The Real Deal New York

“The Runner” producer ramps up NYC multifamily investing

Benji Kohn’s Brooklyn Standard Properties buys sixth building in borough
By Mark Maurer | Twitter_logo_blue copy August 17, 2015 02:20PM

Benji Kohn, producer of the new Nicolas Cage drama “The Runner” and Werner Herzog’s “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done,” is trading Tinseltown for brick and mortar.

Kohn co-founded the Chinatown-based investment firm Brooklyn Standard Properties in late 2013, and has picked up six Brooklyn rental buildings to date. The firm’s most recent deal – a $5.2 million purchase of a four-story Williamsburg building at 116 Bedford Avenue – marks its first conversion.

Investor Joseph Swiatek owned the vacant building, which previously held eight one-bedroom apartments, for about 15 years. Plans call for a change to mixed use, allowing for a 1,300-square-foot addition to the ground floor to make room for a medical space or yoga studio. The residential component would be upgraded and downsized to include six apartments.

The firm’s purchases have been scattered throughout Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint and Prospect Heights.

Increasingly, Kohn is phasing out of the film business, estimating he now spends 80 to 90 percent of his week on real estate. He’s stepping into more of an advisory role at production company Paper Street Films.

“The Runner,” written and directed by Paper Street Films business partner Austin Stark, dramatizes events surrounding the 2010 BP oil spill.

Kohn, who runs Brooklyn Standard Properties with David Manheimer, said he’s found it much easier to raise $5 million for a real estate project than for a film project. The transition was smooth, given his background in raising money, he said.

“You have a lot more control in the real estate business,” Kohn told The Real Deal. “You’re subject to market pricing and dealing with the city about violations and clearing up the mess of the sellers.”

But, in the film industry, producers are “at the mercy of so many variables,” such as commercial reception and distribution efforts, he said.

“Our movies have done very well, but it’s been a slow, more difficult process,” Kohn added.

Brooklyn Standard Properties is aiming to acquire increasingly larger rental properties, he said.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Brendan Maddigan represented the seller of the Bedford Avenue building.