Tracey Appelbaum (Photos by Emily Assiran)When Tracey Appelbaum was growing up in Georgia, she often accompanied her grandfather, a developer, to construction sites. He built a number of Frito-Lay warehouses throughout the Southeast, she said, and “would have me holding the flashlight for him while he fixed HVAC units, or he would have me pace off the size of a room.” Years later, when she was at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, she took a real estal estate finance class, and something clicked. “I thought, wait, this thing I did as a child, there’s actually a defined job description for it,” she said. From there, she got “deeper and deeper into real estate.” As co-founder of Midtown-based BedRock Real Estate, Appelbaum and her business partner, Chuck Berman, oversee $1.6 billion in 20 assets that contain roughly 2,500 apartments. The investment management firm specializes in the development and acquisition of rental units and mixed-use developments in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. Although they mainly work on the finance side, Appelbaum said the firm has works closely with developers. BedRock’s high-profile projects include the 168-unit Watermark Court Square rental building in Long Island City and the Pierrepont, a 90-unit luxury rental building in Brooklyn Heights. The firm also backed the Hudson Companies’ 133-unit condo 1 Clinton in Brooklyn Heights. Appelbaum, who went on to get an MBA at Wharton, started working at AvalonBay Communities in 1994, based out of the firm’s Connecticut office. In 2003, Berman — AvalonBay’s co-founder — recruited her to run the New York office of his new venture, investment management firm MacFarlane Partners. “We were tasked with joining forces with developers, and that was … really where I created the network that I have today,” she said. The two launched their new firm, which is based out of an 18th-floor office at 501 Fifth Avenue, in 2013.Toy frog on a lily padAppelbaum is a huge collector of toy frogs. She bought this fabric one on a trip to Japan this summer. Her frog obsession dates back to her childhood in Georgia, when she would scoop frogs out of the pool at her grandparents’ house to save them from the skimmer. She’s bought toy frogs all over the world, but, by some accounts, her collection has gotten unwieldy. “There’s a moratorium at my house that if one comes in, one has to come out,” she joked.PVC pipe“As a child and even into my college years, I would routinely break into construction sites because I just liked to walk around in them,” Appelbaum said. At 19, she and a friend hopped the fence and walked around a site in Atlanta where a new student center was being built at Emory University. She took this small piece of PVC pipe from the site and has had it since.Hard hatThis hard hat is from a 20-story condo building, Linden 78, which Appelbaum and her husband assembled on 78th and Broadway. The couple, who had a co-developer on the project, spent several years negotiating the deal, which included relocating and rebuilding a neighboring mikveh (a traditional Jewish bath house). Construction began in 2007 and was finalized in 2010. The building launched during the dark days of the recession and hit some snags, but it did ultimately sell out.Rubber chickenWhen Appelbaum’s children went to nursery school, they would often run relay races, using a rubber chicken as a baton. After Appelbaum left MacFarlane in 2008 to work on Linden78, she had more time on her hands and helped coach at her kids’ camp, where they played lacrosse, tennis, basketball and a mix of other sports. “So instead of watching the kids run around the gym with rubber chickens, I coached for a summer,” she said. Her kids are now in the ninth and 12th grades at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School on the Upper West Side.Framed items from her grandfatherBefore Appelbaum’s grandfather was a developer, he worked in the grocery business, and food brands would send him gifts to get him to stock their products. One supplier, a turkey company, sent him good luck charms once a month. When Appelbaum and Berman did their first deal, she had those charms framed and preserved the case they were kept in. “That was going to be my present to myself to take the good luck charms,” she said.Flintstones collectionAppelbaum bought these Flintstones figurines a few years ago — a playful nod to the firm’s name. Unfortunately, the set didn’t include a Great Gazoo, her favorite Flintstones character, but she later found one that’s slightly bigger than the others. “These guys were all rooted in their fun, but Gazoo was sort of the evidence that there was always somewhere else to go, or something else to do that was beyond the life.” This content is for subscribers only.Subscribe Now
