Robert Whalen, the current director of sales at Halstead Property’s Long Island City office, is no stranger to change. Now a real estate veteran, Whalen began his professional path as a financial journalist, writing for Bloomberg News. He also spent time as a law clerk before following the winding road back to journalism and earning the title of executive editor at The Bond Buyer.
His career then led him into government work, where he served as New York City press secretary for the State Comptroller before working as a senior investment operations officer for the New York State Common Retirement Fund.
Ultimately, his wife’s swiftly developing real estate career opened a new door to the Queen’s native.
After obtaining a broker’s license so that he could aid her in client relations, Whalen decided that perhaps one more career change was necessary.
He cut his teeth in residential real estate with Nest Seekers International and, after less than two years, Whalen had earned the attention of the brand that now employs him.
A shining example of how to navigate change and progress, it’s only fitting that Whalen was made the director of the first Halstead office in the borough of Queens.
There was a time when living in the boroughs was a silver medal. It allowed those who could not afford Manhattan’s price tag to live near its benefits and offerings. Now, Halstead’s investment signals the neighborhood’s change.
Located at 47-12 Vernon Bvd, the office opened last all with Whalen leading 18 agents in what president Diane Ramirez called “the beginning of the firm’s entry into Queens.ˮ She said the firm is likely to grow in Queens much like it did in Brooklyn, where it now has six offices.
“Long Island City is so vibrant right now — the great developers are all here — and it has great access to Manhattan,” said Ramirez.
Halstead is entering a competitive market joining Nestseekers, Douglas Elliman, Modern Spaces and Space Market Shop on Vernon Boulevard, with Dream Property on 48th Avenue.
“It’s tremendously exciting,” Whalen told Brokers Weekly while discussing the firm’s expansion into the borough.
“It says that a company of the stature of Halstead Property has recognized that, not only are a lot of people in Manhattan discovering what Long Island City offers in terms of quality of life and ease of access into Manhattan, but also that there’s tremendous growth to come.
“This is the first time that Halstead is actually opening an office from scratch with someone that they had not previously had (working for the company),” he continued, discussing yet another pivotal move for the brokerage.
“When they first approached me and we started talking, I knew of Halstead by reputation and by interactions with their agents,” Whalen said. He had always thought highly of them, and his expectations proved to be accurate, he said.
“I was just blown away by the professionalism of the executive team and, of course, by the owners who are tremendous real estate professionals in their own right,” said Whalen. “The more I got to know the company, the more I fell in love with it.”
Whalen’s office is located in LIC because of the area’s recent and exponential growth. Marketed as an affordable yet desirable area, this sector of the borough is boosted by its access to rapid transportation into Midtown.
But according to Whalen, LIC is merely a representation of the entire borough’s potential.
With 23 active sales in Queens as of press-time, Whalen told Brokers Weekly that his deal to beat is a transaction that registered the highest price per s/f ever in the borough’s history.
Whalen represented the seller on the deal, which closed for $2.25 million, a record-breaking $1,950 per square foot.
“I think that, as the neighborhood becomes a little more like Manhattan, it will price a little bit closer to it,” said Whalen, who is on the frontline of growing values in the area. “Some areas are going to get very pricey and some already have.”
Whalen sees the rising home values attracting a different commercial atmosphere, especially in regards to higher-end retail.
But while areas like Long Island City and Astoria continue to gentrify, Whalen is confident that the borough will remain a solidly better value than the big brother, Manhattan to the West.
While Queens has certainly undergone some significant changes of the past several years, Whalen still sees it as a tertiary borough. He wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It’s really a nice representation of New York City as a whole, but there are certainly a ton of strollers and kids chasing dogs,” said Whalen, emphasizing the neighborhood feel that much of Queens can offer families that want to live in New York but also enjoy a break from the urban jungle. “You can get a little more space. The air just seems little more open,” he continued.
“One of the things that I really love about the neighborhood is there has been a commitment to maintaining the character. The character is defined by the people, not the buildings going up, but the people.”
As LIC and its borough continues to develop, Whalen is excited to be heavily involved in the transactions that will help sculpt the community.
Stressing that there really is something for everyone — whether it be young professionals, growing families, older New Yorkers looking for a change, or anyone else drawn to it’s offerings — Whalen made it clear that he has fully immersed himself in Queen’s growth.
“I live in the neighborhood, it’s hard not to come in,” said Whalen, while mentioning that he sometimes finds it hard to stay away from the office even on Sundays.
“If I’m not wearing my director‘s hat, I’m running around in my agent shoes,” he said with a laugh. “There’s more to come.”