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Experts come together at inaugural Brooklyn Real Estate Conference

Brooklyn proved that it is most definitely booming on Thursday, April 7 as real estate gurus gathered at Weylin B. Seymour’s for the inaugural Brooklyn Real Estate Conference.

The event – presented by The Home Reporter, The Brooklyn Spectator and Star Network in association with the Real Estate Board of New York – offered attendees the opportunity to hear from, meet and network with the industry’s most prominent leaders, and kicked off with an hour of networking.

Following breakfast, attendees were treated to a keynote speech by Maria Torres-Springer, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), who touched upon the undertakings of the EDC as well as the challenges the city still faces despite being more vibrant than ever.

“We at the Economic Development Corporation are charged with helping shape and grow the city’s economy,” said Torres-Springer, “and in this administration, we are doing that and also placing a very intentional focus on driving equity, inclusion and access to opportunity for New Yorkers across the five boroughs.”

Torres-Springer also discussed the building of dynamic neighborhoods – such as Williamsburg and Sunset Park – as well as the creation of 21st century jobs and what new transportation options like the citywide ferry service and the Brooklyn Queens Connector mean for the real estate market.

Following Torres-Springer was Peter Levitan, senior managing director and principal of Lee & Associates NC and chair of REBNY’s Commercial Brokerage Brooklyn Committee, there to introduce REBNY’s newest Brooklyn Retail Report.

Next, attendees were given the chance to learn from the best via informative panels.

The first, “Attracting Office and Commercial Tenants to Brooklyn,” featured speakers Jed Walentas, Principal, Two Trees; Sukanya Paciorek, EVP, Leasing and Asset Management, Brooklyn Navy Yard; Toby Moskovits, CEO, Heritage Equity Partners; Kathe Kramer Chase, Director of Leasing, Industry City; and Alireza Esmaeilzadeh, SVP Commercial and Residential Development, Forest City Ratner Companies.

Moderated by Tim King, Managing Partner at CPEX Real Estate, speakers on the first panel discussed just what it is about commercial real estate that drives tenants to booming areas like Sunset Park’s Industry City, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and beyond.

When it comes to Industry City, Chase told King, there’s not just one thing.

“There are so many things that attracted us to Industry City and, in turn, I think it’s also the reason that so many companies come to us,” she said. “For starters, Brooklyn in general has this amazing label and what we found when we first came to Industry City is that, we thought we’d be bringing tenants from other parts of Brooklyn, companies who maybe took space 10 years ago in DUMBO or places that were not established and now are and bringing them to Industry City. What we found really is that 95 percent of our tenants are coming from Manhattan, and I think there are many reasons for that.”

The second panel, “Planning for Residential Tenants of Tomorrow,” featured Jeff Levine, Chairman, Douglaston Development; Lisa Gomez, Chief Operating Officer/Partner, L&M Development; Geoff Ross, Director of Development, Thor Equities; Andrew Barrocas, CEO, MNS; and Aroza Sanjana, Broker, Owner, Warren Lewis Sotheby’s International Realty.

Moderated by Ron Hartmann, Senior Vice President of the Commercial Real Estate Department at Flushing Bank, those on the second panel dissected the borough’s growth (and, in some cases, lack of growth) – specifically in waterfront neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Coney Island – and what that means for residential development, and the tenants of tomorrow.

“[Williamsburg] had the natural bones for residential living,” explained Levine, whose team has been a part of the neighborhood’s surge since “Williamsburg was literally a wasteland,” and – since breaking ground sometime in ’07 – has helped to build over 2,000 units in the area and create a new lifestyle. “The reality is, it’s come a long way since then.”

On the other hand, Ross contended, areas like Coney – as spectacular as the market may seem – are tragically underdeveloped when it comes to residential real estate.

“We have a lot of land in Coney Island that we’re very excited about but, in many neighborhoods in New York, it’s easy to overlook the value of what you have there,” he said. “If you actually walk around in Coney Island and get away from the Boardwalk or sort of the rides or the attractions, I think the shocking thing that you find is that there are small houses about two blocks from the beach that might as well pass for a shotgun shack. We have a ridiculously wonderful amenity waiting for us that is tragically underdeveloped.”

When asked why events like the Brooklyn Real Estate Conference are crucial, REBNY Senior Vice President Joseph Barbaccia credited the importance of networking.

“Networking – that’s the first thing that makes this event so important,” he said. “Learning new information about the Brooklyn marketplace is the second thing and, not only is it new information, it comes from the sources so its credible information. The third element is learning the trends. That’s what the membership of the Real Estate Board is so keen on – learning about the trends of the real estate market.”

Participating sponsors agreed.

“We have three locations in Brooklyn – one of which is in Williamsburg, so this is really our market,” said Stephanie Andrews of MNS Real Estate. “We think events like this are important because it’s important to discuss the market and how it’s changing. We also want to let the general public know that we’re here, and what we can do for them.”

“We’ve participated in the Queens Real Estate Conference in the past and it was fantastic,” added Adrienne Stephens of Meridian Capital Group. “For us, events like these help to get our brand out there, and just get people networking. It’s just a great opportunity; this is a great venue, and a great event.”

“I think events like this are really special,” added Levine prior to his panel presentation. “It gives people the opportunity to see many different points of view, network with leaders and other developers in the field and, in a way, you’re always learning – be it about other people and what they do or the market itself.”

Weylin B. Seymour’s is located at 175 Broadway.

The event’s presenting sponsor was Flushing Bank. Other sponsors included Weylin B. Seymour’s, Meridian Capital Group, MNS Real Estate, CPEX Real Estate, Two Trees Management Co. LLC and Warren Lewis Sotheby’s International Realty.

Media sponsors included Brownstoner, The Real Deal, Real Estate Weekly and Judynetworks.

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