The transformation of the former Eberhard Faber pencil factory in Greenpoint into modern condominiums was already underway when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, taking the US housing market with it on its way down.
The building was on track to open in 2009, but the project was put on hold while Prudential Douglas Elliman managing director Joyce Kafati-Batarse and her team modified their marketing strategy and pricing in response to new economic realities.
“Pre-Lehman, everyone was about lifestyle and amenities. Post-Lehman, everyone was about value,” Kafati-Batarse said.
The realignment paid off. Within a year of the 2010 launch, at a time when other north Brooklyn developments were facing foreclosure, the 93-unit building was 95 percent sold.
Kafati-Batarse, who immigrated to the United States as a child and has lived in Brooklyn for the past 15 years, is at the forefront of the booming Brooklyn residential market.
In 2010 and again in 2011, her Brooklyn sales team topped the charts for number of transactions at PDE. “Brooklyn has broken the ceiling and is competing with Manhattan numbers,” she said.
Kafati-Batarse works with the developers and investors from the early days of a project, consulting on the building’s layout and unit mix with an eye to eventual marketing.
She credits her success to a client base of developers who know her reputation for results.
“In its simplest form, it’s a curiosity of why things work and why they don’t, and what people want and what they don’t,” she said of her talent as a marketing agent and broker.
Something else people want: 500 Fourth Avenue, the first white glove, full-service condominium building in Park Slope, the Brooklyn neighborhood Kafati-Batarse also calls home.
The 156-unit building began closings in the summer of 2010, and 11 units remain for sale.
Kafati-Batarse moved to Colorado from El Salvador with her family when she was a child in the late 70s. She got her work ethic from her father, she said, and her entrepreneurial spirit from watching her mom.
“I am incredibly grateful to my parents for the numerous sacrifices they each made in moving us here,” she said.
She majored in Sociology at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Coll., where she became involved in a campus program that provided tutoring and outreach to children in the surrounding community.
“It was a program that was going under. They had four kids and one volunteer,” she said. “I grew that to 60 volunteers and 110 kids.”
From there, she enrolled in graduate school at New York University, intending to study education administration and pursue a career in non-profits. It was at this point that fate led her to Brooklyn.
“I came out and I was supposed to move into NYU housing and they overbooked us and I ended up in Park Slope by chance. I found there was a little more space; it was a little quieter,” she said.
She left the graduate program after a year, but stayed on as an employee of NYU’s Metro Center for Urban Education.
“New York was new and always exciting to me, and I ended up staying here and branching out,” she said.
As a university employee, she took advantage of continuing education opportunities and earned a certificate in directing. In those pre-digital days, editing movies involved cutting film on a Steenbeck machine.
“I did everything, but I was never in front of the camera; I was always behind the camera,” she said.
Then, in 2003 she decided to try her hand at real estate, joining Corcoran’s Park Slope office.
“I found a niche in development that I just loved,” she said. “I had a little understanding of development from a family business perspective, where you roll up your sleeves and get to work.”
In addition to small developments, her family has also been involved in investment and property management, and her mother recently became a broker in Colorado herself.
Kafati-Batarse is one of six children, and one brother and one sister have joined her in New York. “I started recruiting family here,” she said. “I’m a big family person.”
Across her varied career she sees a common theme. “The one consistent thing is all of those projects really were ones that we got to start from scratch and build on,” she said.
And that’s what she loves the most about her work in real estate. “I get to go from concept and design to seeing people living there, and it’s great,” she said.