It’s not news in this industry that the tiny Jersey Shore hamlet of Deal is a magnet for Syrian Jewish real estate moguls. But just how much of Deal they actually own might surprise you.
The so-called “SY” community, as Brooklyn-based Syrian Jews are sometimes called, has a near-lock on high-end property in the town. That’s especially true along the oceanfront, where a handful of powerful real estate families have set up side-by-side family compounds.
But these are not your average neighbors. In New York City they own billions of dollars worth of real estate and are investors in major deals from Times Square to Soho to Downtown Brooklyn.
This month, as many of these moguls spend the dog days of summer in their second (or third) homes at the Shore, The Real Deal took on the decidedly less-relaxing task of paging through hundreds of public documents to find out just how many properties this powerful group owns in this otherwise low-key, 1.2-square-mile Monmouth County town. What we found was property rolls that read like a who’s who of this sector of the real estate world: Sutton, Sitt, Adjmi, Cayre, Nakash and many others.
In a town with a year-round population of roughly 735 people, 290 properties — nearly a third of the 952 total in the town — were recorded under these familiar names. Many prominent SYs own multiple properties, some families hold more than a dozen. It’s unclear, however, whether those are occupied by siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives, or held as investment properties, but Deal properties available for summer rentals seem to be a rarity on popular Jersey Shore listing sites.
TRD also had some fun with the data program Excel and Google Earth to find out what the deal is in Deal. The results, which are plotted on the accompanying map, show what appear to be a number of sprawling family retreats. Rather than the high, manicured hedges that separate estates in the Hamptons, some of these compounds have what look like communal amenities, from baseball diamonds to tennis courts to swimming pools.
So why Deal — other than its very apropos name?
One source said three key factors prompted Sephardic Jewish families from Brooklyn — many of Syrian origin and working in the garment and retail industries — to buy in Deal in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were: low taxes, a synagogue and the Deal Casino, which was actually not a casino, but a beach club restricted to Deal residents. (The Deal Casino still exists, but is no longer limited to town residents, though membership is still required.)
Not surprisingly, the notoriously private community didn’t want to discuss their summer homes. But piecing together property records offers some fun snapshots of some of the most prominent property SY owners there.
Retail magnate Jeff Sutton, whose net worth Forbes pegged at $3.2 billion, owns one of Deal’s largest estates, in addition to the more than 100 New York City properties that city records show his company Wharton Properties holds. Sutton purchased 91 Ocean Avenue in 2012 for $22.6 million, along with the adjacent plot at 93 Ocean Avenue. The 9,196-square-foot house sits on 7.4 acres, and has 350 feet of beachfront. Sutton plans to demolish the building and construct a larger home set farther back from the beach. Property records show that Sutton, who started his career finding retail space for the discount shoe store Payless, also owns a sprawling compound on Roosevelt Avenue, along with a penthouse apartment in nearby Long Branch. In total, owners with the last name Sutton own 22 Deal properties. At his waterfront estate, Sutton counts fellow real estate moguls Joseph Sitt and Steve Chera as neighbors.
Joe Sitt — CEO of Thor Equities, co-owner of Town Residential and founder of the Ashley Stewart clothing store — owns 71 Ocean Avenue, just up the beach from Sutton. The three-story beachfront house has a pool, a tennis court and a basketball court. Sitt bought the 3.4-acre property for $5 million in 2000, but it’s appreciated in value nicely since. It was recently assessed at $11.4 million. Sitt also owns a property a few blocks away, at 166 Norwood Avenue. And his relatives are clustered in the neighborhood. Owners with the name Sitt are listed on 15 properties in Deal. For example, his cousin, Edward Sitt of Sitt Asset Management, which owns six properties in NYC, owns the house next door, at 162 Norwood Avenue. Meanwhile, Eddie’s brother and partner, Ralph Sitt, owns a house around the corner on Runyan Avenue.
Joseph Cayre, the head of Midtown Equities, owns 18 and 24 Deal Esplanade and co-owns the adjacent plot at 11 Marine Place with his son Jack. The compound includes two main houses, a tennis court and a baseball diamond. And one of the lots is vacant, leaving open the door for another expansion. In addition, the compound has a block’s worth of beachfront plus an undeveloped beachfront plot. Cayre — who with his brothers founded the disco label Salsoul Records in the 70s and the video production company GoodTimes Entertainment in the 80s — owns two more adjacent homes on Queen Anne Drive. The Cayres grand total? Ten properties in Deal, plus four in Long Branch.
The Adjmi family’s ACHS Management and A&H Acquisitions own and manage over 100 retail properties nationwide, many of them in New York. Alex Adjmi, president of both companies, makes his summer home just down the coast from Deal in Allenhurst, but his brother Harry, the “H” in A&H Acquisitions, owns five Deal properties. In 2005, he bought a roughly 6,700-square-foot house at 136 Ocean Avenue for $6.1 million. He followed that up with the purchase of the slightly more modest house next door in 2013 for $2.6 million. He owns three more properties up the street on Parker Avenue. Meanwhile, owners with the last name Adjmi have four other Deal plots and two more in Long Branch.
