RIP in Real Estate

David Goldsmith

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Marc J. Goodman, a broker with the Corcoran Group for more than two decades, died at his Upper West Side home on Sunday from Covid-19, according to the brokerage and a close friend.

Pam Liebman, Corcoran’s president and CEO, informed company staffers and agents on Monday.

“An unfailing optimist, Marc is remembered by his colleagues and clients as the most generous of agents, always willing to lend an ear and offer a helping hand,” Liebman wrote in a statement.

Goodman was 67.

Friends and colleagues remembered Goodman as a good-natured man who had a playful sense of humor.

“People were drawn to Marc,” said broker Merope Lolis, who was his business partner for a decade. They began working together after Goodman helped her land a listing while she was out of town.


It was just the kind of man he was, she said.
“He approached his business the way that he approached his life, and that was with great honesty and integrity,” she said.
Robert Hickey, who said he’d been a close friend of Goodman’s for 18 years, described him as having “an easy charm,” and “that sort of Seinfeld humor where you see the humor in almost nothing.”
“He really loved that moment when you realize this is all crazy,” he said.
Goodman, who worked out of the West Side Gallery office, was also a long-time fitness instructor. He was devoted to his meditation practice and mentoring others.
Hickey recalled a conversation with a few of Goodman’s neighbors earlier in the week who were shocked to realize that Goodman, “who still looked great in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans,” was in his late 60s, not his 50s as most of them thought.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Robby Browne, celebrated Corcoran agent, dies
Veteran broker was battling cancer and contracted coronavirus

Robby Browne, one of the city’s most celebrated residential agents, who was known as much for his exuberance as he was for closing high-profile deals, died Saturday.

Browne had been battling cancer for several years but recently contracted coronavirus, sources confirmed to The Real Deal.

An avid gardener and self-described raconteur who rode his bicycle to showings, Browne was a veteran agent who spent 18 years at the Corcoran Group. On Instagram, the firm called his loss heartbreaking.

“To know Robby was to love him. He was a light that shined brightly — not only at Corcoran but across our industry, and to all who had the opportunity to meet him,” the statement read. “As we grieve this immeasurable loss, our thoughts and love are with his family, friends, and all of those close to Robby Browne.”

Over a career that spanned more than three decades, he built a star-studded roster of clients including Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman and Jon Bon Jovi. In 2014, he sold billionaire Jon Stryker’s penthouse at 50 Central Park West for $42 million.

That deal and others earned him an arsenal of accolades through the decades — Corcoran’s deal of the year, broker of the year and top sales team of the year awards on multiple occasions. He sold $218 million worth of real estate in 2018, placing 25th on Real Trends’ broker ranking last year. Browne left Corcoran for Brown Harris Stevens in late 2014 but returned in the summer of 2015.

In 2007, the year he turned 60, he accepted Corcoran’s broker of the year award dressed in a woman’s bathing suit and dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA.”

“It was a release for me, a remembrance of people I lost and a lesson for those in the audience that they too can achieve great things by keeping a sense of humor, maintaining their dignity, and being honest and true to their own spirits,” he told Leaders magazine in 2016.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Browne moved north to attend Princeton University and Harvard Business School. (He later did a stint as a Harvard admissions officer.) Before real estate, he owned Browne-Ladd Tours, which took students to Europe. In 1984, Browne was on the organizing committee for the Los Angeles Olympics.

In many ways, he was a broker of another era. Rising through the ranks before StreetEasy became ubiquitous, he memorized floor plans, sold and resold some of the city’s best units and knew which lines could be merged in particular buildings. It was a skill he learned, in part, from his mother, who was a residential broker in the 1950s. “She used to babysit me at open houses and I would draw floor plans of how I thought homes should be designed,” he said.
Openly gay, he supported groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, where he sat on the board for many years. “Partly as a result of my brother’s death from AIDS in 1985, and the death of so many of my friends from AIDS, and the fear that I was going to die myself, I channeled my energy into Gay Men’s Health Crises, Act Up, God’s Love We Deliver, and many other causes,” he told Leaders magazine in 2016.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Spire Group’s Bianka Yankov dies at 37
Brokerage chief was a pioneer of 100% commission model

Bianka Yankov, a co-founder of Spire Group who helped pioneer the 100-percent commission brokerage model in New York City, died Friday after a battle with cancer. She was 37.

