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Panel Peers into the Future of LI Real Estate Development

07.11.2017 | Berdon Press Release

Redevelopment and Revitalization on Long Island were the twin themes of a panel discussion hosted by Berdon LLP at the Crest Hollow Country Club on June 13. Leading the discussion, before more than 200 attendees, was Berdon Chair of Real Estate Services, Maury Golbert, CPA, J.D., LL.M., who moderated a prestigious panel of real estate professionals that featured:

  • Scott Burman, Partner, The Engel Burman Group
  • Donald Monti, CEO, Renaissance Downtowns
  • Seth Pilevsky, Co-President, Philips International
  • Ellen Rudin, Executive Director, CBRE
  • Michael Schor,  Chief Investment Officer, The Treeline Companies
  • Nicholas Terzulli, Director of Business Development, Nassau County IDA

Current State of the Long Island Market

Rudin set a positive tone, noting that "a lot of projects are now getting done, offices are going up, and there is pent up demand."

Monti concurred, but pointed to the ongoing flight of millennials to places like Seattle and Denver. "We are number one in the country for exporting our youth," he said.  He felt that issues of affordability, housing, and lifestyle need to be addressed or the Island will continue to lose its future to other regions.

Local governments and elected officials have been resistant to seeing the need for necessary changes according to Terzulli.  While he sees the tide finally turning for creating a more attractive environment for the next generation of employees, he feels "It's not happening as fast as it should."

Complex Governmental and Tax Landscape Still Pose a Challenge

Turning the attention to office development, Schor pointed out that "Long Island has long been a back office market."  He felt that office developers have been inhibited by bureaucratic issues in their pursuit of development projects.

Golbert added that he regularly hears laments about the numerous municipalities that must be dealt with - calling the process "mind numbingly complex."

"Mayors and village boards have to allow for greater density," said Terzulli.

Pilevsky added that, "Property taxes are so high and development takes a long time."

To address this major concern, the discussion moved to the massive layers of government and the costs of funding school districts. In the view of the panel, major governmental costs could be saved by consolidation, which will enable Long Island to take advantage of economies of scale. 

The panelists also favored reform of Article 78 lawsuits by development opponents. Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules establishes the procedure for challenging the determinations of administrative agencies, public bodies, or officers. These include every court, tribunal, board, corporation, officer, or other person, or aggregation of persons.

 "An Article 78 lawsuit can tie you up for three years," said Burman,  "It's gotten more and more difficult dealing with NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) dead set against development of any kind."

Transportation is Key to Revitalization

During the Q&A session with the audience, Monti came out as a strong advocate of additional rail transportation as a means to spur development, adding that "Today, if you have a home near rail transportation, you have gold." He sees rail development as a key feature in revitalizing urban centers. 

Rudin confirmed, stating that the public support in favor of an LIRR third rail has brought us to the point where it will likely get done, significantly benefiting the Long Island workforce.

Golbert closed by reinforcing that there is a lot of optimism in the market and that with the right programs and incentives, development in Long Island, although still challenging, is exciting and achievable.

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