The Real Deal New York

A page turner

February 01, 2013
By Stuart Elliott

Welcome to the February issue, our biggest of the year. Between the regular monthly edition you are holding in your hands and our annual Data Book, we’ve got nearly 230 pages of New York real estate to gorge yourself on.

This year’s Data Book, our eighth edition, pulls together the key market facts and statistics that real estate pros need to stay ahead of the game. It also covers the biggest transactions and the most active players throughout 2012 and provides a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in the market overall.

And, like the print issue beginning last month, it is now available on the iPad for the very first time.

Here are the CliffsNotes for the Data Book: The residential market is on solid footing in Manhattan, led by luxury sales, and the development sector is continuing a comeback. The commercial market, meanwhile, saw office leasing and sales down in 2012 and retail flat overall, though there were certainly bright spots along some rapidly rising corridors.

In the development portion of the Data Book, we examine nearly 100 condo projects in the pipeline in Manhattan as well as projects that have hit the market in the last several years. It’s the most comprehensive published list of condo developments out there. And with inventory tightening considerably, knowing which new developments are hitting the market is key for brokers looking to find homes for their clients.

Of course, the biggest standout project on the market right now is developer Gary Barnett’s One57 on West 57th Street, which is the tallest residential tower in the city, and which looks likely to set a new price record for a New York City apartment when a unit in contract for more than $90 million closes.

The fact that Barnett is planning to build another tower just down the block that would be even taller is testament to his seemingly boundless ambition, which we examine in a profile in Barnett’s big buildout. The story, by reporter Adam Pincus, also looks at how Barnett is currently constructing more projects and square footage in the immediate pipeline than any other developer — beating out public companies, real estate dynasties and other firms that have been around many decades longer than he has.

Does the former diamond-trader-turned-developer possess a vision that he is able to carry out thanks to a steel will, or is it about a reckless disregard for risk? Maybe it’s both.

“His risk tolerance is off the charts,” one executive at a rival development firm told us, pointing out that Barnett began building One57 with no construction loan in place, which insiders say is almost unheard of.

In addition to looking inside the world of Barnett, we also take a look behind the curtain at some of New York City’s top residential brokerages, examining their ownership structure, in Who really owns NYC’s real estate firms?.

Most residential firms in the city are not part of public companies, and while it’s easy enough to discern their ostensible leaders, from CEOs to senior vice presidents, who actually owns the company is another matter. It’s something that may not even be apparent to a company’s employees (and for those readers, knowing who you are making money for should make for a particularly interesting read). What reporter Kathy Clarke found runs the gamut — from a firm like Warburg Realty, where senior brokers have an ownership stake, to franchise models like Rutenberg Realty, where investors unconnected to the day-to-day running of the brokerage control a large portion themselves.

We also take an in-depth look this month at one brokerage in particular, Citi Habitats, in Changes for Citi. The behemoth firm, which has long been the top company for rentals in the city, has seen a contraction of late, with fewer employees and offices, the departure of some key personnel and the absorption of its new development division by sister company the Corcoran Group.

Finally, we take a look at the real estate companies that will see initial public offerings this year. Last year was a banner year for IPOs, and it remains to be seen how 2013 will shake out. The most interesting (and one of the most contentious for some time) is an IPO that would take the Empire State Building public. Check out the story: IPOs on the horizon, and enjoy the (big) issue.

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