- REAL ESTATE EDUCATION
- GIVING BACK
Douglas Durst | Chairman, The Durst Organization
James Whelan | REBNY President
James Whelan is president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the City’s leading real estate trade association which represents commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other corporations and individuals professionally interested in New York City real estate. In this role, Whelan oversees all REBNY activities which include advocating for effective public and industry policy, supporting the association’s 17,000 members with technical resources and educational opportunities, and connecting industry leaders with other business and community leaders to foster constructive civic partnerships and impactful results.
A successful coalition builder and eternal pragmatist, Whelan helped secure renewals of several economic incentives in this year’s New York State Budget, including the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) and Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP), as well as changes to spur new renewable energy development to build a more sustainable New York. From the outset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in New York, Whelan has steadfastly led REBNY to ensure the safety and economic well-being of New Yorkers, New York City and the real estate industry. During NYS on PAUSE, Whelan secured several executive orders to ensure real estate’s economic engine could continue to operate safely and without interruption, including the statewide order allowing for electronic notarization, a critical step for virtual real estate closings and other business transactions. Whelan also worked with members and other groups to address issues to clarify the status of essential workers in the construction, building maintenance and real estate services industries. Recognizing the need for a centralized source of information and resources during this crisis, Whelan launched REBNY’s Coronavirus Resource Hub to help the real estate industry navigate the quickly changing business climate. Through his leadership, REBNY also played a critical role in helping the City and State manage this public health crisis by connecting government officials to members of the real estate community who could fulfill calls for much-needed surge hospital space and personal protective equipment. REBNY also worked very closely with the MTA to secure $3.9 billion in the first federal stimulus package.
Prior to his appointment in 2019, Whelan served as executive vice president of REBNY, overseeing the organization’s advocacy, policy, government relations, communications and brokerage services efforts. In this role, he successfully helped pave the way for more affordable housing with the passage of Affordable New York (421a), improved economic development initiatives, such as the Greater East Midtown Rezoning, and legislation to address critical issues ranging from sustainability and illegal short-term rentals to landmarking.
Prior to REBNY, Whelan served as senior vice president for public affairs at the Muss Development Company. Over the course of his career, he has served in various government roles including chief of staff for Deputy Mayor for Economic Development of New York City Daniel Doctoroff, where he initiated strategies to secure Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) approval for Willets Point and Coney Island, assisted with the early implementation of PlaNYC, focused on Lower Manhattan lease term changes for the World Trade Center site and assumed leadership responsibility for construction of the National 9-11 Memorial and Museum. As executive director of the Hudson Yards Coalition, he advocated for the implementation of the Hudson Yards plan on Manhattan’s Far West Side and as the first executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, he oversaw the creation of the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan.
Whelan is a graduate of New York University and the Fordham University School of Law. Born and raised in Queens, James resides in Bellerose with his wife, Gail, and his two children. He serves on the Board of Directors of the New York City chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). He is the founding chair of the NYC JDRF Real Estate Games which have raised nearly $900,000 in its first four years to support research for the cure of Type One diabetes.
John H. Banks | REBNY President Emeritus
From March 2015 to June 2019 John H. Banks was the President of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).
Banks is a leading advocate for responsible pro-growth public policies to address the critical need to build and maintain housing at all income levels in every New York City neighborhood, commercial space to attract and retain businesses and accommodate the City’s growing population, and additional tax revenue to fund vital government services.
Throughout his tenure, REBNY’s efforts paved the way for: the production of more affordable housing, including advocating for the enactment of the Affordable New York Housing Program (formerly known as 421-a); economic development initiatives, such as the Greater East Midtown Rezoning; the Special Garment Center District text amendment and legislation to address critical issues ranging from sustainability and illegal short-term rentals to landmarking. Banks led the effort to organize REBNY members to protest ill-advised legislation that would negatively impact all commercial leases and raise residential rents across New York City.
During John Banks’ tenure, REBNY had made technology and innovation a focal point of its services with significant enhancements to its Residential Listing Service (RLS) to benefit members and consumers alike with clean, accurate, and comprehensive residential listing data.
In 2017, Banks became the Chairman of Building Skills New York, a not-for-profit organization committed to connecting New Yorkers with historically high rates of unemployment and poverty to quality training and expanded career opportunities in the construction industry.
Prior to REBNY, John was Consolidated Edison’s Vice President of Government Relations. He served as Vice Chairman of the New York City Charter Revision Commission in 2010 and worked on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition in 2013.
Previously, John served as Chief of Staff for the New York City Council and Deputy Director of the Council’s Finance Division. Banks’ first role in government was working for Mayor Edward Koch in his Office of Operations after graduating from Manhattan College with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Government.
Banks holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Baruch College. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection, and Manhattan College. He resides in Pelham Manor, New York with his wife and two children.