The Daily Dirt: Bob Knakal gets a glowing profile and a pink slip

Did JLL punish the legendary operator for his Times profile?

Did JLL Fire Bob Knakal For His Glowing Times profile?
Bob Knakal and Wharton Property Advisors' Ruth Colp-Haber and Eric Haber (Wharton Property Advisors, Getty)

In commercial brokerage, breadwinners’ behavior is tolerated, but more so if they are family members.

For evidence, we will make an unlikely comparison between Bob Knakal and Eric Haber.

When Ruth Colp-Haber of Wharton Property Advisors is not brokering office subleases and doing media calls, she pens an entertaining newsletter. In last week’s edition, the quintessential New Yorker called out her husband, the firm’s counsel, in explaining the challenge of getting employees to go to the office.

“Our sources tell us that these corporate directives to return to the office are often defied by the rank-and-file at the banks and elsewhere. In one clever ploy, recalcitrant employees sometimes enlist their friends to do card swipes to give the appearance that they are in the office. Further, sometimes employees will only come in for a few hours a day just to give the impression that they are on hand.

“How do they get away with this? Well, maybe the boss is in on the game and is doing the same thing! And while some employees work at home for good reasons, others are not all in.

“Take my husband Eric as an example (please) of someone who rarely graces us with his presence at the office. He does not even attempt to hide the fact that he might be watching soccer games during the day. But what am I to do as he is very capable and helps us get the big accounts, so I have to put up with him.”

Apparently, that dynamic did not exist between Colp-Haber’s fellow commercial broker, Bob Knakal, and his bosses at JLL, who sent the legendary (at least in real estate circles) operator packing this week. It was likely not a coincidence that his dismissal happened right after a glowing profile of Knakal ran in Sunday’s New York Times.

JLL was not mentioned in the first 1,390 words of the profile. Eventually, the firm was named only in passing:

“During the week, Mr. Knakal splits his time between his office at the Madison Avenue headquarters of JLL, the real estate firm where he works, and another building in Midtown where he leased space just for his map.”

JLL was not mentioned again. That’s right: Just one reference to JLL in the 1,728-word story. The firm did not appear in any of the seven photographs, either.

That is not the only reason Knakal is no longer at JLL. More likely it was a final straw.

Business people are known to turn down media opportunities that do not include their bosses, but Knakal is not one of those people. JLL should have known to expect that when it brought Knakal on board.

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Having enjoyed a long and successful career, Bob Knakal is not going to change. Ruth Colp-Haber knows someone like that too.

What we’re thinking about: Should JLL be upset about the Times’ Bob Knakal feature? Email

A thing we’ve learned: It’s becoming exceedingly difficult and expensive to hire an electrician in many parts of the country. In the Bay Area, for example, homeowners are struggling to find technicians for mundane repairs, let alone to upgrade their electrical panels or install electric heat pumps, and residential electrical contractors are deluged with calls and can’t staff up, Grist reports.

Elsewhere in New York…

Advocates who tried to get the Hotel Pennsylvania landmarked are calling out Vornado Realty Trust, which tore down the building, for deciding to replace it with tennis courts despite the city’s housing crisis. But they admit the landmarking effort motivated Vornado to demolish it faster, before it could be designated a historic building.

“Tennis courts at the Hotel Pennsylvania may symbolize many policy failings including in housing,” Sam Turvey, the leading Vornado critic, said by email. “But this is truly perverse. A building that could have been adaptively reused is now dust. The Stewart Hotel, a block below, now houses migrants during the crisis. The Hotel Martinique, two blocks away, has been renovated and is a fully functional hotel. Tennis courts for 16 participants is ridiculous.”

The tennis project is essentially an interim use until economic conditions allow for a tower of some sort. As a publicly traded REIT, Vornado has a fiduciary responsibility to make money for its shareholders. The housing crisis is government’s responsibility to solve. It can do that by facilitating multifamily development.

— “As New Yorkers, we can no longer afford to reject new housing, especially in communities that have the most access to resources and infrastructure,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams wrote in an op-ed Thursday, just days after her chamber voted unanimously to reject 150 new housing units proposed in Crown Heights.

— The FBI, investigating the Fire Department’s property inspections, raided the homes of two senior FDNY officials Thursday morning, seeking evidence that they were paid to expedite fire-safety checks, the New York Times reported.

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing on Thursday was $6.6 million for a two-family home at 566 Henry Street in Carroll Gardens.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $3 million for a mixed-use building at 1422 Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. 

New to the Market: The priciest home to hit the market on Thursday was a condominium unit for $36 million at 217 West 57th Unit 97E. It was delisted about three months ago, when it was priced at $33 million.