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Developer’s education in real estate came from downturn

Michael Yanko, a principal at residential and hospitality developer WY Management, has a straightforward pitch for investors.

Yanko, who has felt the sting of previous economic downturns, presents himself as an embattled, even-handed figure, someone who’s recovered after stumbling under the weight of New York City’s unforgiving real estate market.

MICHAEL YANKO
MICHAEL YANKO

“In 2008, that was my third downturn in my career, the third down cycle that I’ve experienced. Before that was in 2000 and after 9/11,” he said.

His third downturn facilitated a drastic fall. His previous firm, Horizen Global, where he held the position of CEO, buckled under the pressure of the global financial crisis. The firm, which fashioned itself as a boutique firm that specialized in stylish properties, was forced to sell assets as it lost the ability to pay its lenders. One of the company’s high-profile setbacks involved Hudson Blue, a 10-story luxury condo building that once attracted famous buyers like Leonardo DiCaprio. The company defaulted on its loan for the property in 2008.

According to Yanko, the experience gave him an education in caution, something that he considers an advantage as he sees storm clouds hovering over the city’s real estate market.

“I don’t forget,” he said, the words sounding especially harsh with his accent. He claims that the offshoot of his tribulations, his memories, makes him a safe bet.

“If I was an investor, I would not want to work with any developer that did not experience at least one or two cycles. If you never experienced a cycle, you don’t know in your flesh, you know, the pain. You need to be the developer that the brokers suddenly call to say, ‘we had an open house, nobody came.’ So you have to feel it. If you don’t feel it, you don’t know how to protect yourself.”

Another notion that guides his principles is his belief that other people have the same capability to remember events.
“Nobody forgets,” he said. “Even when the tough gets going, always act like a gentleman. They will not forget it next time. We had issues. But we settled it very gentlemanly and nicely.”

The setbacks represent a subset of Yanko’s output over his 17-year long career. He has built and renovated over one million square feet in areas such as the Lower East Side, Washington Heights and Hell’s Kitchen. Yanko, a former officer in the Israeli Army, attributes his success to three personal traits. “I am an Aries, I’m Israeli and I’m a redhead,” he said.

His traits have spawned an uncomplicated requirement for his projects. “All the projects that we have, I would say I wouldn’t build it if I wouldn’t want to live there,” he said.
“I want people to be proud of the fact that they live in that building. Inside, you would feel great. Even if subconsciously you don’t understand why. It’s very important to me,” he said.

WY Management has installed Yanko’s aesthetic requirements in its more than 1.5 million s/f of residential and hospitality properties. The company’s greatest hits include Pod 39 at a budget hotel at 145 East 39th Street, The Chapin, a 120-unit apartment building on the Upper East Side and Ink 48, a boutique hotel on 11th Avenue. Meanwhile, the firm’s most recent projects include Time Nyack, a 132-room boutique hotel, and The Metropolitan, a luxury condo project in Bronxville.

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