Tag Archives: Seth Pinsky

Panel of experts talk Queens real estate trends at LIC conference

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


The latest news and trends in the “World’s Borough” was the focus of a panel discussion, “From Food to Fashion: What’s Trending in Queens Real Estate” at the 2015 Real Estate Subway Series Queens held at the Renaissance Event Hall in Long Island City on Monday.

Schneps Communications co-publisher and LIC Flea and Food founder Joshua Schneps was joined at the panel by fellow panelists Margaret T. Ling Esq. of First Nationwide Title, RXR Realty executive vice president Seth Pinsky and Justin Cole, assistant vice president of leasing for Macerich. Faith Hope Consolo, world-renowned consultant and chair of The Retail Group with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, moderated the panel.

The panel discussed the ways in which cultural, social and economic trends in Queens have contributed to the boom in both retail and residential real estate throughout the borough.

According to the panelists, the thriving diversity in both culture and cuisine is one of Queens’ best qualities.

“I think the big difference between Queens and really any of the other four boroughs, but especially Brooklyn, is that Queens is a collection of communities,” Pinsky observed.

Schneps agreed: “We have over 18 different publications because we recognize that there are different demos in all of the different areas of Queens and Brooklyn and beyond.”

The LIC Flea and Food features more than 80 vendors representing roughly 85 different nationalities.

“It reflects the diversity and that people are looking for diversity, especially when it comes to cuisine,” Schneps explained. “Cuisine could be a big driving force and an attraction for tourism.”

“Food follows fashion,” Consolo said.

Many of the panelists observed that growth and trends throughout the borough were often driven by the tastes and preferences of a younger demographic, or “millennials,” flocking to Queens in search of affordability, cultural diversity and great public transit.

The panelists also noted that many of the changes happening in Queens’s commercial real estate are also due in part to a shift in the workforce. Pinsky believes that newer creative businesses ranging from tech start-ups to artisan goods producers are looking to establish outposts in Queens not only to be closer to the workforce here, but because they are seeking the unique architecture and character that Queens has to offer.


Schneps speaking on issues concerning retail and real estate growth in Queens with moderator Faith Hope Consolo

“This is an interesting time for Queens on the office front,” Pinsky said. “We’re increasingly seeing the establishment of creative enclaves along the Queens waterfront. You now have a workforce that’s very entrepreneurial and looking to work in the areas in which they also live.”

When asked to name some of the popular hot spots throughout the borough, Schneps said that both Long Island City and Astoria were at the forefront due to an abundance of diverse retail opportunities, eateries and a vibrant, growing population.

“If you go to 30th Avenue on a Friday night, it’s booming with a lot of outdoor cafes, mostly owned by young business owners in their 30s,” he explained. “I think a tremendous opportunity is Steinway Street in Astoria. Steinway Street is always known as the shopping street and the central part of Astoria. I think there is a huge opportunity here from a retail perspective.”

Schneps also observed that there was great opportunity for growth and expansion in Rockaway Beach as a result of the growing population of young artists and 20-somethings in the area.

“In terms of hot neighborhoods, I think there is a very long list of neighborhoods in Queens that are hot for all different reasons,” Pinsky said. “If you drive east from Flushing along Northern Boulevard, you will see how those neighborhoods heading all the way out to Little Neck have been completely transformed into Little Korea or Little China. There are phenomenal opportunities out there.”

The panel also grappled with the issue of the increased demand for affordable housing in Queens and beyond.

“The challenge that we’re facing as a city is a challenge of affordability,” Pinsky explained. “That challenge is coming from the fact that more people, companies and visitors want to be here than we’re able to accommodate. It’s a symptom of our success as a city, and not a failure.”

Pinsky believes that affordable housing efforts should be directed to the needs of the poor, who have often been displaced the by middle class after being priced out of their neighborhoods. He also argued that greater investments need to be made with regard to transit improvements, as middle class members tend to relocate along transit lines.


Long Island City ‘suffering from the side effects of its very success’

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

It has been on the minds of Long Island City leaders for a while, and during the second annual LIC Summit on Tuesday it was brought to light during the first panel entitled “City within the City.”

“It” refers to the struggle to maintain balance between building new residential and commercial structures while keeping older manufacturing spaces, which traditionally form the backbone of Long Island City.

The Long Island City Partnership, which co-hosted the LIC Summit with The Queens Courier and brokerage Modern Spaces, was even awarded a $100,000 grant in January to conduct a planning study of the neighborhood that would, in part, find an answer to maintaining the balance. The study is still in its preliminary stages, so a solution has not yet been found.

“Like with the city as a whole, in some ways Long Island City is suffering from the side effects of its very success,” said Seth Pinsky, vice president of RXR Realty, during the panel in front of more than 300 professionals and leaders in the Museum of Moving Image.

Pinsky pointed out that high demand to move to Long Island City causes land valuations to surge to levels where only residential projects would make financial sense, which stifles commercial development. In turn, developers convert industrial buildings into offices and retail, displacing old manufacturing jobs that many city residents without higher education have relied on for a long time.

But Pinsky’s point was challenged by Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, who urged against preserving spaces for older manufacturing and looking toward jobs for companies of the future, such as 3-D printing firm Shapeways and other technology businesses. These would require higher levels of education, which institutions such as the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island would provide.

“The emotional pull of manufacturing as we think of it in the past, the good blue-collar jobs for a population that didn’t have Ph.D.s, is not the future of manufacturing,” Wylde said. “Robots are going to replace people in most manufacturing. It’s not going to be the same kind of job provider that it has been in the past.”

Pinsky disagreed partly and countered that some old sections of manufacturing will still be important for the “foreseeable future,” such as construction, warehousing and distribution, because they will provide necessary services for businesses in the city. He added that there is a feeling that areas in LIC could easily become zoned residential and many workers would lose jobs as businesses close or move.

The problem of finding balance in Long Island City could be answered with a rezoning. Some of the first panelists agreed that the current proposal to rezone certain sections of Long Island City for more high-rise housing has to be examined more closely by the City Planning Department.

“I think that this is an opportunity for us to strike that right balance and find the density for the affordable housing that the administration is looking for,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said, “but also preserve some of the things that are worth preserving.”

Industry leaders also talked about the future of transportation, tourism, culture, zoning and LIC as a home for business in ensuing panels at the event.

And infrastructure problems in LIC, such as lack of green spaces and the need for more schools, were discussed as well. Van Bramer even promised that they are looking for spaces for new schools.

With various art and cultural institutions, restaurants, entertainment venues and a hotel sector— which is currently up to 26 buildings but has more than two dozen more in the pipeline — many recognized that LIC has become a destination with incredible growth.

During her opening speech, Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, revealed renderings of LIC two years in the future after 10 new towers will be added to the growing skyline. The dramatic expansion shown through the image caused gasps from audience members.

“There is a lot on the way,” Lusskin said. “And we’re not talking 10 years, we’re talking two years.”


Talk of Sunnyside Yards mega development chugging along  

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Henderson/ Wikipedia Commons

Proposals to redevelop the massive Sunnyside Yards are building up steam after decades of discussion as more key players in the rail yard’s future are weighing in with some specific ideas for what can be built there.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was the latest to express her ideas about what to do with the massive 160-acre rail yard.

Nolan said upgrading the existing community must be considered first when developing the rail yard, referring to an ambitious plan by former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and SHoP Architects to build a massive convention center and housing complex over the site.

Developing the Sunnyside Yards has historically been a touchy subject — one that began heating up recently after then Community Board 2 Chair Joseph Conley introduced the idea to conduct a publicly-funded feasibility study to figure out what could be done with the yards, which was first reported by The Courier in October.

Last month Doctoroff penned an editorial in the New York Times about his plan, which includes moving the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob Javits Convention Center over the rail yards and expanding it to 3.1 million square feet, while also creating 14,000 new housing units — 50 percent of which would be set aside as affordable —  and adding an office and retail complex and public green spaces.

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects 

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects

But Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has not stood behind the plan, and instead voiced concern for current residents.

