At the Desk of Highlyann Krasnow

Highlyann Krasnow (Photos by Emily Assiran)
Highlyann Krasnow (Photos by Emily Assiran)

Highlyann Krasnow, one of three partners at the New York brokerage MNS, has her hands on about 10,000 high-end units in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens as the company’s head of new development. MNS has closed $10 billion in sales over the past decade, according to the brokerage, and the 130-person firm bills itself as a one-stop shop for sales, marketing and design guidance on residential construction projects. Its roster of developer clients includes the Moinian Group, Douglaston Development, Carmel Partners and Jerry Wolkoff, among others. Krasnow, 42, has led a charmed life on paper. Raised in Manhattan, she spent her summers riding horses in Vermont and took a job at the Corcoran Group fresh out of college. When her colleague Elan Padeh left Corcoran to start his own brokerage focused on the Brooklyn market in 2003, she joined him as a co-founder. Six years later, their firm, the Developers Group, merged with the Real Estate Group of New York, which focused on rentals, and was rebranded MNS. Then in 2012, Krasnow launched the Design High — an interior design studio within the brokerage offering clients custom apartment finishes. But there’s more to the story. Krasnow grew up on the Lower East Side and spent her formative years running wild in a part of the city where future prospects seemed so grim some landlords were abandoning their buildings. At the time, an apartment in Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village seemed like “the fanciest place in the world,” she said. Krasnow went on to study English and photography at Hunter College and became a Corcoran agent in 2000 to avoid working a 9 to 5. Without a network of wealthy friends and family, though, she got her start by offering to run other agents’ open houses in exchange for letting her keep the clients and listings, she said. “I ended up working seven days a week for like 10 years straight,” Krasnow recalled, “but at least it was on my own terms.” Today, MNS’s Williamsburg headquarters is a 10-minute walk from Krasnow’s townhouse, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Her spacious office, which she shares with MNS partner and marketing CEO Ryan McCann, is outfitted with a small conference table, couch, well-stocked bar cart and plenty of mementos from back in the day.

Look books

Krasnow keeps the two picture books close to her at work. One is a compilation of photos she and a close friend took as teenagers living on the LES in the 1990s. “All my friends are in it, and it’s nostalgic,” she said. Krasnow’s friends since high school haven’t really changed, she added — she met her husband, Israel Osorio, whom she jokingly calls “Bob,” when she was 15. The second book contains photography by Emmy Award winner Sue Kwon, who’s been taking photos of NYC for more than 30 years.

Wooden skull

A well-crafted wooden carving of a human skull is perched on a corner of Krasnow’s desk. She vaguely recalls getting it in Saint Lucia, but said it’s hard to keep track since it’s part of a larger collection. Krasnow, a self-defined “old goth, punk rock chick,” said the hobby started when she got her first pair of Doc Martens, bedecked with skulls, at 11 years old. “Ever since then, I’ve always just been drawn to skulls,” she said. “Animal skulls, head skulls.”

Riding ribbon

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A red second-place ribbon is tacked onto a bulletin board above Krasnow’s desk. It came from a competition she and her oldest daughter participated in after learning to shoot archery on horseback. Krasnow said she had never used a bow and arrow before that, and the added challenge was doing so on a horse running in circles. But in the end, she was one of the best in the class, she bragged. “[My daughters] make fun of my riding skills compared to theirs,” she said, noting that unlike her kids, she never took lessons. “They have like a thousand ribbons, so I’m going to be proud of my ribbon.”

Meditation bowl

Krasnow calls this dull metal bowl from Nepal her “goal bowl” and said, “it’s there to remind me I should take a breath.” The bowl was a gift from her office mate, McCann, who brings back souvenirs from far-flung trips around the world. Krasnow described their 10-year working relationship as “symbiotic,” though it didn’t start out that harmoniously. When MNS merged with the Developers Group, she said, they hated each other and sustained the animosity for a good year. That lasted until Krasnow cracked a joke about a former partner’s sweating. McCann “started laughing and that was it,” she said.

Design nomination

One of the Design High’s recent projects, a speakeasy-themed bar in the Financial District called the Transcript, was nominated for an interior design award this year. Krasnow’s team didn’t win, but she said she’s proud of the recognition after successfully going to bat for pricey marble tiles and velvet jaguar paintings as part of the bar’s sultry ambiance. In one conference call on the project’s art budget, she was making a case for the velvet paintings to the developers and their financial partners and recalled one banker saying, “I just don’t understand…”