Carmel Partners buys one of Queens’ most expensive development sites

Ron Zeff’s company pays Stawski Partners $200M for Court Square property

Ron Zeff and Rendering of the LIC project (Carmel Partners)
Ron Zeff and Rendering of the LIC project (Carmel Partners)

One of the priciest-ever Queens development sites has traded hands in what could be the last big deal in Long Island City’s multifamily building boom — at least for the foreseeable future.

Ron Zeff’s Carmel Partners paid $200 million this week for a large site in the Court Square section of Long Island City, where the San Francisco-based developer can build a rental tower with more than 900 apartments.

It’s the second-most expensive development site ever sold in Queens, behind only TF Cornerstone’s purchase of a site in the neighborhood’s Hunter’s Point area for $285 million in 2018, according to Real Capital Analytics.

It could very well be the last big development deal for a while. The market for buildable land has been mired in uncertainty as the state’s 421a tax abatement, popular among multifamily developers, is set to expire in June. Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a replacement program called 485w, but its passage by the state legislature is not guaranteed. State lawmakers excluded the proposal from a list of budget priorities released earlier this week, giving an indication of how negotiations could take shape in the coming weeks.

The only major sites to trade hands are those — like the Court Square property — that can meet the deadline this summer to qualify for the incentive.

Woody Heller of Branton Realty

“It has fully approved plans and in-place footings, making it one of the most valuable and last sites to qualify for the Affordable New York program,” said Woody Heller of Branton Realty, who brokered the deal for seller Stawski Partners.

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Heller, who left his longtime home at Savills last year to start his own brokerage firm, added that at 43-30 24th Street, the development site is right at the edge of the Court Square area that was part of a rezoning in 2001 to allow for taller skyscrapers.

That means no buildings can rise higher than five stories to the west of the tower, preserving its Manhattan views.

A spokesperson for Carmel Partners declined to comment. Stawski could not be immediately reached.

The site has plans for a 66-story tower spanning more than 850,000 square feet. Axel Stawski had begun assembling the site as early as 1994, property records show.

“Dr. Stawski is generally not a seller,” said Fried Frank’s Jon Mechanic, who worked on the deal for Stawski Partners.

The deal comes about two months after Carmel bought a development site on the Upper East Side for nearly $74 million. The company is looking to sell its nearly 500-unit rental tower at 19 Dutch Street in the Financial District for more than $500 million.

Heller, meanwhile, started Branton Realty in March after 18 years at Savills, where he co-headed the firm’s investment-sales group. He’ll continue to do investment sales deals, primarily for development sites and office, residential and retail properties, while expanding into other areas, he said.