REBNY 2012 Annual Report

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It was an active and challenging year for the Real Estate Board of New York in 2012. We saw many goals achieved, offered new and improved member services and moved forward with important issues on the city, state and federal levels for the betterment of the real estate industry.

In November, our great city, its people and our industry were heavily impacted by the incredible devastation of Superstorm Sandy which flooded homes and businesses in several coastal areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island and seriously impacted Lower Manhattan. Superstorm Sandy was the worst storm NYC has seen in decades. In addition to damaging thousands of homes and businesses, it also shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two days and halted our mass transit system—resulting in the worst damage in the subway’s 108-year history.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the real estate community’s involvement in government’s efforts to recover and rebuild has been essential. One of our members joined other volunteers stationed at the Office of Emergency Management to serve as the eyes and ears of our industry, enabling us to get much needed and useful post-storm information to our membership on a daily basis. Other REBNY members are helping in many ways, including assuming leadership roles and actively participating in the Mayor’s and Governor’s efforts to raise private funding to aid those displaced by the storm; the donation of equipment like pumps and generators to aid in the clean-up effort; the identification of temporary space to accommodate commercial tenants who were displaced by the storm; and in the collaboration between our members, government and utilities to get services restored to commercial and residential buildings.

The industry is currently working with the federal, state and city governments to fashion a housing recovery plan for those residents who will be without use of their homes for the foreseeable future.  REBNY and its members have started to take active roles in the several public committees formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who are seeking to craft solutions to many of the issues arising from Superstorm Sandy.

2012 also marked the final year of the three-year tenure of Mary Ann Tighe as REBNY Chairman.  Chairman Tighe, REBNY’s first female Chairman in our 117-year history, provided extraordinary leadership during difficult times.

Chairman Tighe identified long-term challenges for East Midtown, in particular zoning impediments to build new iconic office buildings on overbuilt sites.  Rezoning East Midtown will invigorate and strengthen its position as one of the world’s preeminent office districts by attracting new businesses and will help keep New York City on a competitive footing with other world cities.

Additionally, her initiative kept the option open for a No. 7 line subway station at West 41st and 10th Avenue that will make the future station on the far West Side a reality. 

During her tenure, Chairman Tighe joined many other members for the successful “Move the Trial Campaign,” which was successful in moving the Terror Trials for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others out of Lower Manhattan and to Guantanamo Bay. This Campaign demonstrated the power of combining the business and residential communities to advocate regarding, security concerns and economic impacts on the neighborhood.

During Mary Ann Tighe’s three years as Chairman, REBNY successfully advocated for the renewal of two major NYC economic development programs: the 421a Program and the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP). Both of these programs are critical and work to encourage capital investment in new housing, commercial development and renovation, as well as offset the heavy tax burden our real property tax system places on these properties.

Additionally, Chairman Tighe created a digital presence for REBNY by calling for an upgrade of the website, creating a new identity on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, as well as hiring a new media director to oversee those efforts. REBNY currently boasts more than 14,700 Twitter followers and more than 3,200 Facebook fans— a huge feat in such a short period of time.

Tighe’s hard work and exceptional leadership skills were a welcome asset to REBNY during some challenging years for our industry.

Tighe’s successor as Chairman, Rob Speyer, the President and Co-CEO of Tishman Speyer, represents another historic milestone for REBNY.  Taking over as Chairman in 2013, he will be the third-generation of his family to serve as Chairman as well as the youngest REBNY Chairman ever.   With Rob Speyer at the helm, 2013 promises to be a very exciting and busy year for REBNY and our industry.

Also in 2012, we named esteemed industry veteran Leonard Litwin as REBNY’s first ever Lifetime Honorary Chairman for his countless contributions to the City,  our industry and to REBNY throughout the years. Mr. Litwin has been a REBNY member since 1980. He was elected to the Board of Governors in 1985 and has served as Secretary since 1991. The honor was a small token of REBNY’s appreciation for Mr. Litwin’s extraordinary lifetime achievements.

On a sad note, we said goodbye to Sandy Lindenbaum, a 36-year REBNY member, who died in August. He served on the Board of Governors since 1988 and on the Executive Committee as Vice President from 1994. Mr. Lindenbaum was our industry’s leading land use and zoning attorney.

He provided the highest level of professional advice for many of the city’s most prominent commercial and residential developments as well as New York’s cultural, religious and educational institutions such as Carnegie Hall, Columbia University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Archdiocese of New York, the Guggenheim Museum and Weil Cornell Medical College. He will be greatly missed.

REBNY has many legislative achievements to be proud of in 2012.  Details of our efforts can be found below, but this year, as always, we continued to push for policies to benefit our city and our membership. REBNY’s advocacy was critical to the determination by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) to change the manner in which crane operators are trained and licensed.  DOB’s changes will result in a safer construction worksite moving forward.  REBNY’s advocacy was instrumental in the Department of City Planning’s decision to move forward with the rezoning of Midtown East — probably the last of a string of unparalleled significant rezonings undertaken under Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning Chair Burden.

REBNY’s involvement and support of the second year of the Committee to Save New York gave terrific impetus to the effort by Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to put New York State on a sounder fiscal footing.  On a federal level, REBNY played an important role helping to stem the abuses that had been occurring due to judicial interpretations of Interstate Lands Sales Act.

In December, we upgraded the REBNY Listing Service’s (RLS) transmission system to a new state-of-the-art transmission engine provided by Stratus Data Systems.  The system is overseen by REBNY’s new RLS Director Freddy Sarabia, who brings more than 15 years of Regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS) operations experience to REBNY. Improving day-to-day operations, this new platform, based on national real estate data transmission standards, will improve the engine that enables sharing and distribution of residential sales and rental listings between participating firms. To ensure that the RLS operates efficiently and provides the most accurate and complete listing information to its participants, the Board of Governors approved several changes to the Universal Co-Brokerage Agreement.

Finally in 2012, we reached a historic high in membership with over 13,000 members.  2012 was indeed a busy year filled with many achievements.  Our Annual Report compiles a detailed list of our activities in 2012.

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