Harry Macklowe, Aby Rosen and Joe Sitt among 6,500+ developers, landlords who got PPP bucks

Firms that primarily develop or lease real estate were not included in the program — but many found a workaround

National /
Jul.July 10, 2020 07:00 AM
From left: G.H. Palmer's Geoffrey Palme, RFR Holdings' Aby Rosen, Macklowe Properties' Harry Macklowe, Thor Equities' Joseph Sitt and Ellicott Development's Carl Paladino (Getty, iStock)

From left: G.H. Palmer’s Geoffrey Palmer, RFR Holdings’ Aby Rosen, Macklowe Properties’ Harry Macklowe, Thor Equities’ Joseph Sitt and Ellicott Development’s Carl Paladino (Getty, iStock)

With the free market in free fall, real estate bigwigs turned to Uncle Sam.

Harry Macklowe, Aby Rosen and the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese developer Greenland were among the thousands of recipients of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The program, which provides forgivable loans so companies can keep employees on payroll, has been extended for a third time.

Developers and landlords were excluded from the program, but some used loopholes — such as applying through related business arms such as property management — to access the funds. All told, more than 6,500 landlords, developers, real estate investment firms and private equity investors in the U.S. received the loans, according to The Real Deal’s analysis of SBA data. (Some loan recipients have reported that the loan ranges from SBA’s database aren’t fully accurate. For the purposes of this article, it was noted whether any companies dispute the data.)

One of the bigger loans went to an entity tied to affordable housing developer Jonathan Rose, whose firm has completed about $2.5 billion in projects across the country. In a statement, Rose Companies Holdings said that of the original $6.2 million loan, it had “paid it down to $1.75 million which we calculated to be the Covid-related costs incurred from March through June.”

“Our affordable projects are a vital resource and have limited budgets, so the PPP is helping us remain fully staffed and provide safe housing for our residents,” the company said in a statement. The developer said it is using the financing to provide essential services, including hazard pay for 275 on-site employees, supplies, personal protective equipment and cleaning.

Chicago-based Pangea Equity Partners — whose parent company has been criticized for evictions and conditions at its more than 13,000 apartments — also received between $5 million to $10 million to retain 494 jobs.

Chestnut Holdings received between $2 million and $5 million, the data shows. But the New York City landlord, which made headlines for allegedly exposing children to lead poisoning across its 6,000 apartments, disputed the figure. A spokesperson said that the loan the firm received was between $500,000 and $1 million, which was to “maintain essential services.”

In Los Angeles, the property company of a billionaire Igor Olenicoff received between $5 million and $10 million. Olenicoff has been convicted of tax evasion and held liable for art forgery.

Firms with ties to President Donald Trump also benefited from the aid program.

Beverly Hills-based development firm G.H. Palmer, led by Geoffrey Palmer, one of President Donald Trump’s biggest donors, received between $350,000 to $1 million. Ellicott Development — a Buffalo development firm headed up by Carl Paladino, who once challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Republican line and served as the New York co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 — received between $2 million and $5 million.

Some of the most iconic names in New York real estate secured loans. Harry Macklowe’s Macklowe Properties, which developed one of the city’s priciest condo towers at 432 Park Avenue, received between $1 million and $2 million. His son Billy Macklowe’s eponymous firm secured a loan between $350,000 and $1 million.

Other big firms that received between $1 million and $2 million include: Aby Rosen’s RFR Holdings; Greenland USA, the developer behind Metropolis in Los Angeles and much of Pacific Park in Brooklyn; Edward J. Minskoff’s namesake firm; Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities; Vanbarton Group; Brooklyn developer Slate Property Group; and Elad Group, which is controlled by Israeli billionaire Isaac Tshuva and whose holdings include the iconic Plaza Hotel.

RFR, Greenland, Minskoff, Thor and Vanbarton did not respond to requests for comment. Slate and Elad declined to comment.

Several New York City co-ops also snagged PPP loans to keep heavily-staffed buildings up and running. One was the Majestic, an iconic property at 115 Central Park West, where a penthouse is currently on the market for $14.9 million, according to StreetEasy. The co-op got a loan between $350,000 and $1 million to retain 53 staffers. The Lombardy, a 176-unit hotel and co-op building at 111 East 56th Street built in 1926 by William Randolph Hearst, secured between $1 million and $2 million to keep 85 jobs.

Rochdale Village, a sprawling low-income housing co-op in Queens, got a $5 million to $10 million loan to keep 375 jobs. Built in 1963, it has 5,860 units spread out over 20 buildings. One limited liability company, with a Brooklyn address linked to nearly 3,000 rent-regulated apartments across the boroughs, received between $1 million and $2 million from the program.


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