Value and opportunity were the themes of discusssion at Long Island City Partnership’s annual Real Estate Breakfast at the Con Edison Learning Center last week.
Paul Neuman, founder and president, Neuman’s Kitchen, which recently moved across the East River to LIC in order to capitalize on opportunities not available in the Manhattan market, said that the money saved allowed him to invest in his workforce.
“It’s interesting, because we are paying about the same amount for probably three times the space,” Neuman said while discussing his recent move. “By the time we added up what we were paying for our commissary, the two offices we were renting, the storage we were renting, and the parking of the vehicles, when we consolidated it, it’s virtually the same dollars (for) about two and a half times the space.
“We have an exercise room. We put showers in, so people could commute by bicycles. We were very mindful that what we were building needed to both produce beautiful food and attract great employees, and we’ve done both of those things.
We can now grow a business that we couldn’t continue to grow in Manhattan,” he said.
Neuman was joined on the panel by David Brause, president, Brause Realty, Steve Klein, chief investment officer, Brickman Real Estate, Shibber Khan, executive vice president, Criterion Group, and Ravi Patel, chief executive officer, Ravel Management Group.
Patel agreed with Neuman’s sentiments and praised LIC for “constantly evolving.”
Discussing the Ravel Hotel in LIC and the hotel market in general, Patel said that an ever-changing industry has seen a shift in what millennials expect out of their accommodations.
“The focus is less on the room and more on the other amenities,” said Patel. “The millennials don’t want to be in the room at all.”
Patel said that today’s travelers in the greater metro area are looking to be removed from the core of Manhattan, but also want access to offbeat and non-mainstream experiences in the locality.
He said that a hotel that can provide smaller rooms, access to local cultural experiences and extensive amenities will generate the most appeal.
“They want to be able to do everything on the outside of the room,” said Patel. “And spend less time on the inside of the room.”
Patel said that value and available space in LIC allowed his company to build a hotel that offered millennials what they’re seeking.
Khan said that the move to LIC made too much financial success to ignore. It allowed him to invest in aspects of his business that would typically go wanting due to mounting real estate prices.
“Long Island City is a great place to start a business,” he said. “I looked at my office costs. I was paying $12,000 for a 10,000 s/f office a month versus almost 10 times that in Manhattan.
“Do I spend money on rent or do I spend money on my employees?” Khan asked himself. He decided to spend his money on the people who make the company work.
Klein did point out one of LIC’s current short comings — lack of foot traffic when compared to the neighboring Manhattan — but he quickly mollified concerns by insisting that this issue was only a temporary hiccup.
“We don’t have a lot of pedestrian traffic, but that’s changing,” he said. “The Factory and The Falchi Building are going to be 100 percent rented shortly, and so I think it’s really incumbent upon the owners (of local businesses) to start activating the street front. That’s what we are going to do at our building on 28th avenue and 30th.”
Approximately 22,500 residential units are currently in the planning/construction phase in LIC. Approximately 1,200 of those are condominiums and nearly 22,000 rentals.
Since 2006, in excess of 10,845 total residential units have been completed in the neighborhood, with condos taking up about 2,700 of that total and rentals claiming over 8,100.
There are more than 6,300 businesses with 93,000 employees currently in LIC and more than 60,000 students pursuing some type of degree at local institutions.
The panel was attended by hundreds of members of the local real estate community as well as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer.