The Commercial Observer’s 30 Under 30


At 27, Ami Ziff has made his way onto this list by becoming director of national retail for Time Equities after a short but successful career in commercial real estate.

Mr. Ziff splits his time between running the firm’s national retail portfolio of strip centers, a growing portfolio of 25 centers across 16 states, and acquisition sourcing and new deals. In his career, Mr. Ziff has signed more than 1.2 million square feet of leases and closed in excess of $66 million in acquisitions.

“I have a real passion for retail,” said Mr. Ziff. “I sleep and breathe retail. I’ve worked on official and industrial buildings, and nothing has really captured my interest as retail does.”

“I’ve always loved the relationship aspect,” he continued. “If I have a relationship with a tenant in one state, I can put them in another state. There was a great opportunity on the retail side with Francis Greenburger [of Time Equities].”

One of his latest acquisitions was a 33,000-square-foot retail center in Queen Creek, Ariz., a state that figured prominently in Time Equities’ strategy of expanding into the West.

“My favorite retail location? It has to be New York City, because it’s unlike any other market,” he said. Time Equities “doesn’t own anything in New York, but Fifth Avenue in the 50s is outstanding.”

When he isn’t closing deals, Mr. Ziff actively fund-raises for the Livestrong Foundation and is an active supporter of the Jaffa Institute, Omi Arts Center and Columbia Greene Hospital Foundation. He also serves as the New York and Northern New Jersey Next Generation chair. —ME

Each year, hundreds of young real estate agents find themselves toiling the proverbial mail rooms of the city’s biggest brokerages, having left behind native cornfields of Nebraska, bayous of Louisiana and ivies of Massachusetts for a shot at playing in the big leagues. But commercial real estate has never been for the faint of heart, and thus for every college graduate who makes the cut as a junior broker at Studley and CBRE, an equal number of determined peers find themselves marveling at just how disciplined the competition can be.

And still there are the rest of you, who thrive off such tests of strength. And so it’s for you who we present The Commercial Observer’s first annual list of New York’s most promising young commercial real estate brokers under 30. From Jones Lang LaSalle’s youngest vice president to a broker who names Stonehenge co-founder Ofer Yardeni as a mentor, this year’s crop of talent proves that hard work and powerful connections pays off.

Earlier this month, we asked executives, communication directors and your peers to nominate individuals they most admired under the age of 30—the ones they believe rank high among New York’s next wave of tenant and landlord representatives, investment sales agents and retail fixers. And after reviewing client rosters and career statistics, we were able to whittle a long list of talented individuals into what you see before you.

So with that in mind, enjoy reading about this year’s crop of “30 Under 30” brokers today, but know that by next year these same agents may be nipping at your heels.—Jotham Sederstrom, Editor-In-Chief

Ross Berkowitz began his career with Robert K. Futterman as an intern while attending Baruch College in 2007, but his interest in the real estate world was already in place.

“I had family friends that were always really into real estate, and while was in college I actually interned with a landlord that I do business with now,” said Mr. Berkowitz, now 26. That landlord was Ofer Yardeni, co-founder of real estate firm Stonehenge, whom he counts as a mentor. Still, he gravitated toward a broker’s position. “I saw both sides of it, and brokerage intrigued me more.”

The internship with RKF turned into a position as a canvasser in 2008, which led to brokerage the following year. So far, Mr. Berkowitz—an associate with the firm—has accumulated 93,175 total square feet in his career. He benefited from working alongside RKF executive vice presidents Gary Alterman and Ariel Schuster, he said, and described his time canvassing as a training program that helped him better understand the city in which he now plies his trade.

The life of a broker is one of keeping track of constant changes in the market, said Mr. Berkowitz. He advises anyone just starting out in New York’s real estate game to be patient. “It takes time,” said the Scarsdale native. “I’m still learning that.”

Some of Mr. Berkowitz’s notable transactions include a 15,584-square-foot lease with office supply retailer Staples at 641 Avenue of the Americas this year, and 31,400 square feet at 100 Church Street leased in 2010 to businesses including Pret A Manger, Farber Oncology, Aroma Espresso Bar, the Anne Frank Center and Ray’s Barber Shop.

The majority of his work is on owner representation: he’s worked with Stonehenge Partners, SL Green Realty Corp., Invesco Real Estate, L.H. Charney Associates, Atlas Capital Group and Silverstein Properties.

In the future, Mr. Berkowitz would like to take his services beyond New York City. “I’d like to represent tenants across the country, but that takes time,” he said. —Karsten Strauss

Steven Binswanger has managed to stand out as an up-and-comer even in the huge talent pool at Eastdil Secured, which has completed $95 billion in property sale transactions since 2009.

Mr. Binswanger has been involved in $6 billion of those deals in his three years at the company, including the sale of 1633 Broadway in 2011, which valued the property at $2 billion.

At Eastdil, where he is an associate, “I get to work with the top people in real estate” including senior managing directors Doug Harmon and Adam Spies, he said.

“Learning from them is invaluable. The tougher thing is, you’re working with so many talented people, it’s hard to differentiate yourself. Everything we do is in teams, which change depending on deal. I’ve been lucky to be a part of great teams.”

Mr. Binswanger helped broker the sale of a 49 percent stake in 1633 Broadway to Paramount Group, giving the real estate company 100 percent of the property. Representing SL Green Realty Corp., his team recently closed the sale of a 49.5 percent stake in 521 Fifth Avenue to a joint venture between Quantum Global Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management for $72 million, and Mr. Binswanger said he expects the group to add to its deal total by the end of the year.

The 29-year-old sales associate comes from a real estate background. His family owns the Philadelphia-based international brokerage Binswanger, where he interned while in college.

“My mentor is my grandfather, John Binswanger, who instilled a love of real estate at an early age,” he said. —Stephen Kleege

As an assistant director in Studley’s consulting department, William Colgan, 26, has actively worked on 7 million square feet of completed transactions since joining the firm in 2008.

Focused on strategic planning of transactions, Mr. Colgan uses his GAAP accounting and finance knowledge to tailor strategies and analyses to make both tenant and landlord happy.

“Sometimes tenants and landlords look at the same transactions differently,” he said. “There are many ways to cater to both parties in order to meet their objectives.”

A roster of clients that is too long to list in its entirety includes companies as diverse as the American Red Cross, CBS Broadcasting, Digital Studios, Fujitsu Limited, Haks Engineers, Hilton Worldwide, Ironshore Holdings, Summit Medical Group and Thomas Publishing.

Along with team members including Matthew Barlow, Brad Wolk, Jason Perla, Anthony Chow and Samantha Gentile, Mr. Colgan’s consulting group goes beyond the brokerage basics.

“The space itself is important, but we are heavily involved in the analytics and truly helping clients to understand the structure and financial commitments involved with a transaction,” Mr. Colgan said.

Mr. Colgan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Harvard University, where he was a four-year varsity wrestler. He was introduced to Studley through an on-campus career fair and joined the firm after graduation.

“I’ve worked with and learned from brokers with different styles and pitch techniques here, which has largely helped in my success,” he said.

Mr. Colgan is a Harvard College Fund associate’s representative and a member of the Harvard Club of New York. He is also a volunteer with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. —Al Barbarino

Many young people grow up with a dream of making their mark on New York, but Lauren Crowley-Corrinet was uniquely intent on making that goal a reality. “I always had a love affair with the city,” she said, adding that it was one reason she matriculated at Barnard. Upon graduating, Ms. Crowley-Corrinet realized that “real estate is so much the fabric of New York” and a “tangible” expression of her city romance, and that CBRE was an ideal venue in which to nurture it.

In nearly seven years at CBRE, Ms. Crowley-Corrinet has accrued 5,289,000 square feet of transactions on behalf of clients including Société Générale, Young & Rubicam and Dow Jones. After she spent her undergraduate years in New York, the city “was in no way daunting to me,” she said. “You see past the things that might otherwise intimidate you.” Still, Ms. Crowley-Corrinet was “incredibly fortunate” to have CBRE’s Mary Ann Tighe, C.E.O., New York Tri-State Region, and Greg Tosko, Vice Chairman, New York Tri-State Region, offer crucial early guidance and the opportunity to work on deals (for instance, one involving Coach) normally out of a fledging broker’s reach.

Ms. Crowley-Corrinet proves especially adept at steering clients from their longtime homes into new offices—her transactions ushered the China Institute away from the Upper East Side and into a 50,413-square-foot condominium at 40 Rector Street and brought Y&R a 339,000-square-foot lease at 3 Columbus Circle after the advertising giant had spent 85 years at 285 Madison Avenue.

