Editor's note: August, Amazon and Arkansas

By Stuart Elliott | August 01, 2019 10:00AM

Stuart Elliott

Summer is that time of year when New York is the most unloved.

Many flee the city for any nearby body of water or spend weeks abroad in far-flung capitals. Manhattan can feel deserted, and the asphalt and concrete can seem endless, baking under the hot sun with no breeze.

Assuming you’re reading this reclining in a deck chair or sprawled out on a towel in the sand, I’ll start off with some lighter beach reading. This month we look at the former summer jobs of some of the biggest players in real estate. Turns out long before they were inking big deals, many were busy milking cows and selling knives door to door.

Then there’s golf, one of summer’s great pastimes (or is that still baseball?) and a key driver of real estate networking this time of year. We took out our scorecards to note the most popular local golf clubs to join and which are the most — or least — snobby. The price of admission can be steep, reaching up to $1 million at several of the toniest clubs in the Hamptons, plus annual membership dues.

There are also other ways to beat the heat this season.

In a story on the latest amenities developers are adding to their projects, we uncover some of the more far-flung concepts, including cryo-chambers (cold-therapy rooms) and ice fountains. There’s also the allure of urban farming. The 570-unit Urby rental complex on Staten Island is trying to interest prospective residents with the ability to grow their own tomatoes, hot peppers and fresh herbs. You can find shade under a tree while tilling the outer borough soil.

Some brokers say adding such features is just a gimmick to boost sales in a slower market. But maybe it’s worth it for buyers to stay cool during the dog days of summer.

In “Tales from the front lines,” we sit down with six key residential brokers to get their off-the-cuff accounts of how they got started in the business. And finally, check out our Closing interview with Silverstein Properties CEO Marty Burger. When he’s not busy building out new lines of business for the iconic development firm, Burger likes to jump out of helicopters.

Now back to reality.

It isn’t possible to go a month without Amazon disrupting real estate or seemingly everything else. Even when it isn’t the lead story — like when Amazon abandoned plans for a massive campus in Long Island City (briefly sending New Yorkers to stare into the existential abyss) — the e-commerce giant is changing the face of real estate.

Amazon threw Realogy, the brokerage conglomerate with a tanking market cap, a lifeline last month with a new partnership called TurnKey that will give homebuyers up to $5,000 in complimentary Amazon products and services upon move-in. Realogy, however, is footing the bill, paying off the cost of the program though sales commissions. To some analysts, TurnKey was a turnoff, but it also raises questions about Amazon moving into brokerage.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to stoke the demand for “last-mile” warehouse space. In a story by Eddie Small, we explore the latest trends in the industrial sector as Amazon prepares to open an 850,000-square-foot distribution center on Staten Island. The company is considering building another facility in Maspeth, Queens, and is reportedly in talks to lease 1 million square feet near Industry City as it seeks to move ever closer to its customers.

Last, but not least, our cover story.

The Bank of the Ozarks, now called Bank OZK, has always been a curious presence on the real estate scene. The obscure Arkansas bank became one of the biggest construction lenders in New York at a time when traditional banks have pulled back on risky new development loans. In a hard-hitting piece, we look at the behind-the-scenes machinations that helped the bank avoid regulatory oversight and how its lending activity relative to its assets exceeds federal guidelines.

That, coupled with the departure of its key dealmaker and other issues, has raised questions about Bank OZK, which is the largest construction lender in Los Angeles County, the largest condo construction lender in Miami-Dade County and the third-largest construction lender in New York. Check out the story from David Jeans and Keith Larsen.

Enjoy the issue, and the rest of summer.