Finding a co-op fit for a canine

Dog rescue worker turned broker Dave Goldstein has found his niche helping dog owners find NYC homes

Dave Goldstein of Citi Habitats with his dog Luca
Dave Goldstein of Citi Habitats with his dog Luca

Before making the transition into real estate two months ago, Dave Goldstein, 33, spent his days pursuing his passion: rescuing dogs scheduled to be euthanized. Now the Citi Habitats broker is capitalizing on the “quickly developing niche” of helping people with large dogs or pit bull-type dogs get into buildings that would otherwise keep out these canines. Goldstein, who had first attempted to go into real estate right before the market turndown, spoke recently with The Real Deal about the non-profit dog rescue organization that he started with his wife, how he’ll apply what he’s learned to selling real estate, and, a quintessentially New York problem, how to get your dog past a difficult co-op board.

So you run a non-profit  — a far cry from real estate?
Yes, with my wife. We’ve been running it now for over two years. It’s a dog rescue, and its reach has actually expanded across the nation. And I am doing that while pursuing my full-time real estate career, so, as you can imagine, it’s been challenging.

What is the nonprofit called?
Bruised Not Broken. I started it formally about two years ago, but it started organically a bit before that. I was volunteering at a shelter and I saw that the dogs weren’t getting rescued and wanted to do something about it. I have a degree in business and technology, so I kind of applied that. Our work is focused here in New York, but our community, which does the majority of its work through Facebook, is nationwide. We are about to hit 200,000 [Facebook] followers.

That makes so much sense. I feel like Facebook is the main way people find puppies these days.
It’s almost hard to believe how well it works. I don’t know if people don’t know the shelter exists or if they don’t want to go because it’s painful to see. But there is something about posting a picture or a video of an animal with a really cute bio. … Rescues are generally networks of foster families that they have prescreened, or sometimes they have a facility, where they can board animals until they can be adopted. We facilitate direct adoptions. And we have become more like an advocacy group for the rescues, like a digital advertising agency. We give animals the exposure they need to be seen and get out of the shelter.

How many people work for Bruised Not Broken?
Four or five, working pretty much all the time, because there is a euthanasia list that comes out in the evening that shows which dogs are going to be put down the next day at 8 a.m.

That sounds stressful. Is this once a week that you get this list?
No, it is Monday through Friday. There is certainly an overpopulation issue. There are a lot who don’t make it. We advocate for the dogs, specifically the pit bull-type dogs, which are 95 to 98 percent of the dogs who are euthanized.

Why is that?
It’s sad. What we see often is the breed-specific legislation which says “no aggressive breeds,” allowed in the county or the state. It really affects these pit bull-type dogs. We haven’t seen that here yet but the New York City Housing Authority does not allow large dogs, which makes it tough. Then, of course, the economy has been challenging for people. It comes down to keeping the dog or the housing.

Do you have a dog?
I do. His name is Luca. He is a pit bull-type. He is completely deaf and he knows doggy sign language. He knows “sit” and “stay,” [via signs].  He is known all over the Upper East Side. He is a therapy dog as well.

Why do you say “pit bull-type”?
There are so many types of pit bulls and so many have [other breeds in them]. For whatever reason many of them have that boxy head that people so often point a finger at and say “that’s a pit bull.”

What do your experiences bring to real estate?
Time management, and, of course, [ability to effectively use] social media. You learn a lot about humans  — how to say things tactfully and how to get your point across efficiently and effectively. Also, I have heard of co-op and condo owners with large dogs having a really hard time getting approval.

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Do you recall the tragic Nick Santino case?
Yeah, it’s really, really difficult. So many landlords and buildings in the rental market do not allow large dogs. A large dog is one thing, and then if you have a dog that has unfortunately been labeled “aggressive,” then your choices are so limited. It’s been nice to be an advocate for people with large dogs. It’s a quickly developing niche.

What are your strategies for getting them in?
Well, you can do what’s basically a separate application for your pet. There is the “good canine citizen,” which is a certification through the American Kennel Club. You’ve got to make the case for your animal.

Where do you live?
Normandy Court on the Upper East Side.

Why did you move there? Was it the proximity to the park, for Luca?
Absolutely. And they really cater to the pet-friendly demographic up there.

How did you find Luca?
Someone had “returned him” because he was deaf. And we came up against this pit bull-type dog stereotyping from the management company at the building we lived at the time. They told us we couldn’t have him in the building, but we … were able to get veterinary paperwork that [showed he was not full pit bull]. Also it helped that he was in therapy dog training.

Are you working with renters and buyers?

Have you ever thought someone shouldn’t be in a particular building with a big dog? That it was just too small?
I feel like it’s a common misconception. We live in a one-bedroom, but we’ve found if you get your dog out and give them the necessary exercise, it’s not the size of the house. A backyard is always nice, but I consider Central Park my backyard.

So you made the transition to real estate. Now, what’s the endgame?
We want to build a rescue ranch in upstate New York. And this is a best-fit career path for obtaining that goal. I want to buy the land and build it out … and give dogs an amazing life.