The Power Women Of New York City (Part 3)
Here's the third installment of our series on NYC commercial real estate's top female leaders and industry players. We covered so many heavy hitters back in 2014 who are still doing incredible work that we picked 40 others to honor in this year's installment. We're bringing you profiles on each of these women (read Part 1 and Part 2 here) and will honor them at a special awards reception at 32 Old Slip on Sept. 15.
Heritage Equity Partners founder Toby Moskovits
As a child, Toby Moskovits visited her grandfather's Brooklyn factory, riding the hi-lo and eating lunch at Greens with her father and grandfather—a Jewish-Polish immigrant—whom she idolized for their entrepreneurial spirit.
After trying her hand at venture capital, Toby says she accidentally stumbled into development, but quickly fell in love. After starting her real estate career in residential development with projects such as the former St. Vincent de Paul church conversion in Williamsburg, Toby moved into hotel and office development. Then, realizing Brooklyn's office development potential, she soon made a name for herself buying up industrial sites throughout the borough and planning projects like 25 Kent Ave.
That's not to say it was smooth sailing. Toby needed grit, resilience, passion and vision to get anything done, but even then, she says, it was "a heavy lift."
But, like The Beatles sang: you get by with a little help from your friends. Toby reminds up-and-coming developers the real estate industry is still about relationships.
"Be part of a community, take care of that community, and you’ll find that it comes back to you," she says.
Skadden Arps real estate partner Audrey Sokoloff
As the daughter of an urban planner and a real estate tax attorney, it's not surprising that Audrey Sokoloff ended up in real estate. But what may surprise you is that her childhood goal was actually to be a Supreme Court Justice, where, after being inspired by the Equal Rights Amendment battles, she believed power truly lived.
But upon reaching law school, her love for property law and for the intersection of archaic property principles with cutting-edge commercial realities was too great to ignore. She soon found herself working for a developer, then with Skadden's real estate group after receiving her degree.
Now, she thrives on creating order from chaos, giving clients pragmatic counsel. This can be difficult when working across legal, cultural and diplomatic borders, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging in the air. However, Audrey believes constant learning can help her find a solution, no matter the environment.
Hamlin Ventures president Abby Hamlin
Few can say they wanted to develop buildings at age 10, but Abby Hamlin did. Having famous landscape architect and designer Lawrence Halperin as your dad's best friend certainly helps, and Abby's vision was spawned after reading Halperin's book Cities.
Now the president of Hamlin Ventures, Abby's created an entire block with a series of townhouses she built on Brooklyn's State Street, but she says the true reward of her job is hearing how happy people are to live in the spaces she's designed. That makes any challenge, such as rising costs and less available land for developing affordable projects, worth the effort.
When asked for advice, Abby—who spent five years teaching real estate development at Columbia—simply said, "Go for it. Forge your own path."
The Kushner Cos CFO Jennifer McLean
Jennifer McLean didn't plan to be in the real estate industry, starting her career at a public accounting firm before landing a leadership role at a management and development firm.
Now CFO at The Kushner Cos, Jennifer strives every day to make the most of the company's resources, increase the bottom line, and streamline where she can to make Kushner more profitable and scalable.
Navigating and negotiating in today's competitive environment is why Jennifer believes that a strong cohesive team is the key.
"This is extremely important right now," she says, "with massive amounts of capital and favorable debt terms making deal flow difficult for some investors."
Jennifer believes to be an effective leader, she must take responsibility for mentoring her team. This includes exposing them to all areas of the business so they have a solid understanding of organizational goals, andgiving them the opportunity for personal development.
Fried Frank partner Melanie Meyers
Melanie Meyers loved joining her dad, a civil engineer, at his construction sites; watching as concrete poured into the ground and structural steel rose from the foundations.
Starting as an architect, she found her interests gravitating towards macro-level city design—such as the interplay between private and public interests—and soon switched to land use and development law.
After graduating with a J.D. from Columbia University in 1987, she's practiced land use law ever since, including as general counsel of the New York City Department of City Planning.
This transition between jobs, she tells Bisnow, allowed her to refine her strengths, develop new skills, and, above all, learn what interested her most. That's why she encourages others to take opportunities and not be afraid of a career detour.
As a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, she's worked on some of NYC's more influential projects, including Related's Hudson Yards and Greenland Forest City's Pacific Park, assisting in everything from zoning and design framework to discussing the project with the public and making it mesh with the neighborhood fabric.
“Finding this balance between public desires, government regulation, private property rights and the client's plans, all while remaining economically viable, is incredibly challenging,” Melanie says, “especially with the greater focus on achieving public policy goals and the absence of the 421-a tax benefits.”
Brookfield managing partner Andrea Balkan
Starting in corporate banking for Chemical Bank, Andrea Balkan (seen here with her family) jumped on an opportunity to work for the bank's real estate division. There, she developed an expertise in real estate lending and loan restructuring. She moved to the principal side in 2002 when she joined Brookfield, where she helped develop and expand its mezzanine lending business.
Andrea's currently managing the fifth in a series of mezzanine debt funds at Brookfield, and believes hard work, creativity (and a little bit of luck) were instrumental to her success.
Andrea tells Bisnow that everyone needs to be honest with themselves to be successful, discovering what they love doing and building a career that allows them to explore that love every day.
Director of Columbia University's Real Estate Development Program Patrice Derrington
Patrice Derrington originally studied architecture but, upon realizing that architects were only one cog in the development process, decided to study civil engineering and business, too. That proved to be a powerful combination, making her a prime fit to be the head of Columbia University's graduate Real Estate Development Program.
Her objective for the program, she says, is the professional training and development of young industry professionals, encouraging up-and-coming industry players to assess and improve the current methods and industry environment.
This education is undoubtedly necessary, she says, as the industry's vulnerability to boom-bust cycles can make it extremely challenging for real estate graduates to be launched on a sustainable career path.
Ever resistant to limitations, Patrice advises women in the industry not to focus on their gender while working, saying, "just focus on enjoying the job, give it your very best, and treat all your co-workers with respect and honesty. It's about the job, not the gender."