By Konrad Putzier
For Ellen Rudin, running CBRE’s Long Island and Outer Boroughs offices is a return to her roots.
But working close to her childhood home is just one of the benefits of her current job, which she took up six years ago.
As managing director, she is transforming the firm’s offices into a 21-century workplace. “It is an exciting time, and something we’ve had to embrace,” she said.
Following a company directive, CBRE’s new office in Melville, Long Island, now features more common space and desks that move up and down. Employees work on laptops rather than desktop computers and wear mobile headsets. The idea, Rudin explained, is for everyone to be on their feet more.
Three weeks into the new office, she said all her co-workers are happy about the changes. “It is transformational and really addresses how people work,” she said. Rudin herself has changed her habits, too, and now spends more time walking through the offices.
Another benefit of working in Melville is that Rudin can now spare herself a long commute.
She recalled spending three hours a day travelling to and from work during her many years living in Long Island and working in Manhattan.
After growing up in Merrick — about 17 miles from her current office — she went to Cornell College and then straight to NYU Law School. Upon graduation, she became a real estate transactions lawyer at Wien, Malkin & Bettex LLP, handling leasing for the Helmsley portfolio and the Empire State Building.
“(Real estate) was the right lifestyle for me,” Rudin said, explaining her decision to join the industry. She added that she likes the tangible nature of the business.
Eventually, Rudin left the law firm to head the real estate department at Viatel, a European communications firm. In 2001, she founded the commercial brokerage Ambar with two female colleagues, which she ran until 2005. (The firm is now defunct.)
“It was difficult being a small firm,” she recalled. “You had to convince real estate departments why they weren’t taking a risk in going to you.”
Being a women-run business in the famously sexist commercial real estate industry added another level of difficulty — although Rudin reckons it wasn’t necessarily an obstacle. “Sometimes it was a disadvantage and sometimes it was an advantage,” she said, explaining that several firms chose to work with Ambar precisely because it was a women-owned business.
Still, after five years Rudin decided it was too difficult to compete with the big firms. So she joined one of them, becoming an executive at CBRE. She spent three years in the firm’s legal department before moving to its Long Island office.
After two decade in the city and six years working on Long Island, Rudin has a clear understanding of the different kinds of businesses these markets attract. For example, tech firms have yet to flock into New York City’s suburbs — in contrast to the tech-heavy office market in Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan.
Instead, she has noticed growth among healthcare and professional services firms, although growth in the suburban office market as a whole has been more or less flat.
The retail sector has recorded a much steeper growth over the past year after contracting significantly during the recession.
Rudin lives in Suffolk County with her husband, pediatrician Bruce Rudin. The couple has three sons — an 18-year old high school senior, a 20-year old college student at UPenn and a 22-year old business consultant in Manhattan.
Rudin said she doesn’t miss her days as an executive in Manhattan, when she would regularly travel around the world. “I am happy in Long Island,” she said. “It was great at the time, but I love what I do now.”