Born in Bulgaria, Yankov moved to New York when she was 17. While working as a bartender she met her future husband, Dimo Nikolov, and in the early aughts the couple quit their jobs and got licensed as agents so they could spend more time together.

“Friends said, ‘You won’t last,’” Nikolov recalled. “But it was the opposite. We became a strong rental team.”

Working at Kevin Kurland’s boutique firm, Kurland Realty, Yankov quickly ascended the management ranks. In 2011 she and Kurland co-founded Spire, one of the city’s first 100 percent commission firms.

At the time, brokerage competition was heating up because the market was soft and the notion of agents keeping 100 percent of their commission — instead of giving the firms a cut — was relatively novel.

“It was outside the box,” said Josh Fields, Spire’s managing director, who worked with Yankov for 15 years. “It was a way to draw in experienced agents who liked the idea of not having to give a large percentage of their hard-earned money back to the company.”

Within a year, Spire grew from four agents to more than 100. In 2017, Yankov bought out Kurland’s stake in the brokerage. He later joined Citi Habitats, now part of the Corcoran Group.
Fields said Yankov’s grit, determination and work ethic drew agents to her. With Nikolov, Yankov had two sons. “Spire Group was her third baby,” he said.
In 2019 the firm closed $14.7 million in sell-side deals, according to an analysis by The Real Deal. Including buy-side deals, the total was north of $100 million, said Dina Tango, Spire’s director of operations.

“[Bianka] had a sixth sense about the market and how to save a deal,” Tango said. “Agents responded to that. In a positive environment, they produced more.”

Competitors said Yankov was also known for being ready to roll up her sleeves. “The 100 percent models don’t have huge staffs,” said David Schlamm, founder and president of City Connections Realty. “She was very hands on, 24/7. She wanted her agents to do well.”

Last year, Yankov was diagnosed with colon cancer — a disease that killed her older brother — but kept the news to herself. “When doctors said ‘no’ to her, she didn’t accept it,” Fields said.

Yankov and Nikolov — avid travelers who got engaged in Alaska, married in Hawaii and honeymooned in Bora Bora — pulled their six- and seven-year-old sons out of school earlier this year for a final holiday. They traveled to Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.

In early March, the family flew to Bulgaria and celebrated Yankov’s 37th birthday on April 15. She died two days later.
 

David Goldsmith

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Jerry Wolkoff, prolific New York developer, dies at 83
Head of G&M Realty rose from poverty to be one of the biggest builders in the five boroughs and Long Island

Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff, the brash and prolific New York developer, has died at 83.
Wolkoff suffered a brief neurological illness and died Friday evening at his home in New York City. Long Island Business News first reported the news.
Born on Nov. 8, 1936, the Brownsville-native began working at an early age, following his father’s death when Wolkoff was 11. In a 2018 interview with The Real Deal, he described how he and his two brothers had to help their single mother make rent each month.

“We all went to work, and whatever we made we put into a pot,” he said. “Money was never a thing that we would concern ourselves with. We just wanted to make sure we had enough to eat.”
Wolkoff launched his real estate career in the 1960s, when he sold his floor-waxing business to fund the construction of two houses. He would eventually become one of the largest homebuilders in the five boroughs. His firm, G&M Realty, amassed a 12 million-square-foot portfolio in New York City and Long Island.

Though prolific in his own right, Wolkoff was a different breed of developer. He never went to college, and took a different approach to real estate investing than his Ivy League counterparts in the business.

“I build different than most of them because I’m not doing anything unless I know I can afford to build it with very little debt,” he previously said. “They know how to play the game in their offices, but fuck it.”

Wolkoff is best known for owning 5Pointz, the iconic street art mecca in Long Island City — and the later “whitewashing” incident that landed him in court.
The developer had purchased the former water-meter factory in the 1970s, and for 25 years allowed graffiti artists to use the structure as a canvas. But when he began planning a massive 1.3 million-square-foot mixed-use project on the site, tensions rose. Then, one night in 2013, Wolkoff had the site painted over. The action drew a lawsuit and a $6.75 million fine, which he had appealed.

A strong advocate for business, Wolkoff was sometimes at odds with organized labor — his local City Council member, James Van Bramer, promised to never approve another of his projects after Wolkoff said he would not use union labor at 5Pointz.

“So Jimmy Van Bramer doesn’t want to bother with me, whatever,” Wolkoff said in 2018. “All these people have term limits — eventually they’ll be out of here — and my children are young. Thank God for term limits for our industry.” (Wolkoff has previously said his plan was to pass G&M onto his sons, David and Adam.)

The developer also rallied against the campaign that led Amazon to back out of bringing its headquarters to Long Island City.

Wolkoff’s firm has yet to break ground on Heartland Town Square in Brentwood, which would be New York’s largest planned community since Levittown, a project which the developer envisioned nearly two decades ago. The $4 billion proposal would see 9,000 apartments and 3 million square feet of office and retail space built on what is currently an abandoned state hospital.

Wolkoff is survived by his wife of 59 years, Michele — the “M” in G&M Realty — and his sons, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
David Wolkoff, who will helm the family firm with his brother, Adam, called his father a visionary.

“He was full of dichotomies — focused and intense, but warm and generous,” said David Wolkoff. “But he still had time for everybody, not just high-level businesspeople and bankers, but the guy on the construction site.
Wolkoff, who still drove a Prius and flew JetBlue despite his firm’s success, said he never planned to retire.
“I hate sleeping,” Wolkoff said. “People love sleep. What is that? Did you ever make one penny sleeping? Never.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Eastern Consolidated founder Peter Hauspurg dies
Veteran broker ran one of city's most active I-sales firms; mentored top dealmakers

Peter Hauspurg, who as co-founder of Eastern Consolidated ran one of New York’s most active investment-sales shops and played a broader role as a gregarious emissary of the city’s commercial real estate industry and a mentor of a generation of dealmakers, died Tuesday at his home in Santa Monica. He was 67.
Hauspurg and his wife Daun Paris started the firm in 1981, and grew it into one of the largest investment-sales focused shops in New York, with clients such as Gary Barnett’s Extell Development, Silverstein Properties and Forest City Ratner. One of the brokerage’s longest relationships was with the Durst Organization; over an 18-year period, Eastern helped the developer assemble the site for One Bryant Park, the office tower at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street that’s now home to Bank of America. Douglas Durst, chair of the Durst Organization, described Hauspurg as a rational and reasonable voice in a hyperbolic world.”


In 2015, Eastern did nearly $2 billion in deals, according to The Real Deal’s annual ranking. Notable transactions for the firm include Barnett’s $100 million sale of a NoMad development site at 30-36 East 29th Street to Rockefeller Group; Abraham Fruchthandler’s $50 million buy of a Harlem portfolio; and the sale of a $115 million East Side development site to Hines and Welltower.
Amid the 2018 market slowdown, the firm, like others in the industry, faced severe financial challenges. After being unable to find a buyer for the firm, Hauspurg and Paris shut it down. By then, Eastern Consolidated had shrunk to about a 100-broker shop.

After the closure, it appeared as though Hauspurg and Paris would step away from the grinding work of real estate dealmaking and administration. They surprised many when they joined ABS Partners Real Estate as investors.
Several top brokers came up under Hauspurg, including David Schechtman, Lipa Lieberman, Brian Ezratty, Adelaide Polsinelli and Robin Abrams.
“He was a mentor to thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of brokers and real estate professionals,” said Gregg Schenker of ABS. “They [Hauspurg and Paris] had moved [to California] for this beautiful chapter of their life. But he was still a New York City real estate deal person.”

Hauspurg relished his broader ambassadorial role in the industry. He was a popular fixture at the annual Real Estate Board of New York gala, and was on the trade group’s board of governors. In 2015, he received REBNY’s Louis Smadbeck Broker Recognition Award.
“In word and deed, Peter was an industry leader,” said REBNY president James Whelan.
“He was an inspiration in my early years,” said Bob Knakal, chair of JLL’s investment-sales division. “It is our people who make our industry what it is, and Peter was definitely one of the good guys.”
Marcus & Millichap’s Eric Anton, who worked at Eastern for 14 years, said Hauspurg was “very generous of spirit and a terrifically well rounded man. He was an excellent broker, an athlete and a family man.”

Anton said his fondest memory of Hauspurg was one time when they went fishing in the Bahamas.
“That’s how I remember Peter; he was a timeless, calm, class act.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Sheldon H. Solow, Manhattan Real Estate Mogul, Dies at 92
He built an empire from scratch, changing the skyline with high-end residential and office towers but leaving his crowning project unfinished.

Sheldon H. Solow, a Manhattan real estate developer who built a commercial and residential empire from scratch over a half-century, but left his son to finish his crowning project, a line of towers down the East River from the United Nations complex, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 92.

His wife, Mia Fonssagrives Solow, confirmed the death, at Weill Cornell Medical Center, but did not specify a cause.

The son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Mr. Solow, who embraced litigation with the passion of a sports fan, was a mercurial fighter with unshakable confidence in his own views. He built scores of high-end rental structures, including his signature Solow Building at 9 West 57th Street, a 50-story office tower whose front-and-back glass facades are steep concave slopes. Since the early 1970s, it has been one of the city’s most distinctive edifices.

But Mr. Solow’s most ambitious and visionary undertaking, by far, was his unfinished $4 billion project to transform the 9.2-acre site of a former Con Edison power plant on the East River into seven glass towers, with 4.8 acres of gardens, lawns and esplanades. The site, just south of the United Nations headquarters, was the largest undeveloped, privately owned plot in Manhattan.

A decade after buying the sprawling property in three parcels with a partner for $630 million in 2000 and spending $125 million more to demolish the power plant and clean up toxic debris, Mr. Solow was still bogged down in public-approval processes, community resistance, financing issues and other problems. He had shed his partner but had not yet begun to build on the site.

The Solow Building on West 57th Street near Fifth Avenue. When it went up in the early 1970s, the Fifth Avenue Association objected to its height and curving facades.

In 2013, he sold the southern parcel for $172 million. Two residential towers were built, but not by Mr. Solow. His first building on the site, a 42-story condominium-and-rental tower on the west side of First Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets, was finished in 2018. But most of the site, bounded by 41st and 38th Streets, First Avenue and the F.D.R. Drive, has remained a grassy wasteland, awaiting three residential condominium towers and an office building that were approved in a master plan in 2008.

While Mr. Solow said nothing specific about retiring as he turned 90 in 2018, his son, Stefan Soloviev (a pre-Ellis Island family name), had in recent years assumed a growing role in his father’s affairs. After working in agribusiness with large landholdings in the West, Mr. Soloviev appeared destined to succeed his father and to complete his long-dormant East River project.

“I’m taking over the business — I get that,” Mr. Soloviev, who was 42 at the time, told The New York Times in a 2018 joint interview with his father, with whom he had a long, prickly relationship. “But right now I work with my father. And I don’t think we’ve ever worked as well together as we are right now.”

In a career that began in the 1950s building rental garden apartments in Queens, Mr. Solow became a tycoon. This month, Forbes put his net worth at $4.4 billion, No. 167 on its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Mr. Solow in 2018 with his son Stefan Soloviev, who had assumed a growing role in his father’s business.Credit...George Etheredge for The New York Times
Though shy of publicity not of his own making, he was often in the news, announcing a project or one of his 200 lawsuits against rivals, tenants, banks or even friends, often in losing causes. Like it or not, he was a New York real estate mogul, along with Donald J. Trump, the Fisher brothers, Lewis Rudin, Leonard Litwin, the Milstein family, Bernard H. Mendik, Larry Silverstein and Harry B. Helmsley.

While he dropped out of New York University in the 1950s, Mr. Solow, who was self-taught in fine art appreciation, amassed one of the city’s notable private collections of Renaissance and modern art, with works by van Gogh, Joan Miró, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Balthus, Picasso, Matisse, Botticelli, Giacometti, Morris Louis and Mark Rothko, as well as Egyptian antiquities and African art.

He bought most of his art from dealers. But in 1973, he picked up a telephone in New York, called Sotheby’s auction house in London and waged a trans-Atlantic bidding war that won him Picasso’s 1909 Cubist “Femme Assise” (Seated Woman) for $800,000, a record price then for a Picasso. In 2016, Mr. Solow sold the painting, in a Sotheby’s auction, for $63.7 million.

