Alex Bernstein, 41, Director of Acquisitions and Asset Management, Bernstein Real Estate
Alex Bernstein is the third generation of Bernstein Real Estate, which owns and operates 2M SF of office and, via Lawrence Properties, 6,500 residential units in Manhattan. He believes modern property owners should be "more than rent collectors" and tenants should be treated as "more than dollar signs."
Putting this philosophy to practice, he’s pioneering partnerships with tenants to create community space for programming, socializing, and neighborhood identity. An advocate of social collaboration for the greater good, having witnessed it at Burning Man, he believes these goals can be incorporated in a for-profit model and hopes to prove the point in plans he's developing this year for a large concentration of buildings in the high 20s and low 30s near Penn Station. "You can create your own Meatpacking or DUMBO," he says. "I'm adding a human and social awareness to the mix."
The firm was started in the 1920s by Alex's great uncle, Sidney J. Bernstein, when he created Lower West Side buildings to manage the fur trade.
Alex’s father, Asher Bernstein, changed the focus from fur and expanded beyond Chelsea, and he runs the 60-employee company from its HQ at Seventh and 30th. Alex went out on his own into retail brokerage in the Carolinas, got a Columbia MBA in 2000, and started the next year in the family business.
He loves the fact it's an under-the-radar company built on loyal and long-term relationships with tenants as well as employees, some of whom have worked with Bernstein for 40 or 50 years. It uses low leverage and does only one or two deals a year, given current "crazy" pricing. Meanwhile, the company enjoys occupancy in its buildings that's higher than Midtown's.
Increasingly, Bernstein Real Estate has shifted its tenant composition toward tech (like AOL), architects, and youthful brands (like American Apparel), all of which prefer the Class-B and C loft buildings that can be transformed into open environments. Alex also thinks landlords should consider acting like venture capitalists, taking equity in tenant firms rather than charging high cash rent the tenants can't afford.
Sidney technically retired at 95 but continued to walk to work almost every day until he passed away shortly after his 100th birthday in 2004. Alex admires Sidney and Asher's values of focusing on people and not trying to squeeze every dollar out of tenants.
Alex has traveled through Africa and South America, loves running with a crowd in the NY Marathon, meditates, and is a certified Kundalini yoga instructor. He's got three kids from age 5 to a newborn and dreams of taking his family to live a year in Asia.