By Al Barbarino
For 22 years Danny Cohen worked as a commodities trader on New York City’s trading floors – from the World Trade Center to the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Cohen, who joined Citi Habitats in May, executed up to $25 million in cotton trades through his company, Dack Futures, on any given day.
For four long hours, he bumped against competing traders, deep in the “pit,” to get the best deals for customers, employing an array of nods, hand signals, shouts – and a few friendly shoves along the way. It was “controlled chaos,” where every second mattered, Cohen said.
“There were a lot of elbows and a lot of hips,” he said. “It would just wipe you out by the end of the day. You literally had to fight for your position and you couldn’t be afraid to open your mouth. It was very loud and very competitive… I miss it every day of my life.” But, he added, “I’m not going back to that.”
Cohen doesn’t have much of a choice.
The trading industry he once knew has all but dissolved with the advent of electronic trading platforms, which have replaced a majority of their human counterparts.
The “money is a lot slower in real estate,” Cohen said.
The hours are much longer and there’s a little less pushing and shoving, but you have to be just as fast and diligent in real estate, which shares many similarities with his previous life as a trader, he said.
The broker has completed $8 million in residential sales and was a top producer at Town Real Estate, where he worked for over a year prior to joining Citi Habitats.
He works hand-in-hand with Sandu Calinescu, a broker who showed him the ropes at Town and moved to Citi Habitats just weeks before Cohen.
The married father of two brings to Citi Habitats an outgoing personality, high energy, expert negotiation and people skills, and the multi-tasking chops perfected over the span of two decades in the commodities business.
“I really love the negotiating aspect of real estate,” he said. “Real estate is a lot of fun. It’s extremely social and it’s very rewarding. In trading it was very rare to get a thank you.”
The broker recently got a taste for the commercial side of the business, having just represented the seller of a 16-unit, $7.3 million building at 141 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights.
“It was definitely a highly rewarding experience,” Cohen said. “I really enjoy the commercial end of the business and it’s something I’d like to do more of in the future.”
Cohen is from Houston, Texas. As a child he often accompanied his father, who grew up in Upstate New York and was involved in the commercial real estate investment business, to the Big Apple.
It gave him familiarity with the city – and insight into the right way to do business.
“I always knew that I was going to get into business and investments,” Cohen said. “I grew up with it and it was really always in my blood. My father did business by a handshake, and by looking people in the eye and being a man of his word.”
He studied Business and Finance at Southwestern University.
His competitive spirit and ability to crush a baseball landed him a spot on the Atlanta Braves minor league team in 1987.
He realized after a year in the minors that he probably wasn’t going to make the major leagues, but a developmental coach at the time – none other than baseball great Hank Aaron – told him that he was a great hitter, he said.
“It was a great experience and I consider myself to have been successful,” he said, adding that the same competitiveness continues to guide him. “I’m definitely very competitive and very success-driven. It’s all about the numbers and I’m afraid to fail.”
Cohen credits Citi Habitats executives like Gary Malin, Gordon Golub and Luciane Serifovic with making his transition from Town Real Estate as “smooth and seamless as it possibly could have been.”
“They are people that I definitely admire and they just couldn’t do what they do better,” he said. “I’m very excited to be here.”