How Ed Piccinich Is Living The American Dream
With the entire block west of Grand Central Terminal nearly demolished, work will soon begin in earnest on SL Green’s 1.7M SF mega-tower, One Vanderbilt. This means a few exciting years ahead for Ed Piccinich, the 2016 recipient of REBNY’s George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award.
For Ed—who as EVP leads SL Green’s property management, construction, acquisition underwriting and technology, among other roles—this is the American Dream. The son of immigrants from present-day Croatia and the former Yugoslavia, Ed says his success is in large part due to his parents’ guidance and tenacity. After spending two years in refugee camps throughout Italy, including Trieste, Latina, Aversa and Naples, his parents never thought they’d even make it to the US. They endured hardship along the way, but finally arrived here in the late 1950s.
Ed was born in 1962 among a community of immigrants in which adults were either construction workers, longshoremen or seamstresses. After “watching one too many episodes of The Brady Bunch and wanting to live that dream,” Ed eventually set his sights on Manhattan College, where he received his BS in Mechanical Engineering.
He started his career in construction, but made the leap into commercial real estate in the early ‘90s. “I traded my steel-toed construction boots for polished dress shoes to become a tenant rep at the old World Trade Center complex,” he explains.
He grew that position to eventually taking over operations of the entire 13M SF complex. “That was a fraction of the size of the portfolio I handle for SL Green today,” he notes, which includes buildings like 11 Madison Ave, 1515 Broadway, 100 Park Ave and 420 Lexington Ave, SL Green’s corporate HQ.
At the REIT, he leads a team of nearly 140 white-collar professionals (above) and a thousand-plus blue-collar professionals—a number that will double once One Vanderbilt is in full swing, he says.
Along the way, he’s had experiences ranging from “amazing” to “challenging” in the industry, and everything in between. He was on location during the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing and was 90 feet away from the blast. “Many of the people who died that day were very good friends,” he recalls, noting he keeps a photo at his desk to remind him of those days. Eight years later, he flew out to the West Coast on Sept. 10—only to watch the complex he once managed collapse from afar the following day.
From incidents like these to the 2003 NYC blackout, Hurricanes Floyd and Irene, Superstorm Sandy, gas leaks and steam explosions, Ed has witnessed it all. “They were all adrenaline-pumping experiences that have prepared me for anything—so when an incident comes up here, reflex kicks in.”
Ed has been with SL Green since 2002, after spending 10 years at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (for which he managed the WTC) and six years at JP Morgan. He considers SL Green CEO Marc Holliday and president Andrew Mathias two of his greatest inspirations in the industry and credits founder and chairman Steve Green (above) as being the visionary that started the company.
“They took a chance on me and pushed me to beyond whatever I thought I was capable of,” he says. “Working for mavericks like them inspires me to push myself harder. I’ve been with them almost 15 years, but it only feels like 15 days.”
Over the years, he’s seen plenty of evolution in the industry, but the one that excites him the most is today’s 24/7/365 connection. “There’s no way out,” he says, recalling his first beeper “and a cellphone the size of a cinder block” when he first started working in real estate. “I embrace this technology with my team and tell them they have to be enthusiastic about what they do—or else they’re in the wrong business.”
Meeting with Millennials particularly invigorates him. “They are the antithesis of my generation when it comes to technology, and it’s been an incredible learning experience.”
He admits, however, he’s still not ahead of his children when it comes to staying on top of tech trends. It’s all about finding the right balance, he says, as this technology allows SL Green to be stronger in managing its large and diverse portfolio.
Ed is a doting dad to three kids (his eldest daughter is in real estate; his youngest daughter is a senior at the University of Notre Dame with a position lined up in finance; and his son is a sophomore at Lawrenceville) and says if he wasn’t in this career, he’d be a professional D1 softball coach after coaching the gals as they grew up.
Overall, it’s hard for Ed to escape the industry, and in his spare time, he tries to stay on top of new legislation and technology. He’s an active member of REBNY, BOMA, the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, the New York Building Congress and the Urban Green Council, and on the philanthropic side, he supports the Muscular Dystrophy Association (a disease to which he lost a sister), National Jewish Health, the Diabetes Research Institute, and St. Francis Food Pantries & Shelters.