“What we need is more green space. We need a lot more schools, we need more [school] buildings, already based on the number of kids we have today, and not including any new kids,” Van Bramer said. “We need better transportation options — the 7 train is already over capacity. And yes we need affordable housing and we are very supportive of more affordable housing being built, but it can’t come at the expense of the quality of life that the people experience in the neighborhood today.”

Many of his constituents have opposed development of the yards. A petition against a development project at the site started by locals following the Doctoroff editorial has garnered about 250 signatures.

But industry experts seem to think not using the land would be a waste.

“I think that Sunnyside Yards represents an enormous opportunity for Queens and for the city and one that is certainly worth exploring more closely,” said former city Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, who is now a vice president at RXR Realty. “The big challenge will be to figure out how to get the right mix of uses. It’s too big an opportunity to ignore.”

Although he has not shown support for it, Van Bramer said if the project is to move further  a study must first be done on the proposed usage of the land.

“I think that if there is a next step the city might want to take a look at some feasibility issues and see what’s possible,” Van Bramer said. “I’m not sure anything needs to be done quite frankly.”


Developing Queens: Q&A with Seth Pinsky, RXR Realty

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of RXR Realty

Seth Pinsky is the executive vice president and investment manager of RXR Realty’s Metropolitan Emerging Market Strategy. He leads the firm’s efforts to invest in emerging opportunities in New York City and the surrounding Tri-State region, focusing on asset classes and geographic regions that have historically been characterized by underinvestment. Before working at RXR, Pinsky served as president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation in 2008. In this role, he was lead negotiator on behalf of the city for a wide range of projects, including Citifield and the acquisition of Hunters Point South. Pinsky talked with Real Estate Editor Liam La Guerre about RXR’s interest in Queens. 

La Guerre: What does RXR Realty think about the borough of Queens?

Pinsky: RXR is a huge believer in Queens. We made a very substantial investment in the Standard Motor Products Building in Long Island City earlier this year and are looking for additional opportunities, not just in Long Island City but throughout the borough.

La Guerre: Why is that?

Pinsky: The reason why we are so bullish on Queens is because we are seeing two simultaneous phenomena, which kind of intersect perfectly in a place like Queens. The two phenomena are as New York becomes more and more competitive internationally, traditional core markets like Midtown Manhattan are becoming more expensive, which is pushing people out into what previously had been peripheral areas. At the same time, changes in people’s lifestyles and the way people want to work are pulling people into diverse, transit accessible, walkable communities with medium to high density.

La Guerre: Which Queens neighborhoods do RXR feel have potential?

Pinsky: We are clearly interested in Long Island City. There is a huge opportunity especially for commercial space as creative businesses are looking for lower cost alternatives to some of the prime Manhattan markets, and also are looking to move closer to some of the reservoirs of talent, like Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Long Island City itself, and Astoria. In addition, we are looking at places like the Rockaways, communities like Forest Hills, Flushing and Jamaica. So we are really looking across the length and breadth of the borough.

La Guerre: I’m really surprised to hear the Rockaways, because I really haven’t heard much movement there, except Sandy-related build-backs. So why the Rockaways?

Pinsky: We’re raising a significant fund that is focused on what we are referring to as emerging submarkets. And these are areas that for one reason or another been out of favor with the market for some time, but which have good infrastructure, proximity to population and jobs, and good lifestyle elements. And the Rockaways kind of meet that definition perfectly.

La Guerre: There is lots of interest in conversion of old buildings for office and commercial space following the residential boom in Long Island City and Astoria. But there is a lack of new commercial developments, why is that?

Pinsky: I think there is without a doubt a need for new development of that kind of space in the city, and I think there is a market for it. The real challenge though that the development community faces is that land tends to trade at residential values. And it’s almost impossible to make a commercial development project work if you’re buying land for residential values. In addition to that, while the de Blasio administration should clearly be applauded for their efforts in developing affordable housing, the signal that’s being sent to the market is that there is a strong preference for residential development. So even in areas that aren’t zoned for residential development, land in those areas is trading around residential values because there is an assumption among some that much of the commercially zoned land in the city is going to be rezoned to allow the construction of housing. So that’s really the major obstacle to new commercial development in the city generally and Queens especially.