Photo Illustration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (iStock, Getty/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)When the real estate industry wanted an alternative route to comply with a New York City building emissions cap, it looked to Albany. This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered one in his executive budget proposal.But that change, and other industry priorities, are now in jeopardy. Cuomo is facing calls from Democrats and Republicans to resign after three women accused him of sexual harassment. Even before those reports emerged, Assembly member Ron Kim had begun pushing for impeachment over the revelation that Cuomo’s administration underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes. The legislature this week moved to strip him of the emergency powers granted at the start of the pandemic, preventing him from issuing new directives and limiting his ability to extend existing ones.The uncertainty over the governor’s future looms over Albany as state officials work out how to balance the $193 billion budget before April 1. Advocates and elected officials have already taken aim at key proposals, including the emissions workaround, and hope Cuomo’s weakness or absence will give them more leverage.Beyond the budget, some in the real estate industry are concerned about what the loss of a powerful ally would mean for pandemic recovery and other initiatives, including the renewal of Affordable New York, a property tax break treasured by multifamily developers.“The governor has generally been a pro-growth pragmatist. The real estate industry has depended on that to keep attention and focus in a positive way on investment in our built environment,” said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City. “The governor’s troubles are a real threat to the pace and strength of our recovery.”Industry championWhen Cuomo, then state attorney general, ran for governor in 2010, he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the biggest names in the industry. That backing has run into the eight figures during his three terms — and has picked up when issues of particular import cross the governor’s desk.In 2012, the New York Times reported that a committee largely backed by real estate leaders had raised more than $12 million for Cuomo, making it the largest-spending advocacy organization in Albany. Some of those donors were pushing for a cap on local property taxes that the governor had proposed. Ahead of the renewal of Affordable New York’s predecessor 421a that year, Extell Development’s Gary Barnett and his wife donated $100,000 to Cuomo.It was Cuomo who set the terms for the renewal of 421a in 2017, ignoring a deal reached by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Real Estate Board of New York. Instead, he tasked developers and construction unions with hashing out a compromise that included prevailing wage requirements. Though the resulting impasse led to the temporary expiration of the tax break, the governor could take a victory lap when the two sides agreed on Affordable New York.That tax break is slated to expire in 2022, and some Democrats are calling for its immediate repeal. Cuomo is expected to push for renewal, Wylde noted.“Generally, the governor brings a more practical and objective approach to all the issues that the advocates want decided on a more ideological basis,” the business leader said. “I think the decisions that have been made on facts and data may be lost in the politics if the governor and his staff are not able to manage some of those conversations effectively.”The governor’s Local Law 97 amendment would allow building owners to buy renewable energy credits outside the city to offset their properties’ greenhouse-gas emissions, potentially saving some of them millions of dollars. The proposal is backed by the Real Estate Board of New York.Jonathan Westin, director of the left-wing group New York Communities for Change, said there is now a better chance of removing the governor’s “poison pills” from the budget. Tenant advocates also hope the governor will permit some of their proposals to become law, including the cancellation of rent debt and a good cause eviction bill.“He has literally no legs to stand on anymore,” Westin declared.The pragmatistSome are skeptical that the allegations will end Cuomo’s career, though the situation underscores the danger for real estate of relying almost entirely on him — a strategy that backfired after Democrats captured the state Senate in 2018.“They bought in. They took the Kool-Aid. This guy is really good at his job,” one industry lobbyist said. “They were enamored. But [pinning your hopes on one person] is also shitty planning.”At the end of the day, the governor protects himself first. And when the time came in 2019 to renew the state’s rent stabilization law, Cuomo read the room: There were more tenants than landlords, and no Republicans to blame.Landlords were shocked by the tenant-friendly bill that emerged, and when they made an 11th-hour plea to Cuomo to step in, he instead embraced the reforms, calling them “the most sweeping, aggressive protections in state history.”In 2019 he also considered an annual pied-à-terre tax, although real estate interests ultimately persuaded lawmakers to instead raise transfer taxes on high-end home sales.One real estate source noted that Cuomo was only an ally when his interests aligned with the industry. In that circumstance, he was a powerful friend.“One day he is an ally; one day he’s an enemy. It all depends on his personal calculus,” the source said. “You don’t know if you are going to get the handshake or the knife at any moment with Andrew Cuomo.”The governor’s tenuous position has some worried about the state’s pandemic response. Another industry source also noted that distress at the state level is compounded by uncertainty over who will be elected mayor to lead the city’s recovery.“Stability in government is good for the real estate industry,” the source said. “It’s just not a good time for the government to be falling apart.”Georgia Kromrei contributed reporting.
