Belinda Schwartz heads up the 50-member real estate practice at the prestigious law firm Herrick, Feinstein. She started at Herrick 17 years ago as a partner and was named chair of the department in January 2014. The promotion made her one of the few women in the country heading up a commercial real estate law practice. She was first exposed to the world of real estate and development when she was a summer intern at real estate firm Philips International during the summer between graduating college and starting law school at New York University. Among Schwartz’ notable deals was the $68 million sale of the top 30 floors of the Woolworth Building. She also represented the HK Organization and Brickman Group in their purchase of the Chocolate Factory Lofts in Brooklyn for $68 million in August, one of a series of deals Schwartz handled last year that totaled more than $1 billion.
Photo with husband
Schwartz with her husband of 36 years in the 1990s. Victor, a psychiatrist, is the medical director of the Jed Foundation, an organization working to prevent suicide among college students. The two married when Schwartz was a student at Barnard College. They have two sons, ages 24 and 28.
Upper West Side
Schwartz has never lived anywhere other than the Upper West Side. She is currently at 91st Street and West End, blocks from her childhood apartment. “I’m a granola, crunchy, Birkenstock-wearing Upper West Sider,” she said. On the weekends, she added, “all I want to do is walk on Broadway.”
Woolworth Building Spire
Herrick, Feinstein represented the owners of the Woolworth Building, a joint venture between Cammeby’s International and the Witkoff Group, in the sale of the top 30 floors of the Lower Manhattan landmark in 2012. Schwartz has a piece of the spire, which was removed when the buyer, Alchemy Properties, started its renovation to turn the office space into condos. She keeps it on the windowsill. It is much lighter than it looks, since it’s made of tin and is hollow on the inside.
“I rarely lose my temper,” Schwartz said. But on one of the rare days that she did, about 10 years ago, a former colleague gave this gag gift to her. Schwartz insists it doesn’t get much use.
Partner’s bathroom key
In 1991, Schwartz became partner at her former law firm, Wien & Malkin. While not the first female partner at the firm, she was the only one at that time. This key to the “Executive W.C.” was also a gag gift and doesn’t have any teeth. Fellow attorney Howard Peskoe gave it to her.
Chinese Opera Doll
The newest item in Schwartz’s office, which she received a few minutes before TRD interviewed her, is a doll from China, a present from a “prominent investment group” that’s looking for development deals in the city. Schwartz regularly deals with foreign investors looking to buy and develop buildings in New York. “I think it’s amazing,” she said. “I did not have any Chinese clients two or three years ago.”
Empire State Building Clock
The clock was a present when Schwartz made partner at Wien & Malkin, where she worked on leasing and financing deals for the Empire State Building. The law firm is led by Peter Malkin, whose family owns a large stake in the iconic tower. The clock reminds her that “there’s no better place than New York” to be a real estate lawyer.
Photo at the 9/11 Museum
A group of Herrick lawyers were given a private tour of the facility, well before it opened. “It was unbelievable,” Schwartz said. “So poignant.” Schwartz also recalled the morning of Sept. 11, 2001: She was representing the buyer of a massive multi-state garden apartment complex portfolio. The papers were signed and lying on desks at Thacher Proffitt & Wood, which was located in the World Trade Center. The displaced lawyers camped out in Herrick’s offices for months following the attacks.
Israeli Charity Box
Schwartz, an observant Jew, attends services most Saturday mornings and hosts weekly Shabbat dinners. She doesn’t use her phone until after sundown on Saturday. When she turns it back on, it “freaks out” because of the all the new messages. On her desk, she has a charity box, a traditional vessel in which she deposits small change for donations. It was a gift from a client she met with in Israel.