La Guerre: What’s your favorite Queens development at the moment?

Pinsky: In a borough as diverse and with as much potential as Queens, it’s hard to pick a favorite project. It’s just an exciting time for an amazing place.


Flushing Commons finally moves forward

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of New York City Economic Development Corporation

The long-delayed Flushing Commons project is finally starting this fall, with accommodations for parking and small business, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has announced.

The $850 million project, a decade in the making, got the green light Tuesday, March 12, and construction is planned to start later this year. The two-phase project will include more than 600 residential units, 500,000 square feet of commercial space and one of the largest YMCAs in the country.

“The new plan, which will maintain all existing parking spaces during construction, is the culmination of years of work to address community concerns,” said NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky. “We now look forward to the start of this critical project that will create thousands of jobs and a major mixed-used destination, complete with open space and a brand-new YMCA.”

More than 2,600 construction jobs and 1,900 permanent jobs are projected to come from this project.

A deal between the city and developers, The Rockefeller Group and Flushing-based TDC Development and Construction Corporation, is expected to be inked sometime this summer, according to the NYCEDC.

When the project is complete, there will be a total of 1,600 parking spaces, a 500-slot increase from what is currently there.

To ease parking problems and not disturb business, the project was split into two phases beginning first with the south side.

The 62,000-square-foot YMCA, with two pools, a full-size gym and an indoor running track, will headline the first phase of the project. Other components include 160 units of housing, 350,000 square feet of commercial space and a 1.5 acre space with a fountain plaza and amphitheater.

Phase 2 will have an additional 450 housing units, another 150,000 square feet of commercial space and 15,000 square feet of community space.

Borough President Helen Marshall said the phase split “also addresses the need for adequate parking during construction.”

Surrounding small businesses that could be affected by construction might be eligible for EDC’s business interruption program. The program, with $2.25 million set aside, can help eligible business owners with outreach and other means.



Courier hosts Power Breakfast on future of LIC’s tech boom

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), made clear that as business sectors based in the city move forward, technology will become more crucial.

“As we like to say at EDC: whereas in the past the technology industry was a sector; increasingly, today, the economy itself is the tech sector.”

Pinsky was a featured panelist for the “The Future of LIC: How the tech boom will affect you & your business!” — a power breakfast host by The Queens Courier in part with TD Bank — on Thursday, October 11, which gave a glimpse of what will become of the growing technology growth in Long Island City.

The breakfast played host to panelists: Carol Conslato, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and public affairs director for Con Edison; Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall; Greg Pass, entrepreneurial officer for CornellNYC Tech; Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens; Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza media; Elliot Park of Shine Electronics; and Gayle Baron, president of LIC Partnership. Featured elected officials who spoke included Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Van Bramer kicked the morning off by noting that what was core to Long Island City were the arts and culture that had found a home in the region.

“Who in here believes that culture and the arts drives Long Island City,” Van Bramer asked the hundreds present and was answered with hundreds of applause.

Pinsky, head of the EDC since 2008, said it was important that the city take the lead in the ever-changing tech world. Some of the ways New York has begun to do that, he said, included the Cornell Tech Campus that will have a home on Roosevelt Island and incubators in Long Island City to boost start-ups and small businesses.

“First, the sector itself is a critical and growing sector,” Pinsky said. “We’re increasing employment, we’re seeing more economic activity, but I think that’s only half an answer. And that’s because the real reason why we’re so focused on the tech sector is that in the 21st century the tech sector will also be critical to the success of almost every other sector in our city’s economy. If our city doesn’t take a leadership in technology we’ll find it increasingly difficult to maintain our leadership position in anything else that we do.”

See photos from the event

As Cornell Tech, along with other satellite campuses across the city, begin to produce ambitious minded tech experts, they will most likely find a home in Long Island City because of its location and comparatively cheaper rent prices than Manhattan, several speakers said.

Plaxall over the last 20 years has fostered the art community that gradually grew in Long Island City, and now that community will be mixed with a technology community, said Kirby, who runs the real estate company with his cousin. The end result would be something Kirby said would be “amazing.”

