The Real Deal New York

Taking a Zen approach to building

Horizen Global developers apply lessons learned on the dojo mat

December 31, 2007
By Kathy Schienle

Sometimes developers are unavailable because they’re out of the country. But rarely are they off doing advanced martial arts training.

But that was the recently the case with Eran Conforty, co-founder of Horizen Global LLC, who with his partner Michael Yanko runs the boutique real estate development company responsible for such New York City residential properties as Soma and Hudson Blue, as well as the Horizen Tower Hotel and the VU Hotel.

Conforty, the president, was training in Japan. He is a black belt with a sixth degree ranking thanks to many years of training and teaching. And Horizen isn’t a spelling error; it’s a mission statement.

Said Yanko, the CEO, of his business partner: “This is a complete lifestyle with him. The way he operates on the dojo mat is how he does business – that means always finding the best way before a situation becomes a problem; avoiding conflict; being respectful, disciplined, non-confrontational, strong and responsible – legally, socially and all ways.”

Yet they don’t hesitate to call themselves opportunistic: “We’re young, aggressive and still creating wealth,” said Yanko. “We’re not an insurance company – we deal with hundreds and thousands of percentages. We haven’t taken a wrong turn yet, but I’m sure we will. And then we’ll deal with it.”

So far, their business has included Soma – an 11-story, 10-unit Chelsea luxury condo loft building with a bamboo grove in the lobby – completed and at full occupancy. The group just broke ground for Horizen Tower, a 100,000-square-foot, boutique hotel on 23rd Street in the Chelsea-Flatiron district; just opened the sales office for Hudson Blue (a sliver building at 423 West Street where Leonardo DiCaprio is reportedly buying an apartment), and is preparing for the opening of the VU (one of the first Midtown hotels being built far to the west of Times Square) in April of this year.

They are also involved in the creation of Punta Patilla in the Dominican Republic, a $500 million, 275-acre coastal resort focusing on luxury and being in harmony with the landscape. “We will build schools there, teach English, provide 5,000 jobs just in the resort,” claims Yanko. “We will teach them how to create a sustainable, green resort for years to come,” he said.

Balance is at the very top of the team’s priorities. Yanko has two sons, ages 12 and nine, and is a dedicated youth athletics coach, along with his own yoga and running regimens. If there’s a game in the evening, he leaves work at 5 p.m., even if it means leaving a meeting – even a closing – in someone else’s hands.

“To have a complete life, I have to have a healthy, happy me, wife and children,” he says. “I want to be happy and whole at the end of the day.”

Both Yanko and Conforty are natives of Israel. Yanko came here to attend Baruch College and while in school started working in 1989 as a broker of Manhattan rentals. Conforty – whose family is a major development force in El Salvador – arrived in New York City just five years ago when the family expanded its operations here. The two met through a mutual friend and launched Horizen Global shortly after meeting, claiming “instant recognition” of kindred spirits in their approach to business and lifestyle.

“We find the local strengths and create synergies – we use and leverage what’s there,” said Yanko. “We don’t dislodge people – we try to hire for the hotel, people in the neighborhood. We form alliances with businesses in the neighborhood, rather than bringing in someone from the outside to get a better deal.”

Yanko said that “even sub-contractors benefit from our environment,” pointing, as one example, to Conforty’s visits to building sites to hand out copies of the book “212?: The Extra Degree” by S.L. Parker. The book’s thesis is that at 211? water is hot, but at 212? it boils, so it pays to go the extra degree. Copies of the book go to workers – “painters, mirror polishers, everybody” on the work site, says Yanko.

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