Crashing the Stag Party of Real Estate

Location: If Brooklyn is on everyone’s mind now, what’s the next spot that developers are thinking about? What’s the new area to develop?

Hackett: The Bronx—clearly the Bronx. There are people thinking about the Bronx with the development of the new Yankee Stadium, and I see the Bronx as someplace we will look a lot harder at.

 

What’s the buzz among developers about the Mayor’s 2030 plan, which he formally unveiled this past Sunday—particularly on greener buildings and more affordable housing?

There’s this increasing commitment to do things green and do things the right way. This company wants to be a much bigger player in the green movement, and a much bigger player in affordable housing.

We’re very nervous about the disappearance of 421-a, and the big problem with affordability is: How do you match the cost?

[Editor’s note: In late 2006, the Bloomberg administration altered the popular 421-a tax-abatement program for developers. The changes limit how and where developers can use the abatement.]

 

You’re “nervous” about what will happen with 421-a. What do you mean?

I don’t think the public really understands it; the market is so strong that we haven’t seen any real impact. I think there’s no question that if you don’t get the 421-a abatement, that land prices ultimately have to adjust—unless value continues to go up and up and up. I still don’t believe that values will go up. There’s a limit to what people can afford.

I think people who have advocated so strongly against the 421-a don’t really appreciate the positive impact, with how development produces positive income for the city in other areas.

 

Like which areas?

Like mortgage-recording taxes. And it’s producing affordable housing, because those dollars are used to fund other affordable-housing pieces in other parts of the city.

 

Do you have any projects that are focused in affordable housing?

I would love to. It’s a goal of ours. I definitely would like to do that.

 

At the time being, are there any plans?

We don’t have anything in the works. We don’t have anything we can point to.

 

You have a new project in Chelsea, another at 29th and Madison, one on West End Avenue and one in Fort Greene. Those are so many projects, and many regard you as the top woman in development in real estate—

Maybe the only!

 

Well, consider that: When we look at the landscape of commercial real estate, there are so few women. They don’t exist, really. What do you think about all that?

I think it’s sad. I would love to see a lot more women. I know I’m a role model, and I think it’s important to spend whatever time I can speaking or coaching or encouraging. But it’s hard. It’s hard for me to find another hour in the day.

 

Well, with women in real estate, when I walk into a REBNY event—

It’s all men, right? It’s all black suits. And you don’t see many minorities, either—that’s the other problem.

 

Absolutely. What is it about this industry that it’s lagging behind?

The family history. In this town, it’s such a family town, and the industry has been so based on the big families that it’s hard for an outsider.

 

Is part of the problem that no one is taking up the issue? I haven’t really seen anyone issue a call to arms, and no one seems to talk about it.

I think, for the women issue, there’s a fair amount of talk. There are four organizations for women and a lot of networking. There are a lot of senior women in the industry that do a lot for other women, to reach out and try to support and embrace one another. The networking is very strong among women.

Now, I can speak to a crowd of 300 women—but when I first went to a [Real Estate Board of New York] dinner, I think there were three
of us.

 

You personally overcame two things: You came in as an outsider and as a woman. What type of advice would you give to a female trying to break in who has no connections?

It’s with expertise: When you’re good at what you do and build your own reputation, you can attract outside capital. The real-estate industry is a relationship business, and it’s a very small world. It’s a handful of people, when it comes right down to it. Everyone in real estate knows each other.

 

I’m looking around this office, and I see artists’ renderings everywhere. Is this the time to build?

It’s still a very good time to be in this market. It’s an equation: We don’t start building unless we know we can deliver profits to attract capital.

There’s really not a bad neighborhood in Manhattan these days. We’ll look at anything: Is it the right project and is it the right size? We won’t look at a 50,000- square-foot job; it has to be at least 125,000 square feet. We do see that Chelsea is very strong, and we’d love to do something over at the High Line. As long as we can make the numbers work.

Crashing the Stag Party of Real Estate