Brooklyn Law School announced in January that Paul A. Gangsei has been named Executive Director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE).
Over the course of his career, Gangsei has built a reputation representing not-for-profit educational, healthcare, social service and cultural institutions, and public entities in real estate and development transactions. His roster of projects includes developments for MoMA, the South Street Seaport Museum, The New School, the Manhattan School of Music, and numerous healthcare providers.
“Paul Gangsei comes to CUBE with a wealth of experience in entrepreneurial real estate transactions,” said Dean Nick Allard. “He understands the way deals come together and the pieces of the puzzle — both public and commercial — that must align to create a new venture. We are fortunate to welcome a leader of his caliber to the Law School.”
As the Executive Director of CUBE, Gangsei has been charged with developing a new model for putting Brooklyn Law students on the front lines of entrepreneurship. He will work with the faculty on developing the Center’s core curriculum, a combination of foundational coursework, in-house clinics, and industry-specific courses and workshops that promote substantive knowledge and skills training for entrepreneurial attorneys. As an entrepreneurial insider, he will continue to raise the profile of CUBE as a home for the next generation of pioneers in business, media, energy, technology, the creative arts, and social enterprise and the lawyers who represent them.
“I am honored and excited to be a part of CUBE,” said Gangsei. “My role brings together many of the various pieces of my background and encompasses a broad range of experiences from my professional and volunteer life — in education, in real estate development, in start-up financing, and in working with new ventures. I am sincerely grateful to Dean Allard for this opportunity and I share his vision for this new Center.”
Gangsei’s first professional experience in education was as a member of The Teachers, Inc. (TTI), a start-up not-for-profit attracting recent college graduates to public school teaching. Through TTI, he became an English teacher at Westbury Junior High School. He then continued his work with TTI as Executive Assistant to the President acting as the company’s “COO” — working with foundations, applying for grants, and building the company’s presence in new locations along the East coast. He also served on the organization’s Board of Directors.
Following his work at TTI, Gangsei attended the Wagner School and studied Urban Planning. While there, he came to realize that the people behind the deals that interested him most — developing projects for communities — were lawyers. “I was interested in innovative individual projects that changed communities and institutions, particularly not-for-profits,” he recalled. “The Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission was Donald Elliott, a Brooklynite who was a trained lawyer, and I wanted to do what he was doing.”
Gangsei attended New York University School of Law, where he was an Associate Editor of the Law Review. Following graduation, he clerked for Judge Lawrence Pierce of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He then joined Elliott and former Mayor John Lindsay at the law firm of Webster & Sheffield where his training in real estate development and entrepreneurship began in earnest. There, Gangsei represented not-for-profit educational, social service and cultural institutions, and public entities, as well as financial and commercial institutional clients, in innovative transactional real estate and development projects.
Fourteen year later in 1990, Gangsei moved his real estate practice to the offices of Kalkines, Arky, Zall & Bernstein LLP, which merged with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP in 2003 to become the firm’s New York City office. During this chapter of his career, he focused on higher education through development of noteworthy projects for institutions such as The New School and The Manhattan School of Music, as well as representing e-commerce start-ups through multiple rounds of financing. In his “spare time,” as a member and then Chair of the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, he spearheaded the Museum’s noteworthy expansion, making it New York City’s first green museum.
Gangsei traces his entrepreneurial spirit back to his parents. His mother was an English teacher and his father a Lutheran minister who started churches and then became one of the founders of California Lutheran University. His parents also started and ran two different businesses of their own — one an off-campus travel-study program for public school teachers to earn academic credit for documenting their travel and integrating it into their curriculum (they eventually sold the program to Goddard College) and the other an antiques business focusing on private clients and high-end shows throughout Southern California. “My parents were in the habit of starting something from nothing and then doing it again,” he said. “I guess I know where I get this interest.”
Gangsei sees CUBE as a portal to entrepreneurship — a door through which law students can become a part of the vast array of entrepreneurial activity happening in the not-for-profit, public, and commercial sectors in Brooklyn and beyond. “Brooklyn Law School is Brooklyn’s law school,” he said. “We are at the center of this hot bed of creativity, and thanks to CUBE our students can be an integral part of all that is going on here. Nick and I believe that lawyers can be facilitators and problem solvers. Our goal at CUBE is to train students to be the kind of lawyers that will make new ventures a success.”