Post-Sandy Real Estate Event Draws Heavy Hitters, Serves as Forum for Local Professionals

EisnerAmper LLP recently hosted “Lessons Learned: What Hurricane Sandy Means for the Future of the Real Estate Industry,” an event featuring a panel of experts including Joe Sitt, Thor Equities founder and CEO, Scott Rechler, CEO and Chairman of RXR Realty and Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority, and Steve Witkoff, Chairman and CEO of the Witkoff group. The moderator was former New York Governor David Paterson; organizers were EisnerAmper’s Ken Weissenberg and Harry Dublinsky; and attendees included many local notables as well as the media.

Discussion was spirited due mostly to the varying opinions of these three powerhouses as well as the Governor’s comments and interjections. Sitt opened up the discussion with praise for the audience and media turnout stressing that had it not been for Sandy an event of this scale wouldn’t have taken place and the voice of New York would not have been heard. He then went on to discuss the need for preventative action such as building sea walls to combat the effects these so called “100-year storms,” which in the future could potentially eclipse the devastation caused by Sandy. His comments were met with skepticism from both Reckler and Witkoff who both thought that investing in sea walls (which according to Governor Paterson is an over $30 billion item by itself) was the wrong place to put tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. They both felt the money could be better used to enhance and upgrade current infrastructure on a broader scale to protect the city from future storms. Governor Paterson also added that the money for such an endeavor just wasn’t there to invest. Witkoff also commented on how the City was back up and running in relatively short order considering the storm’s devastation.

The three went on to discuss the importance of New York as an international business hub. They agreed the federal government and the rest of the country need to realize the role New York plays in the country and the need for the federal government to start investing in New York accordingly. Joe Sitt compared JFK International Airport to one of Dubai’s airports, noting that there really was no comparison both aesthetically and functionally, and noted it would behoove the federal government to see New York City as America’s financial epicenter and provide support to improve its infrastructure for the sake of the entire country.

A question posed by an attendee regarding the effects of Sandy on New York’s real estate market was fielded by Steve Witkoff. He noted New York may be the most resilient city in the world and as devastating as the storm was, it didn’t seriously impact the real estate market. Those properties in areas which sustained the brunt of Sandy’s impact would, in his opinion, eventually recover in a manner similar to the way downtown Manhattan recovered post 9/11.

Isaac Mansoura is the Real Estate Services Group Senior Audit Manager, providing accounting and auditing services for a variety of real estate clients.

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