What you missed at TRD’s new development showcase & forum

Real estate in the age of Trump, Lorber-Liebman cage match & more highlights
By Hiten Samtani | May 16, 2017 04:30PM

Clockwise from top left: Forum attendees; Howard Lorber and Pam Liebman; Ben Shaoul, Don Peebles, Toby Moskovits, John Catsimatidis, Eliot Spitzer and Hiten Samtani; and Stuart Elliott, Dolly Lenz, Ryan Serhant, Leonard Steinberg, Brenda Powers and Richard Steinberg (Credit: Kerry Barger for The Real Deal)

A former governor, a gaggle of billionaires and the chiefs of New York’s top residential brokerages walk into a room … Not the beginning of a cheesy joke, but rather the scene at The Real Deal’s 10th annual New York new development showcase and forum, which brought together over 4,000 real estate professionals for a lively discussion on selling, financing, dealmaking and real estate in the age of Trump.

Kicking things off was a first-ever one-on-one between Howard Lorber of Douglas Elliman and Pam Liebman of the Corcoran Group. The brokerage leaders, who together control the lion’s share of the city’s new development market offered their thinking on everything from Compass — out of business soon, Lorber said – to their opposing strategies on everything from marketing to selling out projects. The barbs came thick and fast.

“I admire Howard’s ability to write a check quickly,” Liebman said, referring to what many in the market say is Lorber’s tactic of helping Elliman win projects by co-investing in them.

Lorber had his own zingers. “I like competing with you Pam,” he said. “It’s not that difficult.”

Best seat in the house. ( : @mrkorangy) #TRDForum

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Next up was the developer’s panel, featuring Eliot Spitzer, John Catsimatidis, Toby Moskovits, Don Peebles and Ben Shaoul. It didn’t take long for that to heat up, what with a Republican billionaire (Catsimatidis) and a Democratic near-billionaire (Peebles) sharing the stage.  Spitzer trashed the Trump administration’s announced tax plan, described it as “a press release.”

“The numbers don’t add up, it is bad policy, it will never happen and that is why his Republican Congress isn’t even paying attention,” Spitzer said. The developers also discussed financing projects despite banks being more reticent, the tempestuous governor-mayor relationship, and Brooklyn’s ongoing residential and office market transformation.

Peebles took aim at Bill de Blasio’s qualifications for running City Hall, implying that he was in way over his head.

When de Blasio was Public Advocate, he “ran a budget of about $1.2M a year and 12 employees,” Peebles said. “The average Duane Reade store in Manhattan grosses $7 million a year and has about 60 employees. So, a Duane Reade store manager was about six times more qualified” than de Blasio to run the city, Peebles said, earning raucous applause.

“The public in its infinite wisdom, this dumb person included,” Peebles added, pointing to himself, “supported him to run a $82.5 billion government, and we’re surprised he didn’t do a good job.”

The crowd mingled throughout the day at over 40 exhibitor booths. Wrapping up the day was a discussion with some of the city’s top luxury brokers, who were candid about some of the strategies they took to move units.

“Anyone that tells you they’re not making concessions, I think, is not being fully transparent,” said Douglas Elliman’s Richard Steinberg, who’s part of the marketing team for 432 Park Avenue. The brokers touched upon the hottest-button issue in the market right now, the use of StreetEasy’s Premier Agent program. Compass’ Leonard Steinberg said the brokerage community burned itself by declining to share listings before StreetEasy became the go-to platform.

“Realtor.com and StreetEasy are entitled to make a living, right?” Dolly Lenz said. “Why are we the only ones who are entitled to?”