By Roslyn Lo
Linda De Niro’s name has always caused something of a stir in real estate circles, but the veteran real estate professional said it is her outlook of life that has helped her carve her own niche in the business.
“There aren’t problems in life; there are challenges. How are you going to get through it? If you can figure it out with intelligence and compassion, you will be okay,” reflected the 59-year-old who just embarked on the latest chapter of her career with a new associate broker position at City Connections Realty.
“I think energy is a mental attitude. It’s having a heart that’s full of love. I walk into work and we’re always laughing. That’s the way it should be. These are very happy people, and the energy and helpfulness that goes through this office is unbelievable.”
De Niro — a cousin to actor Robert — has been a student of all facets of the business over the years. Her father Jack was the founder of high-end New York brokerage JC De Niro, where she worked as both an agent and marketing director for many years.
Licensed in both New York and Florida, she cut her teeth brokering deals for prestigious properties at both ends of the country before she took it upon herself to revisit her first passion, interior design.
“The marriage of real estate and interior design really works because I can go to a home and tell you what it costs to re-do something. I don’t see properties the same way other people do — I don’t see what’s there, I see what can be,” De Niro said.
Her interior design work has involved projects large and small in countries across the globe and earned her membership of the American Society of Interior Designers. En route, she collected a degree in Feng Shui, her pilot’s license and raised three children.
According to De Niro, most of her endeavors have been motivated by her drive to succeed in life. From skydiving and bungee jumping, to half marathons, the energetic broker said, “I used to think flying an airplane was the most difficult thing I could do, but a baboon can fly an airplane if he can read. The only doors that are closed are the ones you don’t want to open.”
De Niro said her toughest trial took her to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France five years ago, where she embarked on Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route translated as “The Way of St. James.”
Equipped with nothing more than rationed provisions, hiking boots, a deck of playing cards, and determination, De Niro trekked the grueling 600-mile walk of silence and solitude across the Pyrenees. Braving deep woods, snowy passages, remote countryside, packs of wolves, and even a broken ankle, she emerged victorious 31 days later at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
De Niro described her accomplishment as a triumph of both body and mind. “You’re walking 10 hours a day, it’s unbelievably cathartic. Whatever comes up you can’t get away from. There are no distractions when you’re alone in the woods. The peacefulness I attained during the walk has not gone away in these five years.”
Following the demise of JC De Niro in 2009, it was family ties that allowed De Niro to maintain her brokerage credentials as she and several of her colleagues moved to join the successful De Niro Group at Prudential Douglas Elliman, run by Robert’s son Raphael and his wife Claudia.
There, she continued to use her international connections — she is a dual citizen of the US and Italy — to accelerate her real estate work.
“I’ve always thought globally — I’m not someone who wanted to live in one town,” De Niro said. “Meeting new people, seeing new places and architecture makes you a more complete person.”
However, she added, “New York makes sense as a base. It’s full of opportunity, and is the perfect backdrop for all of the things I want to do.”
And those things include expanding her use of social media and technology as she blends both her design and brokerage work. Whether it’s designing a kitchen in Italy via Skype or selling a Soho loft, she is determined to continue to work with her passion for life as her guide.
“A combination of what I’ve done in my life is intertwining and evolving. The first 30 years of life is about growing up and figuring out what you want to do,” she said. “From 30 to 60, hopefully you’ve done something with career. From 60 to 90, you should be able to take everything you learned, apply it, share it, and help other people.”
And, quoting the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, she added, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. I’m embracing and looking forward to next 30 years.”