On a family trip to Miami when Pamela Liebman was 4, what interested her the most were not the white sand beaches or the clear blue water, but the buildings. “What are those?” asked the future chief executive of the Corcoran Group, Manhattan’s top real estate brokerage firm.
“That’s a condominium,” her mother replied. She said she spent the rest of the trip rolling the word “condominium” off her tongue.
“I think I was predestined to go into real estate,” she said. Years later, when visiting her realtor aunt in Beverly Hills, she said the interest still hadn’t flagged. All the other kids wanted to swim the pool. “I just wanted to go look at the houses,” she said.
It’s been 27 years since the University of Massachusetts, Amherst graduate walked into a small realtor’s office in Manhattan looking for a job. “You seem like the restless type,” Barbara Corcoran told her. “I don’t know if you’re going to stick it out.” But she has and then some. Ms. Liebman has helped grow the company from 30 people and two offices to a national firm with 2,200 agents and 42 offices. You can now find Corcoran signs in Palm Beach, the Hamptons, Manhattan and Brooklyn.
It’s hard to image that the busy executive with a husband and two children has room for anything else but work and family, but this year’s recipient of the REBNY Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award makes time to help in the fight against cancer, advocates for military vets and helps open up ball fields for inner-city kids. In 2001, when a family friend’s 5-year-old son was found to have leukemia, she stepped up to help start the Wipe Out Leukemia Forever Foundation.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “No family should have to go through that.” The organization has raised over a million dollars through golf outings and fund-raisers and has endowed a research lab at Colombia Presbyterian Medical Center to continue to work toward the goal of eradicating the cancer. Her friend’s son is in remission. He’s now six feet tall and plays three sports, said Ms. Liebman. “You would never know,” she said.
She has furthered her fight against the disease, recently becoming involved with the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Against Cancer. Ms. Liebman has also spent four years on the board of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Although she did not have a hand in bringing the space shuttle Enterprise to the deck of the aircraft carrier, she does emphasize the important work the organization does promoting awareness of the sacrifices veterans make. The museum’s Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund has raised $55 million to build a rehabilitation center at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, to treat disabled vets.
“The attention that they bring to veterans is important to the whole world,” Ms. Liebman said.
Recently she has joined in the fight against urban obesity by helping raise money for the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation. The organization provides funds for the care and upkeep of playing fields on the island so that inner-city kids have a place to play in the summer. “Private school kids aren’t the only ones who should have a place to play,” said Ms. Liebman. “The playing fields help level the playing field.”
If all that doesn’t prove her worthiness for the Gerrety Award, her in-house charity, Corcoran Cares, should do the trick. Started six years ago, the organization consists entirely of brokers and managers who donate time and money to needy organizations in all the cities were Corcoran has offices. So far they’ve managed to raise over $1 million.
Ms. Liebman also serves on the Executive Committee of REBNY and the Board of Governors.
“[REBNY] is the single most important voice for the real estate community in New York City and New York State,” she said. “They look out for the future of what I believe is the most important city in the world.” She also touted REBNY’s Friend’s in Need Fund, an emergency fund set up to help members who have fallen on hard times. “They take care of their own people when they’re in need,” she said.
Looking ahead further into 2012 and onward, Ms. Liebman warned that there is a major shortage of residential housing stock in Manhattan. “The city is suffering from a lack of inventory due. The pipeline of construction projects dried up after Lehman,” she said. “We need the banks to loosen the purse strings.”
Always the civic booster, Ms. Liebman said she looks forward to the day that happens. “We’ve got the greatest developers in the world. We need to let them do their jobs,” she said.