Philippe de Montebello, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, called Mr. Solow’s collection eclectic and distinguished. Its astronomical value was hard to calculate. Like many aspects of his life, his art generated controversy. Crain’s New York Business reported in 2018 that his art was held by a nonprofit museum that received federal tax breaks despite not being open to the public.

Sometimes his publicity was quite positive. In 1984, Mr. Solow built a row of 11 connected five-story single-family townhouses on East 67th Street in Manhattan, between Second and Third Avenues. They all had elevators and shared a private common garden in the back. It was a creation that had rarely been seen in Manhattan since the 19th century.

Paul Goldberger, at the time the chief architecture critic of the Times, wrote of the project: “It marks the return of an ambitious and deeply civilized idea: the belief that the individual house enriches the city more by being part of a group, and that the street becomes a richer place by being planned as a totality. One can only celebrate Mr. Solow’s intentions. He understood, as few commercial developers have, that the essence of decent urbanity is in the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

265 East 66th Street in Manhattan: a black glass residential tower built by Mr. Solow’s company. His first project was a waterfront apartment complex in Far Rockaway, Queens.Credit...via Solow Building Company
Sheldon Henry Solow was born in Brooklyn on July 20, 1928, to Isaac and Jennie (Brill) Solow. His father was a bricklayer who developed homes in Brooklyn but lost them during the Great Depression, forcing him to return to masonry work. Sheldon and his sisters, Renee and Rosalie, attended public schools in Brooklyn. After attending New York University for a year, he quit to try real estate.

His first project was a 72-unit garden apartment rental complex on a waterfront location in Far Rockaway, Queens. He gave away 16-foot outboard motorboats to any family that signed a three-year lease. He then built one-family homes in Huntington, on Long Island, before buying more land in Suffolk County and on Jamaica Bay and erecting more homes.

Moving his business to Manhattan, he built Rivers Bend, a 22-story residential tower overlooking the East River and Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side, in 1964. It advertised amenities like a penthouse swimming pool, wood-burning fireplaces and panoramic views.

He then began assembling properties for a building site on West 57th Street, off Fifth Avenue. It took five years and cost $12 million to buy the properties (the equivalent of about $100 million today). Clearing and construction took several years more. The result was the Solow Building, at a cost of $40 million (about $335 million today), with its sloping facades, views of Central Park and 1.5 million square feet of rentable space. Avon, the cosmetics firm, was an anchor tenant.

In 1974, the Fifth Avenue Association, in its biennial architectural awards, gave the Solow Building a slap on the wrist. “The Solow Building has urban bad manners,” the association said. It praised the building’s “handsome” detailing, including a giant red “9” address marker on the sidewalk, but said that the sloped facades broke the line of the street and that its 50-story height shattered the block’s scale.

The Solow Building, at 9 West 57th Street, with its distinctive sculpture of the number 9 at street level.Credit...Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
Mr. Solow hit back, saying his building “may have bad manners, but it has good foresight,” adding: “In 20 years that whole block will be developed at this scale, and I think my building will set the standard.”

He was right. Today, countless midtown skyscrapers are as big, or far bigger, than Mr. Solow’s, and several have sloped facades.

Mr. Solow married Ms. Fonssagrives, a sculptor and jewelry designer, in 1972. Besides his wife and his son Stefan, he is survived by another son, Nikolai Solow, and 13 grandchildren.

For years, his son Mr. Soloviev was largely based in the West, where his family owned a half-million acres of crop and cattle-grazing land in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. In recent years, however, he has resided mostly in New York and East Hampton, N.Y.

Mr. Solow, who also had homes in Manhattan and East Hampton, gave millions to medical, educational, environmental and Jewish organizations. He was a life trustee of New York University and its Institute of Fine Arts.

While his art collection was not generally open to the public, sculptures and paintings by Miró, the Spanish surrealist, were put on display at the Solow Building in 1990. Mr. Solow called it good for business. “Thousands of people come into the building every day,” he told The Times, “and I wanted them to be able to walk through the lobby and enjoy art.”
 
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