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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With FirstService Residential New York President Dan Wurtzel

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Dan Wurtzel is the president of the New York region of FirstService Residential, the largest residential property manager in North America. As president of its New York operations, Wurtzel runs the teams that manage some 550 condominium, co-op and rental properties in the city, covering a total of 70,000 units, according to the company website. He started with the company back in 1987. 

Some of its best-known buildings under management include the Macklowe Properties and CIM Group-developed ultra-luxury tower 432 Park Ave., and Brookfield’s Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce St. in Lower Manhattan.

A graduate of the University of Maryland’s business school, Wurtzel talks here about how the city’s strict new buildings emissions caps will affect the industry, why he supports the Jets and how he's helping the buildings the company manages become more energy efficient.

Dan Wurtzel

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Wurtzel: I am very lucky to have a strong executive team and that, hands down, is my favorite part of the job. We work together to solve challenging and complex issues and have a great dynamic. Our industry is solutions-based, and having a strong executive team covers all angles when it comes to analyzing an issue and working through a solution.

What is the worst job you ever had?

Wurtzel: I’ve had the same job for 33 years and only one job before that, so I’m lucky enough to have never had a bad job.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Wurtzel: Truthfully, I have been doing this for so long, I am not sure what the answer would be. However, I do enjoy working with nonprofits and would like to dedicate more time to Community Access, a nonprofit organization based in New York City that expands opportunities for people living with mental health concerns to recover from trauma and discrimination through affordable housing, training, advocacy and health-focused services.

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Wurtzel: I am proud of every deal this organization has achieved. However, there are defining moments that were significant for both myself and FirstService Residential. The opening and the consequent management contract for The Plaza Residences was a watershed for the organization. It defined our capabilities and expertise in the ultra-luxury market. Another defining moment was the opening of 8 Spruce. We have been managing it from the beginning, and it was an important moment for the luxury rental market and the rebirth of downtown Manhattan.

Dan Wurtzel and his wife, Helene

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Wurtzel: Becoming a Jets fan.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Wurtzel: Not being able to provide our clients with solutions in real time. Luckily, I am always able to consult with numerous individuals with operational expertise to ensure that we come up with the right solution as fast as humanly possible.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Wurtzel: Season tickets for the New York Jets and it’s not that extravagant.

Bisnow: What motivates you?

Wurtzel: Getting up every morning and knowing that I am part of an organization that makes a difference — every day — for thousands of residents in New York City.

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in real estate?

Wurtzel: I am not sure that any advice I could have received would have prepared me for the ebbs and flows of the New York City real estate market. The industry has changed dramatically over the past 35 years. When I started at this company, we were only four people and now we are the largest property management company in New York City and part of the largest in North America.

Dan Wurtzel and his children Jordan and Scott

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Wurtzel: Ten years ago, as part of a social purpose initiative, we decided to focus on energy conservation. It was risky at the time because there was not a real focus on conservation in multifamily properties. Initially, we formed an energy group within FirstService Residential NY that worked with our clients on increasing energy efficiency through projects that had both a solid ROI and a positive environmental impact by decreasing the building’s carbon footprint.

We then started to purchase gas and electric for buildings and became the first residential management company to join the NYC Carbon Challenge through the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. We now have the largest residential aggregation program in the country for purchasing gas and electric. We also work closely with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, they have been instrumental in assisting us with navigating and educating our clients on local laws related to energy conversation.

What keeps you up at night?

Wurtzel: Sometimes, my dog.

Dan Wurtzel and his family

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Wurtzel: A few of my favorite places are Bend, Oregon, Boudreaux, France, and Israel. Locally, I enjoy walking around the Village and SoHo.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Wurtzel: Playing softball (I still play modified fast pitch) and following my sports teams.

Bisnow: What real estate trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?

Wurtzel: The Climate Mobilization Act (Local Law 97) will have a significant impact on the real estate market. LL97 will require owners of buildings that are 25K SF or larger to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. With the help of FirstService Energy, we are navigating our clients through this process. Buildings that fail to comply will receive significant fines levied by the city.

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Wurtzel: I write, eat and cut with my right hand but play sports with my left. Go figure.