The Real Deal New York

At the desk of: Benjamin Joseph

The Related exec on his Blackberry graveyard, the firm’s NYC mega projects and his third round of Harry Potter
By Kathryn Brenzel | October 01, 2018 10:00AM

Benjamin Joseph (Photo by Emily Assiran)

When most real estate players think about Related Companies, it’s founder Stephen Ross or CEO Jeff Blau who comes to mind.

But under them are a cadre of other high-powered executives shepherding through the developer’s monster projects. Benjamin Joseph, 44, is one of them.

Joseph, an executive vice president, oversees the development of all the firm’s New York City residential projects.

In his nearly two decades at Related, Joseph has worked on the construction of the Time Warner Center, Superior Ink, One Hudson Yards, the Abington House, 70 Vestry and a slew of others. Next on tap is the residential portion of Hudson Yards, which includes 35 and 15 Hudson Yards.

The lifelong New Yorker joined Related — which owns 18.7 million square feet citywide, according to a recent analysis by The Real Deal — in 2000 after working briefly at a boutique real estate consulting firm. But he came to real estate in a roundabout way. He graduated from Harvard University in 1996 with a degree in biology and then worked in medical research labs, including one at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. But when it came time to go to medical school, he reversed course. Joseph’s office is on the 19th floor of Related’s headquarters at the Time Warner Center. He also lives in a Related building with his wife, Robyn, and their three sons.   

Iridescent sculpture

A purple, green, blue or pink sculpture sits near the window in his office. The color is subject to change depending on where the viewer is standing and how the light is hitting the iridescent acrylic coating. It’s a mini version of a sculpture that appears in the lobby of 70 Vestry, where last year a unit went into contract for $65 million and where NFL quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen also bought a unit.

Fighting Abe Lincoln puppet

Joseph received this puppet in the early 2000s when he was working on the construction of the Time Warner Center. It’s not clear if it’s officially meant to look like Abraham Lincoln, but the designation has stuck. The puppet — which can do a one-two-punch — also sports an anti-change order pin. “It’s meant to be a good luck charm for fighting change orders,” said Joseph, who bemoaned the cost and time the orders add to projects. “It certainly hasn’t been lucky on that front,” he said. “In the eternal struggle against change orders, I’ve definitely lost more battles than I’ve won.”

Son’s letter

Joseph’s son Danny, now 8, wrote this letter as a school assignment when he was 6. The letter details his favorite activities with his dad, which include wrestling, watching sports and reading the Harry Potter series. At the time, they were on the third book. Now they’re on the fifth. “I’ve read all 4,000-some-odd pages of the Harry Potter series three times out loud to my kids. So I definitely do voices to keep things interesting,” he said. “It’s pretty good, actually.”

Texas-shaped limestone 

Last year, Joseph and a Related team went to Texas to meet with the company that fabricated the Beaumanière limestone for 70 Vestry’s façade. The stone was sourced from a farm just outside Paris but then shipped to the firm, about an hour from Austin. The company used a computer numerical control, or CNC, machine to cut small pieces of the stone into the shape of Texas for the New Yorkers to take home.

Blackberry graveyard   

Though now an iPhone user, Joseph keeps his three clunky old BlackBerrys, which bear closer resemblance to calculators than to phones. The devices remind him of a simpler time, when everyone wasn’t plugged in 24/7. “They sort of represent the evolution of our enslavement to our devices, and the inevitable takeover of the world by machines,” he said. “It reminds me of a time when there was actual vacation.”

Hudson Yards drill bit 

These two foundation drill bits — each of them weighing about 25 pounds — come from One Hudson Yards and the Abington House, which are connected by an underground tunnel that allows tenants to access shared amenities. Joseph said he “archived” the bits from the sites when they were under construction for “historical purposes.” But they also serve as very impressive paperweights.