Editor’s note: A ringside seat to the bloodsport of real estate

National Issue /
May.May 03, 2022 04:00 PM

Stuart Elliott

Billionaires and autocrats monopolize everything these days.  

Whether it’s Elon Musk’s deal to purchase Twitter, Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine or Bezos or Zuckerberg or Trump or Xi, it’s the age of the strongman. 

Real estate looks downright democratic by comparison. 

It’s hard for one single person to dominate a skyline. The best a billionaire developer can do is compete against another billionaire developer to put up the tallest building or the biggest project. Billionaires don’t own entire cities (yet).

The battles these real estate titans wage against each other makes for thrilling bloodsport though, and that’s the subject of The Real Deal’s first full-length book, which I’m excited to say arrives May 24. 

“The New Kings of New York: Renegades, Moguls, Gamblers and the Remaking of the World’s Most Famous Skyline,” by our longtime contributor Adam Piore, looks at New York real estate since the turn of the century the highs and lows, the big players and big deals and the fortunes won and lost. 

Nobody has seen more ups and downs than developer Harry Macklowe and his ex-son-in-law Kent Swig or built bigger projects than Steve Ross. The Zeckendorf brothers, Gary Barnett and a host of others also play starring roles in the book. 

The period the book deals with—from 9/11 onward —coincides with the period when TRD was born. In many ways, it’s a distillation of all the stories we’ve written over the years. New York has transformed into the land of Billionaires’ Row and Hudson Yards — a luxury playground for the global 1 percent, with real estate functioning as a Swiss bank account for foreign oligarchs. But it’s a vision of a city that’s faced a progressive-led backlash in recent years and that’s still facing an existential reckoning because of Covid (who’s going to work in all those office towers now?). 

I’m also stoked for the book release because it’s a project I wanted to do for a long time, and because I edited the book with my colleague Hiten Samtani. Every journalist wants to be a book author, so this is the closest I’m getting (yet). Check out an excerpt from “The New Kings of New York: Renegades, Moguls, Gamblers and the Remaking of the World’s Most Famous Skyline” and then proceed to order it. 

Meanwhile, we’re finally back with live events in New York this month, holding our first Real Estate Showcase & Forum in three years with a who’s who of New York real estate. The developer who pioneered Billionaires’ Row (and a key character in our book), Extell’s Gary Barnett, will give the keynote chat. Join us at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea on May 19. It will be great to see many of you in person again. 

There’s a bunch more to dive into in this issue. 

Keith Larsen looks at the Westchester County judge whose courtroom has become a favorite venue for New York developers who have troubled projects. The story examines how, contrary to the way the judicial system should work, loopholes allow projects that have nothing to do with that county some as far away as Florida to land in front of Judge Robert Drain, who’s been seen as sympathetic to debtors.

In a fun story, we take a look at @TradedNY, which has become a go-to social media destination for dealmaking news (and ego boosts) for those in commercial real estate, even as its owners stay in the shadows.

In a Miami market that’s still on fire, we examine the craziest property flips as well as the inflated land prices that developers are paying today in order to build new projects. And we profile a Miami developer, Marc Roberts, who’s parlayed his ownership of the city’s hottest nightclub, E11even, into a neighboring condo complex targeting “people in their 20s, crypto buyers, celebrities and influencers.” It’s a very Miami thing to do.

Meanwhile, we sit down with Richard Weintraub, an L.A. developer behind some of the city’s highest-end projects.  

Enjoy the issue, read the book and come to the show!


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