Day in the Life of: David Kramer

The Hudson Companies CEO on his roster of 21 projects, humming show tunes
and competing in KenKen tournies
By Mark Maurer | October 01, 2015 07:00AM

David Kramer (Photo: Tobias Truvillion)

David Kramer, 50, runs the 35-person development firm known as the Hudson Companies. The organization is the most prolific developer in Brooklyn with over 2.7 million square feet in the works, according to a recent analysis by The Real Deal of city building permits filed since 2011. But the firm also has its development tentacles spread throughout the city with 21 active projects. Its roster includes the 36-story condo with a new public library at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza West; the Bronx’s 825-unit Bronxchester complex; and Roosevelt Island’s Cornell Tech campus, where it won a competitive bidding process with partner the Related Companies. The Union Square-based firm, which handles a mix of affordable and market-rate residential development, also controls a pension fund with a $200 million investment from the city.  And, Kramer is active outside of real estate. He’s a board member and graduate of the Coro Foundation, the nonprofit leadership organization, and former chairman of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Kramer lives with his wife, a young-adult novelist, and their three children in a Brooklyn Heights townhouse. He also makes time for bike tours, marathons and KenKen puzzles.

6:30 A.M.   I take my dog Gobi for a walk. I usually take him to Cadman Park and throw a tennis ball and he’ll maniacally chase it. After he’s gotten his workout, he’ll join me for mine, a five-mile walk/jog from Dumbo to Carroll Gardens. I know it’s been a good workout if I’m dragging Gobi.

8 A.M. At least half the week, I walk with my 10-year-old son Jack to Saint Ann’s School. I quiz him with math problems or word puzzles. I have a whole point system with my kids. Along the way, he’ll ask if he can have a hard question for a point. That might be, “What is nine times 18?” or “What are six states that begin with the letter M?”

8:30 A.M. Before heading into the office, I go see one of our projects. I like to talk to the on-site construction staff. If I’m on Roosevelt Island, I might check out the development of the retail stores — we have a master lease for 41 stores. We just got a [Temporary Certificate of Occupancy] for [the mega apartment complex] Riverwalk Point, which is our seventh building at Riverwalk with Related. And we just started construction on the residential tower at Cornell Tech. That’s going to be the biggest passive-house development in the world.

Riverwalk Point

Riverwalk Point

10:30 A.M. I get into the office. My day is a collection of meetings — with the construction, property management and leasing teams.

12:30 P.M. I have a pretty busy lunch calendar, whether it’s with other developers, lenders or brokers. Recently, I had lunch with Chris Schlank from Savanna and David Dishy from L+M. We’re all pals and went to the Collegiate School together on the Upper West Side.

1:30 P.M. I catch up with our director of affordable housing to talk through construction or financing issues. For 25 years, we’ve been doing ground-up, affordable construction. Now we’re doing preservation as well. We are closing soon on a series of buildings in Crown Heights in partnership with the nonprofit BEC New Communities.

2:30 P.M. I may jump on the L train to go to the Google building to meet with Cornell Tech associates. There are four general contractors working on that project. To make sure we all play well in the sandbox, there’s a lot of coordination. All these buildings have to be done for the campus to open in 2017. I also go to Related for meetings. We’ve done $920 million in projects together. One more and it’ll be a billion.

KenKen Puzzle

KenKen Puzzle

3:30 P.M. I always try to fit in a KenKen puzzle, whether I’m in the elevator or a subway or waiting on line. I have competed in KenKen and Sudoku tournaments — and placed in both. It takes me about eight minutes to complete the KenKen puzzle in the New York Times. That’s like my Zen moment.

4 P.M. I sit down with the construction division here. The most stressful part of this whole world is getting a TCO at the end of the project. The pressure’s on because people are waiting to move in. One paperwork glitch with the DOB can set you back a week if you’re not careful. When we do have a success — whether it’s getting a TCO or signing a term sheet for a lender — we have a bell-ringing ceremony. Whoever wants to celebrate an accomplishment will ring the bell and announce what happened, as if in a small town. The hard part about ground-up residential development is it’s a four-year journey, so there’s never one “a-ha” moment. We wanted some way to enjoy successes.

5 P.M. We talk about some insane issues at our property management meeting. It could involve a building employee that we are suspending, or I’ll receive some bad news about a boiler that needs a $200,000 fix.

20150706_purity-jonathan-franzen_537 P.M. I try to get home for dinner. My wife will usually not make the same meal for all five of us. My daughter Sadie, 16, is a vegetarian. Some nights, I attend a community board meeting, a gala or go out with my wife. We always fight about theater because I’m a big musical guy and she prefers drama. The last show we saw that the whole family liked is “Something Rotten.” I have a rule that we have to listen to the music first, so that when we see the show, the music is at least hummable.

9 P.M.   I’m a big football fan and I’m deep into the fandom world of fantasy football. I’ve been a diehard Giants fan since birth. I have basically given up on other TV because I can’t keep up with my family. I’m also a big reader. I’m halfway through “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen.

11:30 P.M. Bedtime is a good time to catch up with my wife, particularly about our kids. But we have to keep our voices down since they’re now staying up as late as we do.