It’s that time of year again, when so many of us face dicey gift-giving situations with friends, clients and colleagues. Are we definitely exchanging? How much are we spending? Is a bottle of wine appropriate? Does a gift card seem too impersonal? Ugh. Go for the fail-safe option by gifting them an insightful book that’ll be a pleasure to read while providing some invaluable knowledge on the world of real estate.
Below, The Real Deal lists our favorite books about buying, selling and building in New York and beyond.
This primer on New York real estate stretches back to a pre-skyline time, starting with the Astors, the Rockefellers, and others whose names you don’t know but whose properties you’ve definitely seen and probably coveted. Author Tom Shactman describes the way these dynasties built themselves up (and sometimes took themselves down) in a historical narrative that’s informative for anyone in the industry. We’re still reporting on news in many of the buildings first dreamt up by these families.
For another take on the Rockefeller family, check out “Great Fortune,” which covers the history of Rockefeller Center. Okrent’s story highlights of some of the lesser known Rockefellers, including John Jr., and the architects and designers who created the building that, despite its modern reputation, was panned by contemporary critics.
“Other People’s Money: Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made” by Charles Bagli
Bagli writes here about the biggest deal of the last boom and the biggest blowup of the subsequent bust: the $5.4 billion deal to buy Stuyvesant Town. The complex, then owned by Blackrock and Tishman Speyer, is now owned by national heavyweight Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge and it continues to make news as the landlords deal with New York State’s new rent law.
“High Rise: How 1,000 Men and Women Worked Around the Clock for Five Years and Lost $200 Million Building a Skyscraper” by Jerry Adler
Despite the wordy subtitle, “High Rise” gives a straightforward look at how a development in the city takes shape. Its main subject is Ian Bruce Eichner, the founder of Continuum, whose career has continued to cycle up and down wildly since the publication of this book in the ‘90s. In 2016, he again lost control of a development, this time in East Harlem. But last we heard, his Madison Square Park Tower was open for business.
Apparently, real society died in 1908. At least that’s what Steve Gaines states in the first pages of “The Sky’s the Limit.” Nevertheless, luxury residences have continued to serve as a symbol of entry into high society. Gaines captures this process in his book and gives an insidery survey of the luxury resi market and the biggest players there.
Mitchell Pacelle documents the many battles for ownership of the Empire State Building over the years — from the du Ponts to the Malkins to Trump and Leona “the Queen of Mean” Helmsley in between. International players have long been interested in the uniquely symbolic building, even when it was overrun with rodents.
Buying one skyscraper makes news. Buying seven, like Harry Macklowe did at the height of the market in 2007, makes headlines for weeks. Failing to refinance and subsequently losing all of those buildings is enough drama to write a book. Thus, “Liar’s Ball.” Vicky Ward did hundreds of interviews with real estate insiders to get this overview of Macklowe’s meteoric rise and catastrophic fall. It’s a good look at how billion-dollar deals unfold and how they can fail.