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PHOTOS: REBNY’s 127th Gala, Where Politics Took Center Stage

New York

A thousand of New York City’s most powerful real estate players gathered Thursday evening for the Real Estate Board of New York’s 127th annual gala, held at a Hell’s Kitchen venue overlooking Hudson Yards and the Hudson River.

Mayor Eric Adams speaks at REBNY's 127th annual gala.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams took to the stage to slam state legislators during his speech, which took place in the middle of REBNY's awards ceremony.

"We need a housing deal in Albany this year. It impacts us all,” he said. “If we do not get 421-a, then we cannot build affordable housing. If we don’t build affordable housing, then you won’t have employees that are able to stay in this city.”

REBNY President Jim Whelan presents the Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award to CBRE's Mary Ann Tighe, along with REBNY Chair Douglas Durst.

Adams was greeted with 28 seconds of applause as he took the stage at the Glasshouse on 12th Avenue. He asked with a laugh if the industry gave his predecessor, former Mayor Bill de Blasio, such an enthusiastic reception.

Adams urged REBNY's members in the audience to get their colleagues more engaged in politics, echoing a speech REBNY's policy chief gave at Bisnow's New York multifamily event last month.

Guests seated for the awards ceremony and dinner at REBNY's 127th annual gala, held in the Hell's Kitchen Glasshouse venue overlooking the Hudson.

"We must make sure that that housing agenda is back on the table, and we need support," Adams told the crowd. "Built into your business plan must be politics. You must learn your city council member, your assembly member, your state senator, your councilperson. ... You must communicate with them with the agenda to impact them."

REBNY's Whelan and Durst present Target ALS' Dan Doctoroff with the 2023 John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award at real estate's biggest annual bash.

Elected officials are three weeks late with the state’s budget, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed housing platform reportedly eliminated entirely from negotiations this week.

The evening serves as the biggest fundraiser for REBNY, the most powerful industry group, and is one of the state’s busiest industry events. It's held to honor prominent members of the real estate community and gather competitors under one roof for a night of celebration.

Himmel + Meringoff Properties' Leslie Wohlman Himmel on REBNY's red carpet.

But Adams' speech set the tone for the 2023 event, which was significantly less jubilant than last year’s gathering and was peppered with talk of the state's political impasse.

“If we don’t raise the FAR, then we cannot do what we want to do with 10M SF of unoccupied real estate in our business district,” Adams said to a cheering audience. “This is all connected.”

REBNY's Whelan and Durst present Helmsley Spear's Rick Marek with the Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award.

Others in the industry, including REBNY’s 2023 honorees, told Bisnow that they believe the only solution for NYC’s housing crisis is action in Albany.

REBNY's Miah Yoo poses with attendees Matt Bowman and Kenny Metzger.

“With previously freezing our rent-stabilized apartments, and without a 421-a and no new rental housing being built, it’s really more upward pressure on rents,” said James Nelson, Avison Young principal and head of Tri-State investment sales and the winner of REBNY’s 2023 Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award.

“The public and private sector actually have to come together. There has to be something that works, that actually does just that — incentivize the private sector to help build this much-needed housing.”

Brookfield's Jason Maurer on REBNY's red carpet at the start of the evening.

But skepticism among the industry’s most powerful figures remains over elected officials’ effectiveness when it comes to solving the city’s housing crisis.

“As the budget gets done and it moves into the legislative session, the legislature has more power, and given the way they’ve handled housing issues recently as well as in the past, I have a high degree of confidence that nothing productive will happen,” REBNY President James Whelan told Bisnow at the event. “I think probably nothing will happen.”

REBNY Chair Douglas Durst delivers opening remarks at the industry body's 127th gala.

REBNY handed out a total of seven awards during the evening.

Newmark CEO Barry Gosin took home the Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award, while Helmsley Spear Vice Chair Rick Marek received the Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award.

Cushman & Wakefield Chairman for New York Tri-State John Santora was given the Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award, and the John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award went to Target ALS founder and Chairman Dan Doctoroff.

Himmel + Meringoff's Andrea Himmel, Rudin's Samantha Rudin Earls, and The Durst Organization's Helena Durst and Douglas Durst on the rooftop of the Glasshouse, where REBNY held its annual gala overlooking the Hudson River.

James Nelson, principal and head of Avison Young’s Tri-State investment sales, received the Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award.

REBNY honored just two women at its 2023 awards, giving CBRE CEO of New York Tri-State Region Mary Ann Tighe the Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award and Douglas Elliman Executive Managing Director Elly Pateras the George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award. 

Miriam Hall contributed reporting to this story.