REBNY lays off staff, slashes salaries

Memo cites decline in membership dues, cancellation of fundraisers

New York /
Jun.June 12, 2020 06:15 PM
REBNY president James Whelan and 570 Lexington Avenue (Whelan by Evan Gutierrez, Google Maps)

REBNY president James Whelan and 570 Lexington Avenue, where the organization is based (Whelan by Evan Gutierrez, Google Maps)

Facing a dramatic decline in membership dues, the Real Estate Board of New York has laid off staff, cut executives’ salaries and reduced its expenses.

The trade group announced the cuts, including a 15 percent decrease in expenses, in a letter sent to members of its board of governors and obtained by The Real Deal.

Sources familiar with the situation said REBNY laid off more than 10 percent of its staff, cut senior staffers’ pay by 10 percent and slashed President James Whelan’s salary — which before his promotion last year, according to REBNY’s latest tax filings, was $587,651 — by one-third. His predecessor earned more than $800,000 annually.

“Payment of membership dues slowed to a trickle and we are not able to stage the customary wide array of revenue-generating events for our members,” the memo states, alluding to social distancing protocols.

Early on during the pandemic, REBNY predicted a $4 million revenue shortfall on its $15 million budget for the year, according to the memo.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted profound damage on New York City, its people and its economy. REBNY is not immune to or insulated from that impact,” the organization said in a statement. “To manage our budget issues, we have focused on decreasing expenses including salary cuts, staff reductions and other measures.”

The trade group collected $9.7 million dues in 2018, according to its 2018 tax filing. According to the disclosure, the group had roughly a dozen senior staff members with salaries ranging from just over $143,500 to more than $540,200, not including Whelan. John Banks, whom Whelan replaced in the middle of last year, pulled in about $815,000, while past president Steven Spinola — who REBNY said continued to advise the organization — reaped about $391,000.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a slew of real estate companies — including Douglas Elliman, the Corcoran Group, Compass, Avison Young and JLL — have announced layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.

Many REBNY member firms are major landlords and some have struggled to collect rents in recent months, especially from retail tenants.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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