REBNY honors late union president Hector Figueroa with humanitarian award

The union proved an ally on key issues over the years

TRD New York /
Sep.September 12, 2019 04:37 PM
From left: Related's Jay Kriegel, JRT Realty Group CEO Jodi Pulice, Hector Figueroa and Vornado's David Greenbaum (Credit: Kent Presents, Getty Images and Vornado)

From left: Related’s Jay Kriegel, JRT Realty Group CEO Jodi Pulice, Hector Figueroa and Vornado’s David Greenbaum (Credit: Kent Presents, Getty Images and Vornado)

Ahead of its annual banquet, the Real Estate Board of New York announced on Thursday that it will bestow its humanitarian award on the late president of 32BJ SEIU.

REBNY chose Hector Figueroa, who died unexpectedly in July, as the recipient of its Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award, the trade organization announced at its headquarters on Thursday. Figueroa, who led the country’s largest building services union for seven years, recently sided with the real estate industry on key issues including the new state rent law and the city’s deal to bring Amazon to Long Island City.v

“Hector was a visionary and understood the importance, the connectivity between progressive values but also economic values,” REBNY chairman Bill Rudin told The Real Deal. “You need to have people risk capital to create jobs, to build buildings to redevelop neighborhoods. He understood that and knew it would have a positive impact on his members.”

Rudin noted that Figueroa had been selected as the recipient before he passed away. 32BJ Secretary Treasurer Larry Engelstein said the union looks forward to continuing to work with the industry “to make sure New York remains a vital thriving community.”

REBNY announced other award winners including David Greenbaum, vice chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, who received the Harry B. Helmsely Distinguished New Yorker Award; Jodi Pulice, CEO of JRT Realty Group, the Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award; Jay Kriegel, senior advisor for Related Companies, the John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award; Henry Celestino, vice chairman of L&L Holding Company, the George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award; Kevin Wang, owner of KRW Realty, the Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award; and Robin Fisher, senior managing director of Newmark Knight Frank, the Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award.

“I actually fell off my chair,” Pulice said, describing her reaction to getting a call from REBNY President James Whelan about the award. She also commended Rudin for his efforts in increasing diversity in the industry. “We need more women, we need more minorities in our workforce.”

At the beginning of Thursday’s press conference, Rudin also acknowledged that public sentiment about the real estate industry has recently taken a negative turn in the city. Afterward, he said the industry’s “here, and we’re not going anywhere.”

“The city’s progressive values are not mutually exclusive with economic development. You need the economic engine to produce the tax revenue and the income tax revenue to provide for people who need a helping hand,” he said. Rudin noted that the group will continue the same message that it’s had for the last 50-plus years, “but we have to refine it and make it a little more clear that we care about the city. We care about affordable housing, we care about infrastructure, we care about climate change, we care about education.”

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