These transitional deals entail working with some people who are “really, really comfortable” where they are and somewhat reluctant to move, said Ms. Crowley-Corrinet. But the process works, so long as “you do your homework, build the groundwork and help clients learn the market.” Fittingly, Ms. Crowley-Corrinet is not content to stay put: “I love to be a part of the changing skyline.” —Billy Gray

Eric Ferriello came to his job at Colliers International as a result of the credit crunch, which hit three months after he started at his first job, as a commercial real estate lender at Webster Financial Corp. in Connecticut. “I wanted to steer away from the lending side,” the 27-year-old tenant representative recalled. “I saw brokerage as an opportunity to interface more with clients and people in general.”

Mr. Ferriello interviewed at the biggest real estate firms, and recalls hitting it off with Robert Tunis at GVA Williams, which would become Colliers International. Now part of a team with Mr. Tunis, the vice chairman of Colliers, and Leonard Garza, the company’s New York office director, Mr. Ferriello and his team have about 700,000 square feet worth of leases under his belt.

A series of transactions for CPX Interactive was typical of deals by Mr. Ferriello, who represents tenants on both the acquisition and disposition of office space. He helped the digital advertising company dispose of space on Long Island and complete a 10-year deal on 18,000 square feet at 1441 Broadway. He’s now helping the company with a national expansion as CPX looks to open a call center in North Carolina and offices in Los Angeles.

Mr. Ferriello said he’s benefited from “being a younger guy” and “having a lot of friends in media and tech sector,” as that industry has boomed in Manhattan. He sees no signs of that demand abating, and said the tech district will expand before long from Midtown South to the “cusp of Times Square.”

Clark Finney’s introduction to the world of New York City real estate came through a series of conversations he had during his senior year at Washington & Lee University with Cushman & Wakefield Vice President Gus Field.

Introduced by a mutual friend, Mr. Field described a team-oriented environment that appealed to the young Mr. Finney’s sense of sportsmanship and competition.

“I played sports my whole life, and that was something that I was looking for,” he said. The idea of trading in an actual physical commodity was also attractive, he added.

Now 29, Mr. Finney has moved approximately 2.7 million square feet of space since taking a job at Cushman in 2007, starting with a 4,500-square-foot lease at 140 Broadway when he was only 23 years old—four months into his burgeoning career at the firm. He attributes his success in the real estate game to a strong group of mentors there, including Executive Vice Chairman John Cefaly and Vice Chairman Robert Lowe, as well as Mr. Field. “They’ve taught me so much, I don’t know where to begin,” said Mr. Finney.

Launching his career in New York came with obstacles. Originally from Baltimore, Mr. Finney had to spend some time learning the lay of the city’s landscape and getting to know its landlords.

One of the secrets to his success, he said, is the ability to wake up each day and maintain a positive attitude while making a living in a cutthroat business. As for his advice to those just entering the real estate game, Mr. Finney says that the hardest worker will win in the end.

“It’s not an immediately easy business to get into and succeed in. It takes time,” he explained, noting that diligence and patience are essential to success. “Just continue to put your best foot forward every day.” —KS

Jeff Fischer, 28, is a competitor by nature.

Having played hockey and lacrosse growing up, and with a background in economics and a knack for math, his segue into brokerage was a smooth one.

“I approach life with a never-be-complacent attitude,” he told The Commercial Observer. It landed him a promotion to vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle in July 2012, and is the youngest broker currently holding this distinction in the tristate region.

“It sort of made me want to get the next one,” Mr. Fischer added. “But more importantly, my goal is to continue to grow as a broker—not to have a million different clients, but to have fewer and better clients, and to knock it out of the park for every one of them.”

Mr. Fischer has had a hand in the leasing of 3.2 million square feet of space, specializing in the representation of high-end tenants in the Plaza District, as well as creative companies in Midtown South.

At JLL, he works under Scott Panzer, vice chairman, who refers to him as “the smartest person I’ve ever come across in real estate.”

He also works alongside Steven Rotter and Mort Schrader, managing directors, Howard Hersch, vice president, and Ben Casper, an associate. His notable clients include Newsweek, Russell Investments, Resources Global Professionals, Vox Media and Knighthead Capital.

Following a stint as a talent agent after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in economics in 2006, Mr. Fischer decided real estate was a better fit. “I wouldn’t do anything else in the world,” he said.

Signature transactions include KKR’s 130,000-square-foot expansion/renewal at 9 West 57th Street, Newsweek’s 50,000-square-foot new lease acquisition at 7 Hanover Square, Kaplan’s 38,200-square-foot disposition at 888 Seventh Avenue and Valinor Management’s new 12,000-square-foot lease at 510 Madison Avenue. —AB