Real estate eyes turn to Liu

Incoming comptroller’s plans to pursue conservative investments have some in industry worried
By Peter Kiefer | November 09, 2009 04:25PM

From the November issue: As John Liu measures the drapes for his new offices at 1 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan, there is quiet consternation within the real estate community that a key source of financing could be in jeopardy when Liu takes over as city comptroller in January. The two-term City Council member is all but assured of victory in the general election against his Republican opponent early this month. Following his win in the Democratic primary runoff last month, Liu suggested that he would impose a new investment philosophy for the $86 billion in city pension-fund assets he will oversee. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Liu said his philosophy would differ from that of the current comptroller, William Thompson, who increased investments in commercial and residential real estate during his tenure. As of June 30, the total amount invested in real estate and securities was about $7.1 billion, or 8 percent of the total sum invested. Liu outlined a conservative investment strategy that would rely more on “traditional instruments” rather than “the more aggressive esoteric financial instruments” — Bloomberg News put stocks and bonds in the “traditional” category and investments such as private equity, real estate and hedge funds in the “esoteric” category — “that in some ways,” Liu noted, “got us into a deep financial crisis.”