Editor’s note: Of mayors and moguls

Jun.June 03, 2022 07:00 AM

Stuart Elliott

There’s a delicate dance between mayors and the real estate developers who build the city.

That intricate two-step was on display at The Real Deal’s NYC Real Estate Showcase + Forum last month, when Mayor Eric Adams took the stage to tell the packed crowd he wanted to “roll out the red carpet” for builders.

It was a welcome change from eight years of Bill de Blasio, who ran for mayor on the idea that New York didn’t need any more shiny condo towers. Accepting campaign donations from real estate came to be seen as verboten in recent years. So you couldn’t blame the industry for being excited by the new mayor, who proclaimed that “what oil is to Texas, real estate is to New York.” Check out our coverage of the event — which returned after a three-year hiatus with more than 2,000 attendees.

Whether Adams follows through remains to be seen. Only a week after the event, a developer planning a 900-unit project in Harlem offered to keep 40 percent of it affordable to placate the community. The local City Council member called it a “slap in the face,” demanding 100 percent affordability. Adams remained silent and the project died. No red carpet was rolled out.

As the industry gets a sense of how this mayor will position himself, it’s likely that the dealmaker who graces our cover this month, Joseph Chetrit, would only meet Hizzoner away from the prying eyes of the press (forget Chetrit showing up at a TRD event).

Indeed, Chetrit is a fabled name in New York City real estate partly because of the mystery surrounding him. The investor whose properties have included the Sony Building, the Hotel Chelsea, the old Daily News Building, what will be Brooklyn’s tallest skyscraper, the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago and a billion-dollar development in Miami, to pick a few, never grants interviews. The handful of profiles on him “are thin, and he has sometimes been described in ways that carry a hint of menace,” Adam Piore writes.

Piore was able to sit down with family members (if not Joe himself) to get the real story behind the mysterious man from Morocco. See the profile here.

One rival developer said working with “the intuitive real estate genius” — who can size up a building at first glance and make an offer on the spot — is disorienting, as is Chetrit’s ability to position himself on the right side of a deal or partnership. 

“The joke with Joe is if you’re 50-50 partners on a building, and the building is half empty, in Joe’s head you own the empty part and he owns the full part,” the developer said.

Piore’s cover story coincides with his book for TRD, “The New Kings of New York,” which reveals insider accounts from developers, politicians, investors and financiers who shaped the city in the new millennium as Manhattan evolved into a playground for the global 1 percent.

Released last month, it quickly became the No. 1 seller on Amazon’s list of real estate books, with coverage in the New York Post and the Daily Beast, reviews by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and plaudits from best-selling authors including Vicky Ward, Eliot Brown and Michael Gross. You can still order a copy.

Elsewhere, check out our special Hamptons section. Forget the 1 percent there — in the Hamptons, the merely affluent are now getting priced out by the ultra-wealthy. It’s gentrification on top of gentrification. Still, a weak rental market could portend a slowdown.

Finally, don’t miss our interview with Rob Speyer of Tishman Speyer, the 800-pound gorilla of the real estate world, with a portfolio of more than 90 million square feet. Speyer opines on the future of commercial real estate, and is forward-thinking to the point of being almost woke: He wants to ban the word “tenant” because it connotes a “feudal” approach to real estate.  

“It suggests an adversarial relationship, and that’s the last thing we want,” Speyer said.

Landlords and tenants living in harmony, politicians and builders working together to shape the skyline to everyone’s benefit — maybe it can happen. Read the issue and see what you think.


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