At the desk of: Sherwin Belkin
The legal eagle on the latest rent-regulation law, wind-up toys and his ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ habit
Sherwin Belkin, one of the founding partners of the Manhattan-based law firm Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, is one of the city’s foremost real estate attorneys and an expert on rent regulation issues. He has represented landlords in rent-regulation disputes for almost three decades and handled thousands of cases. And it hasn’t gotten easier over time. The new rent law, enacted in June, is “the most dense, the most confusing” of any version of the legislation, he said. Belkin — a lifelong New Yorker who went to Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School — co-founded his current firm 26 years ago, with the three other named partners. The firm now employees a total of 100 people, including 48 attorneys. In addition to rent regulation disputes, Belkin also advises owners on assemblage deals. Among his most notable was the site where 15 Central Park West now stands. In that case, he helped the Zeckendorf brothers, who developed the condo, relocate the last inhabitants of the Mayflower Hotel, previously located on the spot. Belkin, 63, also negotiated a settlement when the 1,400-unit Waterside Plaza complex at East 26th Street and the FDR Drive converted to market rate from a Mitchell Lama complex in the early 2000s. But despite his experience, he’s a kid at heart.
Belkin has had golden retrievers for more than 20 years. Pictures of his two late dogs, Gracie and George, as well as his current dog, Lucy, adorn the walls of his office. “Once you’ve had a Golden, you can’t go back,” he said. His wife Mary and George formed a therapy team. They’d go to hospitals and visit patients. George even had his own business cards.
Belkin and his wife met when they were counselors at Wel-Met Camp in upstate New York in 1972. In the first few days, someone mistook his name as “Sherwood,” which quickly evolved into “Woody.” His wife still calls him that. And both Woody Woodpecker and Woody from “Toy Story” are in “Woody’s” office today.
Football player sculpture
In his (limited) free time, Belkin fancies himself an artist. He sculpted this bust of a football player about 15 years ago. “I just decided I wanted to make a cartoonish football player,” said Belkin, a long-time fan of animated movies and cartoons. When he had his two daughters, Beth and Laura, both in their 30s, he was excited to finally be able to watch those movies on the big screen again. “I couldn’t go as a 6-foot-4 guy by myself,” he said.
Among the multiple baseballs in Belkin’s office, this one is particularly special. In April 1980, his wife caught it at one of the first Yankees games she ever attended. The Bombers beat the Orioles 3-2 that day, according to the writing on the baseball.
Orange carton labels
Some people collect stamps, others collect train sets. Belkin has a collection of 40 or 50 orange and grapefruit carton labels, all from California. He bought his first, a framed carton label at a flea market in California while on his honeymoon in 1977. This one in his office appropriately depicts Lady Justice.
Belkin bought this Jerry Seinfeld marionette at a fair years ago. “All Western knowledge can be known by watching ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Godfather I’ and ‘Godfather II,’” Belkin joked. A little Chrysler Building figurine — Belkin’s favorite New York City landmark — with a cutout photo of the show’s character Elaine attached to it, joins the Jerry doll on his shelf.
Yankee Stadium chair
A wooden seat from the original Yankee Stadium sits in the corner of Belkin’s office. Belkin’s wife bought the artifact when the stadium was remodeled in the mid-1970s. Belkin, a diehard Yankee fan, penned a number “7” on the side of the chair in honor of his favorite player, Mickey Mantle. That may have devalued it on the sports memorabilia market, but Belkin has no intention of selling.
Belkin’s younger daughter, Beth, gave him these action figures from the 2004 movie “Napoleon Dynamite.” When Belkin saw the movie for the first time, “I didn’t laugh once,” he said. But, “since then, I’ve become addicted.”
Although his height and demeanor doesn’t give it away at first, Belkin is a self-proclaimed “baby at heart,” who loves wind-up toys so much that they’ve become a go-to gift from family. His daughters have given most of the toys to him over the years. He also has a (now broken) lawyer doll that used to be able to utter phrases such as “I object!” and “Pay your bill!” (a present from a client), as well as a tiny monkey, a car and more.