favors to as many as 20 New York Police Department officers, including top department brass.

The JSR boss also donated generously to de Blasio’s election campaign, and to the Campaign for One New York, a political nonprofit supporting the mayor, largely funded by contributions from real estate players. Rechnitz reportedly donated $50,000 to the group. He and Reichberg were both members of de Blasio’s inaugural committee in 2013. He also gave $102,000 to New York’s Democratic Party to fund its campaign to take control of the state Senate.

Rechnitz and Reichberg, of Borough Park, also funneled contributions from Manhattan jewelers Paul “Effy” Raps and Yaron Turgeman, who were subsequently accused of defrauding millions of dollars from Africa Israel founder Lev Leviev, according to the New York Post.

Rechnitz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

On Sunday, de Blasio distanced himself from the businessmen. “It’s not a particularly close relationship,” the mayor said, according to Politico. “I met them first around the time of the [2013] general election. I hadn’t known them previously and really haven’t seen them in the last year or more.”

Rechnitz, raised in Los Angeles and educated at Yeshiva University in New York, founded JSR in 2010 following his stint at Africa Israel.

That year Manhattan-based firm bought the Mount Hope Medical Center at 1870 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, paying $1.35 million. JRS renovated the property, then sold it in 2015 for $1.55 million.

The company bought the 33-unit, 27,000-square-foot residential property at 216 East 3rd Street in the East Village the following year, paying $3.5 million.

In May 2013, the firm bought 238 Madison Avenue in Midtown, a 14-unit residential property with ground floor retail. JSR paid $12 million for the 11,000-square-foot property.

The company’s only other building purchase, according to public records, was Solomon Plaza, located at 5002-5024 13th Avenue in Borough Park. Rechnitz paid $25 million for the three-story, 45,000-square-foot office and retail property in April of last year.

Rechnitz has also been active in the market for unsold sponsor units, namely at the Apthrop, a landmarked building located at 2211 Broadway. Africa Israel bought the property, which largely composed of stabilized rental units at the time, in 2006. It converted the building to condos in 2008, in the face of opposition from tenants and financial problems tied to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn.

JSR purchased five units at the building over the past few years, at prices ranging from $1.9 million to $5 million per unit. He managed to flip one of the units, making $400,000 in profit after holding it for only three months.

The investor has a record of picking winners, whether by luck or skill. He won $50,000 gambling on the Super Bowl back in 2012. And, in 2014, he did it again, winning another $25,000 on the football title game.

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