Aj Clarke Property Management
Aj Clarke Property Management – NYC’s property management powerhouses are taking on the titans in a fiercely competitive sector — as city regulations mount and demand for white-glove services skyrockets.
When Forest City tapped FirstService Residential to manage its 363-unit modular Brooklyn rental building at 461 Dean Street in Pacific Park, at least five other companies were vying for the gig. But FirstService, one of the largest property management companies in North America, had a clear advantage. The company already operated two other Forest City buildings: its 76-story rental tower at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan and its 36-story rental building at 80 DeKalb in Fort Greene.
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The real estate investment trust chose FirstService for those two properties while the management giant focused almost exclusively on condo and co-op buildings. But Forest City’s upper management saw potential in bringing condo-level services to its rentals.
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Managing residential properties in New York City has “become much more hospitality-oriented,” said Susie Yu, the landlord’s executive vice president of development. For example, door staff are trained to “stay on top of work orders, take packages to residents during the day, and open car doors to perform tasks similar to what would be expected of a hotel doorman,” he explained.
However, in 2017 some property management companies do just that. Running such a business in a city of more than 8 million people can be a thankless task — one that often involves dealing with angry tenants, navigating complex city regulations and, most of all, making a profit. Aging mechanical systems.
Residential property management is also an industry with a checkered past, from massive corruption crackdowns in the 1990s to more recent problems, such as a property manager in Sunnyside, Queens, who earlier this year filled the lobby of his building with Nazi and Confederate posters.
But a dozen property managers interviewed for this story said the job has become more white-glove in NYC in recent years as it evolves from collecting rents to coordinating building repairs and providing full-service customer relations. And tenants have grown to expect immediate responses to questions or repair requests.
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“We’re not just a brick-and-mortar manager,” said Susan Camerata, chief financial officer of Wavecrest Management, a Queens-based company with about 130 employees. “We are also managing the people and the issues that come up. It’s become a lot more work intensive.”
In rentals, condos, and co-ops alike, property managers are often intermediaries who act as the eyes and ears of the landlord, developer, or co-op board. But they are largely responsible for the quality of life of a property’s occupants and can therefore make or break a building’s reputation.
For that reason and others, competition can be intense, and large companies like FirstService can gain and lose thousands of apartment units over the course of a few years.
Get a closer look. The Real Deal entered the industry this month, ranking the city’s top property management firms by the number of residential units they oversee in Manhattan and the outer boroughs. For the purposes of this ranking — which is based on data from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development — we focused on companies whose ownership stake is less than 50 percent of what they manage.
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Many of the top firms in Manhattan and the outer boroughs have acquired smaller firms or acquired larger portfolios from competitors in recent years to gain a stronger foothold in the market. And the stakes have perhaps never been higher: According to industry sources, the task is more complicated than ever due to increasing city regulations and rising rents. This puts more pressure on companies to provide a high level of service, even if clients don’t demand it beforehand.
At the same time, property management is still seen as a stable field in the volatile world of real estate — an important quality as the high-end residential market softens.
“Unlike other areas of real estate, it’s recession-proof,” said Neil Davidowitz, president of Orsid Realty Corp., which ranks seventh in Manhattan with 12,504 residential units in 118 buildings. “No matter what the value of the property, you need someone to manage [it]. A lot of businesses have trouble collecting fees. One good thing about property management is that we get paid every month.”
FirstService dominates Manhattan as the leading property management firm with 27,877 residential units across 264 buildings and 27,800 units across 356 buildings in the Outer Boroughs.
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The top five in Manhattan are Douglas Elliman Property Management with 27,465 units in 310 buildings, AKAM Associates (a division of AKAM Living Services) with 24,267 units in 171 buildings, Halsted Management with 19,313 buildings. and Rose Associates with 13,146 units in 75 buildings.
In the outer boroughs, Metro Management was second with 20,397 units across 1,373 buildings, followed by Wavecrest Management with 15,429 units across 367 buildings, Douglas Elliman with 13,468 units across 480 buildings and AKAM with 1706 units. in 28 buildings.
Since TRD last did a ranking of property management firms in 2013, FirstService lost 13,396 residential units to competitors, data from HPD shows. These include 408 apartments in Rosedale Gardens, a rental complex in the Bronx, now overseen by Metro Management, and 401 units in Lincoln Tower, a co-op on the Upper West Side, now overseen by Midboro Management (Midboro Ranking) 9 of 99 buildings. ninth in Manhattan with 583 units).
But during the same period, FirstService added nearly 20,000 new units to its portfolio, including Harry McIlroy’s 432 Park Avenue condo supertall. Meanwhile, the firm acquired two other companies in the past decade: Manhattan-based Goodstein Management and Brooklyn-based LiveRite Management. While FirstService is headquartered in Toronto, the firm’s New York office was established in 2003 as a subsidiary called Cooper Square Realty. The office was then rebranded under the flagship name FirstService in 2013.
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Dan Wurtzel, president of FirstService, said the 400-person firm has “achieved steady organic growth over the past decade” while diversifying its “menu of client services.” On the business rental side, he noted, few companies in the city are equipped to properly manage large-scale, high-end buildings. And while there is more competition in the luxury condo space, few companies can tackle an ultra-luxury tower as large as 432 Park, Wurzel added.
“You’re talking about running a five-star hotel,” he said. “The price-point salary for a general manager working in a building like 432 Park is different than the rest of the market.”
Although Forest City now uses FirstService for three of its buildings, the REIT has hired two other companies, Pinnacle and Midboro, to manage the city’s three other residential properties. “We prefer to spread and continue the competition between companies to see who does better, rather than marrying just one company,” Yu said.
And while property management firms often rely on referrals from developers and condo and co-op boards to grow their business, poaching clients is one of the most immediate avenues for industry growth. From 2013 to 2017, AKAM, a Manhattan-based firm of 162 employees, snapped up several properties from Douglas Elliman, including a 240-unit condo tower in downtown Brooklyn and a 272-unit apartment building in Torren at 380 Amsterdam Avenue. Upper West Side. A spokesman for Douglas Elliman declined to comment for this story.
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AKAM’s president, Michael Berenson, said the firm’s primary growth strategy is pitching in new development projects and replacing competitors when developers or condo boards decide to change things up.
“AKAM has never acquired a property management company in our 35-year history,” he said. “New York’s larger management firms have grown their portfolios mainly through acquisitions of other, smaller firms.”
But in just the past few months, other companies have taken less organic routes to bolster their portfolios with high-profile acquisitions.
Development firm Rose Associates announced in June that it was selling its condo and co-op management business to Terra Holdings, the parent company of Halstead Properties and Brown Harris Stevens, for an undisclosed amount. The portfolio of 8,250 units across 35 buildings represents 15 percent of Rose’s total business. A newly formed Terra subsidiary named Rose/Terra Management took over the properties. Rose Associates and Terra declined to comment.
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And in August, AJ Clarke Real Estate bought the property management arm of real estate services firm Fenwick Kitts for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, AJ Clark took over 40 Manhattan buildings that Fenwick was managing and brought on five of the firm’s 12 employees. Rob Anzalone, Fenwick’s CEO and founder, said both companies focused on small and mid-sized buildings in Manhattan, so they felt the acquisition was a good fit. The two organizations have been on each other’s radars for nearly 25 years and at one point were AJ Clarke
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