Cushman retail services director wins broker’s challenge race to top of Empire State Building

By Yaffi Spodek | February 01, 2011 04:11PM

The steps of the tallest skyscraper in New York City got a workout this morning, as over 300 runners from 13 states and 25 countries raced up 86 floors to the top of the iconic building (see photos above).

Matthew Seigel, director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield, was the winner of the broker’s challenge at the Empire State Building Run-Up. The annual contest — now in its 34th year — features multiple races organized by the New York Road Runners and sponsored by the Mutiple Myeloma Research Foundation, or MMRF, and the Team for Kids charities.

Seigel, 31, who has been working at Cushman for close to five years, climbed the 1,576 steps “two at a time… in a kind of walking lunge,” he recounted, to finish in first place with a time of 15 minutes and 28 seconds. “It was tough, but I feel great,” he said afterwards.

Seigel ran together with fellow Cushman associates, Ian Lerner and Christian Stanton, who work as a team representing W&H Properties’ buildings at 350 West 57th Street and 112 West 34th Street. Their boss, Joanne Podell, Cushman’s executive director of retail services, sponsored the entry fee of $50 for each of them, and also pledged to donate additional money to MMRF in honor of their participation. “I was not expecting to win,” Seigel said. “We should have had higher stakes if we won,” he said, jokingly.

The second and third place winners of the broker race were Myles Fennon, an associate at Newmark Knight Frank and Casey Lewis, an associate at Studley. Robynne Hammer and Armanda Estrada, both brokers at Newmark, won first and second places, respectively, among the women competitors, while Amy Goldenberg, an agent with Bloom Real Estate, took third place.

Newmark had a total of 12 brokers running, the largest contingent of any firm represented there, according to organizers. Members of the Newmark team wore black T-shirts with the slogan “we run because we care” emblazoned on the back. There were participants from Grubb & Ellis, Jones Lang LaSalle and Savitt Partners.

Developer Elie Hirschfeld, CEO of Hirschfeld Properties — the company behind projects such as Hotel Pennsylvania, the Crowne Plaza and the Manhattan Mall — ran in the Team for Kids race, a charity that provides free or low-cost health and fitness programs to children with limited access to regular physical activity. He donated close to $1,000 to the cause, he said.

Hirschfeld, 61, an avid athlete who has participated in multiple races and triathlons in the past — though not in the Empire State Building — came in 14th place, clocking in at 18 minutes and 28 seconds.

“I’m very happy with that time,” he said. “As I was going, I was in enormous pain, but I was thinking how much I was enjoying this pain, and now I feel fantastic… If they let me in, I’m doing it again next year.”

This was somewhat of a dream-come-true for Hirschfeld, who had previously tried to qualify for this race six or seven times. “This particular race was romantically appealing to me, because it’s the most symbolic icon in New York City,” he said. “I have a particular affinity for New York City, and this building in particular.”

To help train for the somewhat unusual feat of climbing a multitude of steps, Donald Trump allowed him to run up the steps of the Trump World Plaza, a 72-story building at the United Nations, “and that was the perfect training,” Hirschfeld said.

Former Major League baseball legend Darryl Strawberry was slated to run, in the MMRF race, but was a no-show after “falling ill,” organizers said.

Other notable real estate industry participants included a team of seven managers from the Tishman Construction Corporation, who are currently working at the sites of World Trade Center 1 and 4, and competed in the invitational heat.

The team, led by captain Juan Estevez, met once a week, and typically climbed about 88 stories each per workout, a total of 19,000 stories between them.

“We all started training together and it’s really been an amazing experience,” Estevez said. “This race is a prelude to the race that we want to do at the World Trade Center site when it’s done, and will be the tallest building in New York City.”

“When our building [World Trade Center 1] is complete, we want to be the first ones to run up that,” said Jennifer Uczne, the only woman on the Tishman team. “That’s our goal.”