HONG KONG | In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops from Sydney to Paris to pick up the tech juggernaut’s latest iPhone.A customer cheers with staff members of Apple Inc. as the Apple store in Hong Kong started selling iPhone 5 Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Apple’s Asian fans jammed the tech juggernaut’s shops in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore to pick up the latest version of its iPhone. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)Eager buyers formed long lines Friday at Apple Inc. stores in Asia, Europe and North America to be the first to get their hands on the latest version of the smartphone.In London, some shoppers had camped out for a week in a queue that snaked around the block. In Hong Kong, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting “iPhone 5! iPhone 5!” and high-fiving them as they were escorted one-by-one through the front door.The smartphone will be on sale in the U.S. and Canada hours after its launch in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain, France and Germany. It will launch in 22 more countries a week later. The iPhone 5 is thinner, lighter, has a taller screen, faster processor, updated software and can work on faster “fourth generation” mobile networks.The handset has become a hot seller despite initial lukewarm reviews and new map software that is glitch prone. Apple received 2 million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago.In a sign of the intense demand, police in Osaka, Japan, were investigating the theft of nearly 200 iPhones 5s, including 116 from one shop alone, Kyodo News reported.Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.Some fans went to extremes to be among the first buyers by arriving at Apple’s flagship stores day ahead of the release.In downtown Sydney, Todd Foot, 24, showed up three days early to nab the coveted first spot. He spent about 18 hours a day in a folding chair, catching a few hours’ sleep each night in a tent on the sidewalk.Foot’s dedication was largely a marketing stunt, however. He writes product reviews for a technology website that will give away the phone after Foot reviews it.“I just want to get the phone so I can feel it, compare it and put it on our website,” he said while slumped in his chair.In Paris, the phone launch was accompanied by a workers’ protest — a couple dozen former and current Apple employees demonstrated peacefully to demand better work benefits. Some decried what they called Apple’s transformation from an offbeat company into a multinational powerhouse.But the protesters — urged by a small labor union to demonstrate at Apple stores around France — were far outnumbered by lines of would-be buyers on the sidewalk outside the store near the city’s gilded opera house.Not everyone lining up at the various Apple stores was an enthusiast, though. In Hong Kong, university student Kevin Wong, waiting to buy a black 16 gigabyte model for 5,588 Hong Kong dollars ($720), said he was getting one “for the cash.” He planned to immediately resell it to one of the numerous grey market retailers catering to mainland Chinese buyers. China is one of Apple’s fastest growing markets but a release date for the iPhone 5 there has not yet been set.Wong was required to give his local identity card number when he signed up for his iPhone on Apple’s website. The requirement prevents purchases by tourists including mainland Chinese, who have a reputation for scooping up high-end goods on trips to Hong Kong because there’s no sales tax and because of the strength of China’s currency. Even so, the mainlanders will probably buy it from the resellers “at a higher price — a way higher price,” said Wong, who hoped to make a profit of HK$1,000 ($129).Tokyo’s glitzy downtown Ginza district not only had a long line in front of the Apple store, but another across the main intersection at Softbank, the first carrier in Japan to offer iPhones.Hidetoshi Nakamura, a 25-year-old auto engineer, said he’s an Apple fan because it’s an innovator.“I love Apple,” he said, standing near the end of a two-block-long line, reading a book and listening to music on his iPod.“It’s only the iPhone for me.”___Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Faris Mokhtar in Singapore, Tom Rayner in London and Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.Follow Kelvin Chan on at twitter.com/chanman