REBNY Donates Historical Documents to LaGuardia Community College

The history of real estate development and the history of New York City are one and the same, and over the past one hundred and twenty two years, the Real Estate Board of New York has been intrinsically connected to the development of New York. Our members have been at the forefront of New York’s real estate industry since our founding in 1896, and as such we maintained extensive records of the property transfers, mortgage details, and zoning alterations that shaped the skyline. We also stored a trove of meeting minutes where those deals, ideas, and policies were first debated and discussed.

These documents are of great interest and value to academic researchers, historians, policymakers, journalists, as well as, of course, the greater public. And that is why we recently donated our historical materials and documents to the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at the City University of New York’s LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens.

The REBNY collection’s new home will be alongside some of the most influential men and women in New York’s history. For example, the Archive is already the home of the mayoral and personal papers of nine former New York City mayors, the records of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and the New York City Council, among others.

These materials individually provide important snapshots of key moments in New York City’s history, and when combined with the other historical collections already housed in the Archive, interested researchers can begin to paint a fuller picture.

Materials donated by REBNY include over 300,000 property cards on which former REBNY leaders used to record information for every block and property in all of Manhattan. That information includes comprehensive records of the changes to those lots, most of which was not easily-accessible to researchers before our donation.

The records date back to the 1920s and extend through the 1990s, presenting a repository of information on property history for our members, and now 70 years of the financial history for these buildings in Manhattan will be fully available to the public.

Donated materials, however, extend far beyond the granular, building-specific changes of Manhattan. We also included our annual diary and manuals – which date back to 1896 – that provide key insight into the citywide policies that made these changes possible. There is detailed information on critical issues of public policy, building codes, land use decisions, and zoning proposals and policies. The diary and manual publications show these developments in real-time, with the insight of industry leaders at the time of those decisions.

The collection will be digitized and preserved by the archivists at the site, and we are fully confident that our old records are in the best of hands – that is why we chose CUNY.  We appreciate the care and concern shown for the materials by CUNY because as the head of our Research team Michael Slattery puts it, “they’re not the Dead Sea Scrolls, but for us, they’re the equivalent.”

We hope that these records will demonstrate to New Yorkers what we here at REBNY already know: New York City is built brick-by-brick and day-by-day. The towering skyscrapers and apartment buildings synonymous with New York are a result of a century’s worth of work and planning. By turning over our records to CUNY, we are ensuring that the real story of New York is told and preserved for generations to come.

Click here to watch a video about the REBNY Collection and the process of our donation to the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives.