Real estate players to press palms with de Blasio at tonight’s REBNY gala

Industry heavyweights like Spinola, Gilmartin and Speyer prepare for new mayor
By Adam Pincus | January 16, 2014 12:52PM

New York’s real estate elite will gather tonight for the 118th annual Real Estate Board of New York’s black-tie banquet. But the talk of the evening will undoubtedly be the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who was elected on a platform that many in the industry believe could be harmful to their businesses.

REBNY’s gala, which is being held at the New York Hilton Midtown, is expected to bring out about 2,200 real estate brokers, owners and other professionals with REBNY president Steven Spinola and Chairman Robert Speyer playing host.

De Blasio will undoubtedly be the buzz of the affair, but the event will, as usual, be crawling with industry heavyweights, such as MaryAnne Gilmartin, Laurence Gluck, Larry Silverstein, and Ziel Feldman, who all attended last year’s gala.

From a political perspective, tonight will be far different than 2013. For many it will be an opportunity to press palms with the new mayor (and maybe even get in a face-to-face conversation). On the whole, the industry has been wary of de Blasio and the policy shifts he is expected to make from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decade-plus reign at City Hall.

If given the chance to talk to de Blasio tonight, real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey said he’d want to know how the mayor’s vision would advance New York.

“Does he realize that messing with the free-market system that real estate has become, could result in New York City’s decline in jobs, tourism and pay?” said Bailey, a Bloomberg fan.

But in a more philosophical vein, he continued, “do we want to bring more manufacturing to New York City, or do we want to become an entirely service-oriented [city]?”

Eric Anton, managing partner at Brookfield Financial, said he would pose a broader question to de Blasio: “What three main factors contributed to the real estate greatness of [the city], and how we can enhance those factors in the future?”

And, Paul Massey, CEO of Massey Knakal Realty Services, said he wanted to ask de Blasio what the industry could do for him.

“What can the real estate industry do to help his agenda?” Massey said, who said he also wants to know what’s been de Blasio’s biggest surprise about day-to-day life as mayor.

The annual gathering is not just a confab for real estate’s elite and lesser-known players, it’s a major fundraiser. According to REBNY’s most recent tax filing, which cover 2011, the gala brought in about $1.5 million, or about 15 percent of the group’s annual revenue that year. The banquet that year had about 2,000 attendees. This year the organization, which is charging $1,000 per person, will likely collect more.

Other elected officials, such as U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, are also planning to attend. While former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was a regular at the event, her successor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has not yet confirmed, according to sources.

The gala comes as REBNY’s membership levels passed the 15,000 marker, surging from about 12,000 at the end of 2011.