The Nakash brothers — Joseph, Ralph and Avi — founded the era-defining jeans brand Jordache in 1978. In the decades since, the family’s real estate arm, Nakash Holdings, has bought dozens of hotels, offices, residential and retail properties nationwide, including several in New York. Joseph and Ralph each own four properties in Deal. Joseph owns three adjacent homes on either side of Almyr Avenue along with a connected vacant plot around the corner on Poplar Avenue. The largest, the 2.9-acre 65 Almyr Avenue, has a market value of $4 million. Across town, Ralph owns two adjacent properties on Roseld Avenue. No need for him to head to the gym — the homes include a pool, tennis court and half-basketball court. And if he runs out of space, he can always retreat to one of the two other adjacent houses he owns up the street. Or, perhaps, one of the other two homes owned by Nakashes in Deal.
The discount department store Century 21 is something of a landmark in Lower Manhattan — taking up a prime piece of retail space directly across from the World Trade Center site. Cousins Sonny and Al Gindi built their fortune by founding that chain in the 1960s. Like many others in the SY community, their empires grew beyond retail into real estate. In 2012 their firm Gindi Capital, sold a portfolio of 26 properties — focused in Manhattan, plus several buildings in Brooklyn and Queens—for $164 million. In all, residents with the last name Gindi own 28 properties in Deal and surrounding towns. Al’s son Raymond Gindi, Century 21’s COO, owns 62 Jerome Avenue, which features a putting green. He and Century 21 co-owner Isaac Gindi jointly own the house at 103 Ocean Avenue, one parcel away from the beach, between the Suttons and Deal Casino. Eddie Gindi, Century 21’s executive vice president, also owns two Deal properties, as does Eli Gindi, the former co-owner of the Oak Room and Bar at the Plaza Hotel. One of those is co-owned with his former Oak Room partner Jeffrey Gindi.
The Chehebar family founded the Brooklyn-based Rainbow Shops retail chain in the 1930s. Today it has 1,300 U.S. stores and is a staple in urban retail hubs and suburban malls. In 2007, brothers Isaac, Elliot and Gabriel Chehebar used their family fortune and founded the Manhattan-based Jackson Group, which manages over $400 million in commercial real estate, according to its website. Ike Chehebar, Jackson’s president, owns two Deal properties: a vacant lot, and a roughly 3,200-square-foot home on Ocean Avenue, assessed at $2.7 million. And luckily for him, he doesn’t have to go far if he wants to meet up with his brothers for a swim. Elliot and Gabriel Chehebar each own a home there as well. Meanwhile, Jack Chehebar, who also works for Jackson, owns three more Deal properties, and Joseph Chehebar, the CEO of Rainbow, owns one more, plus another in Ocean Township just to the West. In total, the Chehebars lay claim to 18 properties in the area.
Members of the Jemal family, who co-founded the now-defunct-but-very-memorable Nobody Beats the Wiz electronics store chain, also have a big presence in Deal. The family first moved into real estate with the ISJ Management Group in the 1970s. More recently, brothers Samuel and Joseph founded the Jemstone Group, a real estate firm based in Manhattan that focuses mainly on the New Jersey suburbs. Samuel owns two Deal properties, including 48 Brighton Ave., which sits a half block from the ocean, has a tennis court, and is right next to the Deal Casino. The family owns five homes in a two-block area, one owned by Joseph and two by Alan Jemal, also of Jemstone. Meanwhile, Douglas Jemal, founder of D.C.-based Douglas Development and older brother to Marvin Jemal, who founded Nobody Beats the Wiz, owns two homes in Deal and a whopping 10 plots in Allenhurst, three of which have homes on them. In total, 26 area properties bear the name Jemal.
Ventura Enterprises, run by CEO Saul Tawil, has been importing clothing for decades. In the 1990s, Ralph Tawil founded Centurion Realty and amassed a retail and office portfolio centered in Soho. In Deal, the Tawils own three marquee properties on adjacent blocks off of Ocean Avenue. Ralph Tawil has a home at 8 Seaview Lane that Zillow puts at 5,300 square feet. Meanwhile, Elliot Tawil, who works for Sutton at Wharton, and Edward Tawil, a broker at Corcoran Group, have places nearby. Saul’s home, which includes a tennis court and half-basketball court, sits across town at 102 Deal Esplanade. Saul and Elliot Tawil each own a house in Long Branch as well, along with an apartment at 787 Ocean Avenue that they own together. Owners named Tawil are listed on 30 properties in the area in total.