The Real Deal New York

Mayor’s choices for top jobs that impact real estate seen as positive

By Hiten Samtani | February 01, 2014 07:00AM

New mayor Bill de Blasio took over City Hall promising a radical departure from the way government was run by Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani. But several of his picks for positions vital to the real estate industry are veterans of those administrations.

This month, The Real Deal looks at key appointments, and how they might impact the industry.

President, EDC: Kyle Kimball

Kyle Kimball

Kyle Kimball

The decision to retain Bloomberg administration veteran Kyle Kimball as president of the city Economic Development Corporation surprised those who expected de Blasio to make a clean break.

John Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York, said keeping Kimball was de Blasio’s way “to convince people that he had top talent running the city.”

Kimball joined the EDC in 2008 after investment banking stints at JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

He was chief financial officer and head of the Real Estate Transaction Services Group, which supports real estate sales, funding agreements, developer submissions and project planning, before taking over as president in July, following Seth Pinsky’s departure to RXR Realty.

Kimball will have to adjust to the “shift from a City Hall environment that was so pro-business oriented” to a more progressive agenda, Mollenkopf said. For example, though the EDC previously opposed a “living wage” bill, which stipulates that workers on development projects with city subsidies be paid at least $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits, Kimball recently hinted that he now supports the bill.

“It’s our charge to do everything in our power to address rising inequality,” Kimball said in a statement when he was reappointed.

Police commissioner: Bill Bratton

Real estate players were nervous that a de Blasio administration would shift away from the tough policing strategies of the Bloomberg era. Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, told TRD in August that the number one concern for real estate was that rising crime rates would shake investor and builder confidence.

So when de Blasio tapped Giuliani-era police commissioner Bill Bratton for a second stint as the city’s top cop, the industry breathed a collective sigh of relief. Bratton’s policing pedigree includes seven years as the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and two as chief of the former New York City Transit Police, and he is widely perceived as being tough on crime.

Bruce Mosler, chair of global brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield, said Bratton’s appointment showed that de Blasio was “exceptionally tuned in” to the business community’s needs. Massey Knakal Realty Services’ chairman Bob Knakal referred to Bratton as “a stud” and said that he “makes the industry feel as if the expected wave of crime may not happen.”

First Deputy Mayor: Anthony Shorris

Anthony Shorris was most recently a top executive at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, but he’s better known in industry circles for his brief stint as director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and for being one of the chief architects of former Mayor Ed Koch’s plan to create 100,000 units of affordable housing in a decade — a number his new boss hopes to double.

Shorris was unable to rein in the long delays and skyrocketing costs associated with the World Trade Center redevelopment while at the Port Authority from 2007 to 2008. But sources said that his vast government experience made him a good pick as de Blasio’s second-in-command.

“You don’t need Mr. Personality as the first deputy mayor,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “What you need is Mr. Responsibility and Mr. Get It Done.”

Not all the city’s real estate bigwigs will be pleased about Shorris’ appointment, however. He was a vehement critic of the Moynihan Station redevelopment project by the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, saying shortly after his resignation from the Port Authority that the project’s main priority was “what’s good for Related’s investors,” according to watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report.

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development: Alicia Glen

De Blasio tapped longtime Goldman Sachs executive Alicia Glen to be the point person on his ambitious affordable housing plan. Glen’s responsibilities will include oversight of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Authority, the administration said.

Since 2002, Glen ran Goldman’s Urban Investment Group — which helps to finance projects in underserved communities — and oversaw the creation of more than $5 billion in development of residential, mixed-use and commercial projects across the country. Prior to that, she was the assistant commissioner for housing finance at HPD under Giuliani.

“Alicia knows the development community well, but she is also very civic-minded,” said Gotham Organization president David Picket. Picket, who added that he knows Glen personally, said her capital markets savvy and experience at HPD would help de Blasio realize his goal of increasing the city’s housing stock.

REBNY’s Spinola said in a statement that the decision “continues a string of exceptionally talented and knowledgeable individuals who will work with the new mayor to steer our city moving forward.”

Chair, City Council Land Use Committee: David Greenfield

An attorney by training, David Greenfield represents Brooklyn’s 44th Council District, which includes the Midwood and Borough Park neighborhoods. Greenfield’s connection to both de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s voter base, Sheinkopf said, made him a natural pick for the coveted position of land use committee chair. This key panel approves development projects and has veto power over City Planning Department rezoning proposals.

“Brooklyn did well in the election,” Sheinkopf said, “and the great rule in politics is that you do help your friends and you do punish your enemies.” Greenfield is known as a staunch loyalist of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio.

“We have every expectation that he will be diligent and fair in helping to focus the committee on the important issues facing the city, including creating more good jobs and housing for all New Yorkers,” Spinola said in a statement to Crain’s about the appointment.

Campaign finance records shows that Greenfield’s donors include several members of the Gindi family, real estate players and owners of the large discount department store chain Century 21, as well as Richard Cohen, a principal at real estate investment firm GTIS Partners.