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REBNY WatchViews

Bowing out as industry celebrates strength through diversity

During my tenure of nearly 30 years as REBNY President, New York City has undergone tremendous change.

In 1986, our city was continuing to climb back from the financial crisis of the 1970s and many neighborhoods were struggling with abandoned buildings and vacant lots which the city acquired in rem.

There were blocks and blocks of vacant lots throughout parts of the five boroughs.

The City undertook a massive program of affordable housing renovation, rehabilitation and new construction to address the plight of these communities and to revitalize deteriorating housing stock.

By comparison, today the City is stronger than ever and the quality of its housing is the best it has been since the city began tracking its condition in the mid-1960s.

We are literally bursting at the seams with record breaking tourism and population numbers each year.

The dramatic turnaround in crime is has led to a remarkable resurgence in many of the neighborhoods that struggled with abandoned housing and vacant lots. The problem today is building enough housing to meet demand at all income levels.

Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island continue to attract people from around the world. Everyone from everywhere wants to be in New York City.  The turnaround has been remarkable, but there is more that needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers benefit from this revival.

There is currently record job growth as major projects are moving forward in Hudson Yards and Lower Manhattan, along with significant growth in job creation in the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

The real estate industry has been critical to the city’s success and has also been a chief beneficiary of the turnaround.

The historic drop in crime, the rise in population and job growth, and the change in zoning laws that encourage new housing have led to a rise in property values and property taxes and to other locally-generated taxes from real estate activity.

Today, 41 percent of all of the locally-generated tax revenue comes from income-producing properties through real estate taxes, transaction taxes and personal income and sales taxes attributable to real estate activity last year.

That’s over $15 billion and it pays the city’s share of the salaries of every single police officer, firefighter, sanitation worker, teacher and correction officer and leaves about $2.5 billion left over for parks, libraries and vital city services that every New Yorker enjoys.

When you include the real estate taxes paid by co-ops and condos, it’s 58 percent of the city budget. That’s why I like to say that New York is not a Wall Street or a media town. This is a real estate town.

Over the years, we’ve experienced major changes at REBNY that reflect the city and the industry’s strength.

In 1986 we had 4,000 members, today there are nearly 17,000 of us. Since we launched the REBNY Listing service in 2013 there has been a complete transformation in the way residential listings are made public and shared among brokers.

Both New York City and REBNY celebrate strength through diversity. Our ability to collaborate and incorporate all of the diverse aspects of the real estate industry as a unifying force has allowed us to speak with one voice and keep us focused on the issues.

We’ve been able to have a seat at the table in conversations with policy makers. Whether or not we agree on the issues, we are engaged in an important dialogue because the policy makers understand the importance of our industry and our intrinsic connection to the success of New York City.

Next week will be my final Real Estate Weekly essay before I hand off this column to Incoming REBNY President, John Banks. I want to sincerely thank everyone at Real Estate Weekly and your readers for sharing this platform with me over the years.

In other REBNY news:

REBNY’s Residential SFC 2015 Summer Cocktail Party is June 18 at 120 Fifth Avenue Rooftop Lounge! From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., bring a guest and join us for a fun networking event featuring cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Registration is $40.00 online or $50.00 at the door, and phone reservations will not be accepted. Register online at

The next Residential Ethics Course for New Members is on June 23 in the Mendik Education Center. This is a non-credit course required for new REBNY members, and registration is required. In order to register, please visit the events page at, or contact for assistance.

In case you missed it, REBNY’s 12th Annual Commercial Management Leadership Breakfast featured a keynote speech by John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism. Watch the video here:

Request for Potential Pre-Kindergarten Spaces: The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to identify space for September 2015 that could be converted for pre-K programs in order to offer full-day, high-quality, free pre-K to every four-year old in New York City through the Pre-K For All Expansion.  To find out more information about the space requirements, or to submit a property for consideration, please visit the DOE’s web site at

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