“We already have the creative artists, now we can bring the creative technological people to Long Island City and to do that we need to do things that will make this an attractive area for them,” Kirby said. “I think Long Island City has the potential to be a location where we merge technology and art to create some amazing things.”

To attract the expected influx of techies, Plaxall is laying out plans for a community that could foster a merger between the arts and technology, Kirby said.

This community would be on 12 acres on the East River around what is known as the Anabel Basin. This community would include a mixed-use area of residential towers and buildings for technology companies, Kirby said. The vision for this area is to create “really a sustainable community where people can live, work and play that will attract the best and the brightest.”

Roman, the youngest speaker on the panel, said afterward that technology and culture had already become one in another and could open the doors for more and more potential.

“There’s an interesting intersection between technology and culture, where the technology becomes invisible and it’s all about the culture,” he said. “I think that’s a really exciting intersection to be at.”

Queens Courier to present Power Breakfast

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Queens, particularly Long Island City, could be the “Silicon Valley of the East.”

With this in mind, The Queens Courier, together with TD Bank, will present “The Future of LIC: How the tech boom will affect you & your business!,” a power breakfast networking event on Thursday, October 11.

The event will be led by Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) since 2008. Under his leadership, the NYEDC is helping local industries transition into the 21st century and investing in development and infrastructure.

The breakfast will also feature Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris, and a panel of guest speakers that includes Gayle Baron, president of LIC Partnership; Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens; Carol Conslato, public affairs director of Con Edison and president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; Greg Pass of Cornell Tech; Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall; Elias Roman, CEO of Songza Media; and Elliot Park of Shine Electronics.

The speakers will each give a unique view point on what a tech boom signifies for Long Island City, which will be just a short train ride away from the Technion-Cornell applied science campus.

It’s estimated that thousands of more tech jobs will grow out of the school in the future and many of them will be in Queens.

Additionally, a recently announced initiative will provide for more tech educational opportunities in the borough and could lead to even more startups in Queens.

Don’t miss your chance to attend this informative discussion. “The Future of LIC” will be held at Water’s Edge Restaurant, 44th Drive at East River, Long Island City. Networking starts at 9 a.m. and breakfast at 10 a.m. For registration and ticket information, visit www.queenscourier.com/events or call 718-224-5863, ext. 226.

Rockaway Courthouse to be revitalized

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The former Rockaway Courthouse — saved from its longtime sentence of stagnancy — has been given a second life.

The limestone and marble courthouse, located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive, was originally constructed in 1932. But for the last 20 years, the building has remained vacant.

Now, the city is seeking interested buyers to reactivate and redevelop the 80-year-old historic structure.

“[This] will help both the city and the community implement a coordinated strategic plan for economic development for this critical part of Queens,” said Seth Pinsky, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on January 24. “We look forward to learning what creative New Yorkers have in mind for the former courthouse in the coming weeks and months.”

According to local leaders, the current site — which includes approximately 24,000-square-feet and access to mass transportation — holds the key to stimulating future economic growth and residential life.

“This great community resource has been on my radar for several years,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “This RFEI will set the stage for a real reuse plan of this former courthouse. It will become the latest addition to the continuing Rockaway renaissance that has brought new housing, recreational and retail development in recent years.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the reactivation will also remove a longstanding “blight on the community.”

“For too long we’ve allowed it to sit vacant, hurting the community,” Goldfeder said. “Any redevelopment proposals are very welcomed. In Rockaway, we’re very excited about seeing something in that facility, for it to finally have some use.”

According to Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, one developer — Uri Kaufman of the Harmony Group — had already expressed interest even before the RFEI was issued to transform the courthouse into a surgical center.

“The board had a very favorable response to this proposal,” Gaska said. “We have always seen the Rockaway Courthouse as a monument to city neglect. It was once was a beautiful building, and we’re pleased that the city is moving to try and find someone to renovate and occupy it. We’re waiting to see if any other proposals come in, and we’ll see what happens.”

Kaufman could not be reached as of press time.