Editor's note: A Brave New (York) World

May.May 01, 2019 01:00 PM

Stuart Elliott

Big Brother is going bricks-and-mortar.

In our cover story this month, “Real Estate’s Surveillance State,” reporter Rich Bockmann delves into the tech advances that are taking hold.

From new developments to co-working offices, the ability to track and cater to workers, residents and shoppers is astounding. But the quest for profits is running up against major privacy concerns. Gone are the days when tech was viewed as an unalloyed good,  when Facebook was seen as a way to connect with friends and not as a means to infiltrate elections — which was not so long ago, if you think about it.

Hudson Yards is collecting so much data that it is billing itself as the country’s first “quantified community,” as Bockmann writes. Biometric scanning of handprints will allow tenants to get into their offices, and the $25 billion megadevelopment will have 30 kiosks that collect information from visitors, including their browser histories.

WeWork (now known as the We Company) has built up the ability to collect data on its 400,000-plus co-working members, and it recently acquired a startup that gathers info on people through their Wi-Fi connections.

And in the construction industry, new safety technology can even tell whether a worker is returning to a jobsite from lunch drunk. A wearable device with an accelerometer and gyroscope can monitor a hard hat’s gait, and if there is unusual movement it can automatically bar passage through an entrance or alert a supervisor.

But the pushback is already being seen. Brooklyn landlord Nelson Management, for example, recently drew heat after it was revealed that it planned to install facial recognition technology at several of its rent-stabilized buildings in the city.

The future of tech is the future of real estate, so be sure to check out the story.

On that note, we also have a story about Keller Williams, the country’s largest brokerage franchise, betting $1 billion on a tech overhaul, though some are skeptical; a piece on the resurgence of real estate podcasts; and a look behind the deal  in which the white-glove firm Stribling got gobbled up by Compass, which sees itself as a tech company.

Meanwhile, for all the concern about foreign money coming into the city hidden behind LLCs, the trend has been markedly in the other direction for institutional buyers from abroad. Sovereign wealth funds have dialed back their real estate plays in New York, as we detail in a story. Last year, the four priciest Manhattan deals involving sovereign wealth funds were sales (not purchases), while more broadly, foreign investment in U.S. real estate has dropped more than $35 billion in the past three years. We also dive into the recent Chrysler Building deal, in which an Abu Dhabi fund that funneled $800 million into the tower in 2008 sold it to Aby Rosen for $151 million. Ouch.

Elsewhere in the issue, we look at the #MeToo movement and the increased liability real estate companies can face for harassment; examine the buyers at the record-setting 520 Park; and sit down for an exclusive interview with Trumpworld figure Felix Sater following the release of the Mueller report. Turns out he was more into Trump building a tower in Moscow than seeing him become president.

Finally, it’s the busy season for events at The Real Deal. We recently wrapped up our first-ever Chicago forum and a “Shark Tank” competition in Miami, and we have our 12th annual Showcase in Chelsea on May 15. Don’t miss Larry Silverstein, Mary Ann Tighe, Scott Rechler and a host of real estate’s biggest names speaking that day. Check out TheRealDeal.com/events for tickets.

Enjoy the issue!

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