Real estate attorney Meyer Last has billed hours on some of the city’s biggest leases, and on development projects from London to Shanghai.
In July, he celebrated 25 years with Fried Frank, where he is a partner in the real estate division.
Last advises the Retirement Systems of Alabama in connection with all of its leasing activity at 55 Water Street, at 3.8 million s/f, the largest office building in Manhattan. He served as counsel to Debevoise and Plimpton as tenant in the leasing of approximately 520,000 s/f at 919 Third Ave, and to George Comfort and Sons when they leased 900,000 s/f of 825 Eighth Ave. to Nomura Holding America.
Recently, Last said, he’s been keeping busy with RXR’s return to Manhattan and an uptick in retail deals following Vornado’s purchase of the retail condo at 666 Fifth Ave.
“After 25 years, I can say I never did the same type of transaction two times in a row,” he said. “The deals are exciting and the clients are fun and I’ve never regretted it.”
Last particularly enjoys working on development projects, and spent five years working with George Klein on Park Tower Realty’s multi-tower development plan for Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
“George has always worked with big names, and it was fascinating for me to sit with him over a long period of time and listen to how he thought about the development process,” he said.
The 53-year-old attorney is full of quirky stories from decades spent in the back rooms with New York’s major real estate players. When Brookfield Properties was developing 300 Madison Avenue ten years ago, he recalled, getting the project done required not just financing and permits but also building a storefront for a one-day relocation of the McDonald’s fast food restaurant on 42nd Street, one of the highest-grossing Micky D’s in the country.
And then there was the day in the 1997 when it was revealed that the property manager of 55 Water Street had for years been an undercover police officer, investigating mob ties to the trash hauling industry for the state Attorney General.
“We were all flabbergasted,” Last said.
In spite of all this excitement, however, asked if he could change one thing about real estate, Last gave a surprising answer.
“What I would love to see is to see myself somewhat put out of business,” he said.
Lawyers, Last suggests, sometimes generate so much paperwork it’s actually detrimental to a deal.
“What we should be doing as lawyers is serving a client’s best interest, and the client’s best interest is in closing the deal as soon as possible,” he said. “Over-lawyering something is not the way to make a client happy.”
Earlier in his career, Last served as counsel to Olympia & York, which preceded Brookfield Properties as owners of the World Financial Center. He re-wrote the company’s over 100 page lease agreement and produced a document of just 40 pages, he said, and to this day Brookfield uses a version of that streamlined lease.
“We’re very practical here [at Fried Frank,]” he said. “We want to get the deal done. I have no need to negotiate for negotiation’s sake.”
Last lives in Teaneck, N.J. with his wife and family and commutes to the city each day by ferry. He has three children in their teens and early 20s.
He ran his first Marathon at 43, and completes the New York Times crossword puzzle “religiously.”
Asked what he would do with his time if the industry embraced his call for less lawyering of deals, he seemed briefly stumped.
“My wife would be a lot happier,” he said. “That would be a good problem to have.”