Robert Levine

Robert Levine

February 11, 2009 11:39AM

Levine is president and CEO of RAL Companies & Affiliates, a developer of luxury apartment, condominium and resort communities in New York, Colorado, Texas and Maryland. The firm, founded in 1982, also offers architecture, interior design, construction, landscape architecture, staffing, leasing and management services through its affiliate companies. RAL has developed 36 projects, including One Brooklyn Bridge Park, Tower 270, Loft 25 and the New Yorker Condominium. Levine’s older son Ian, 32, is the COO and CFO of the company, and younger son Spencer, 27, is a project manager. The firm has close to 80 employees, 20 of whom work out of a Colorado field office.

What is your full name?
Robert Allan Levine.

What is your date of birth?
February 15, 1951.

Where did you grow up?
In Flatbush — Kings Highway and 29th Street.

Where do you live now?
In Tribeca, in a building we converted at 270 Broadway.

Do all of your children live in buildings you own?
Spencer moved into [One Brooklyn Bridge Park]. He lived in another one of ours before. Amanda [age 24] lives in one of our projects in Chelsea, Loft 25. Ian lived in one of our projects in Tribeca, Tower 270, but he
moved because he now has a family and decided he needed more outdoor space.

Do you pay to live in your buildings?
Yes. Just like anyone else. They were purchased, and we all paid the offering plan price.

Do you have any other homes?
In Madison, Conn., in a waterfront community up in New Haven County.

Anywhere else?
Telluride, Colo. That’s the reason I ended up [developing] projects there.

How long have you been married?
36 years.

On a personal level, in what ways is each kid like you?
My older son Ian is family-minded and I think he has an intuitive sense to deal with issues and management. Spencer, on the other hand, is a
landscape architect. He’s part of the design group of our business. He
is very much like me. People have said he’s the other side of my brain.
Amanda [an in-house events coordinator at the Metropolitan Pavilion] is
probably the most gregarious of the three. The commonality between us
is independence, her ability to be self-motivated and her sense of humor. She’s very clever, very sharp.

So you think you’re very sharp?
Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told I’m very sharp.

What do you and your wife do on the weekends?
Ronny and I tend to spend our weekends up in Connecticut. In the winters, we go out to Telluride, but in the past year or so, we’ve taken advantage of being in Manhattan. We’re big museum people. I collect photography. I’m an avid photographer, as well.

What kind of photography do you like?
Old. Berenice Abbott, she photographed during the Depression period a lot of Lower Manhattan. There’s another photographer [Hiroshi] Sugimoto. He did very interesting things.

Who in the real estate industry do you most respect?
I would say Larry Silverstein — just because of his tenacity and his ability to stay focused and pursue things. I’ve always respected him
and his general demeanor and knowledge of what’s going on.

When you started your firm, what were your aspirations?
My education was architecture design and planning, and I was into
large-scale architecture. Strangely enough, I didn’t want to do homes.

So why did you go into residential development?
The real thing that became enticing was the conversions — taking buildings and finding the highest and best use for them. That became our niche.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in the course of your career? My biggest mistake is trusting and believing that people are going to treat me the same way that I treat them.

Do you think you’ll retire soon?
No. I thought about it years ago, after the last downturn, in the early 1990s, and I thought about doing some other things, [but] it was pretty apparent that my sons wanted to be involved in this business going

Is that why you didn’t retire?
Yeah, and also my interest. I’m really driven by this. I really have a passion for it.

Do you have any vices? Gambling? Drinking?
Not gambling. I don’t drink. It goes back to college.

Drinking didn’t work out for you?
It didn’t. Is it a vice to have interesting cars, clothing, things of that nature?

How many cars do you have?
I have five or six.

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