Fall 2018

Meet Brooklyn Law School Graduates Who Are Transforming the New York City Skyline and Beyond

"I went to Brooklyn Law School to learn how to be a better businessman,” said Larry A. Silverstein ’55, chairman of Silverstein Properties, a real estate development firm now worth $10 billion. “The Law School taught me how to think like a lawyer. This was hugely beneficial to me.”

Today, Silverstein is a giant among New York City’s real estate moguls. His uncompromising vision has transformed Lower Manhattan, home not only to the world’s financial powerhouses but also to a growing number of diverse companies and a booming residential area. Silverstein’s determination and commitment to driving the city forward, and his dedication to his work, are emblematic of many successful Brooklyn Law School graduates in the real estate industry.

The impact of these graduates is evident in the New York City skyline and in revitalized neighborhoods—from the World Trade Center site in Manhattan and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to the Overtown district near downtown Miami. In the heart of New York City and its trillion-dollar real estate market, Brooklyn Law School produces talented graduates with tenacity, hustle, and a strong foundation in business and real estate law.

“We pride ourselves on ensuring that our graduates are Brooklyn-ready—not just knowing the law but being able to apply it in the real world,” said Professor David Reiss, a noted authority on real estate finance and community development.

Reiss is the founder of the Law School’s Community Development Clinic, where students learn how to negotiate the leasing, purchasing, financing, and renovating of real estate, as well as draft, analyze, and negotiate contracts, with organizations that serve underrepresented communities. In the Corporate and Real Estate Clinic, led by Professor Debra Bechtel, students gain transactional experience representing low-income cooperative boards, working to preserve affordable housing in New York City. Both clinics are affiliated with the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), which harnesses the entrepreneurial activity in Brooklyn.

The Law School offers a robust slate of real estate courses that cover the field from every legal and business angle. Students benefit from authorities in the field who serve as adjunct faculty members, bringing their deep knowledge as legal advisors to private developers and city policymakers. Mark Jackson ’11, real estate counsel for Two Trees Management in Brooklyn credited the faculty for launching him in his career. “I learned from fantastic practitioners at the Law School about the New York City real estate development scene and had the opportunity to take on great externships—and landed my first job after law school at the recommendation of Professor Len Wasserman,” said Jackson. Wasserman is a consultant to the New York City Economic Development Corporation and a 1972 graduate of the Law School.

The Law School’s nationally recognized programs in business, finance, and corporate law give students an edge in the highly competitive real estate industry as well as a strong network of connections. The next generation will stand on the shoulders of their fellow alumni, whose driving visions, keen legal minds, and business savvy have fueled their successes and cemented the Law School’s reputation as the place where real estate titans are made.



IN JULY 2001, when Larry A. Silverstein signed a 99-year lease on the 10.6 million square feet that made up the World Trade Center, the largest real estate transaction in New York history, he had no idea of the events that would soon unfold to make rebuilding the site—and revitalizing Lower Manhattan—his life’s work. Rebuilding the World Trade Center site after 9/11, a $20 billion project, has been many years in the making. The results, for the site as well as the neighborhood itself, have been extraordinary. Silverstein’s major projects include WTC 2, 3, 4, and 7 (left, inset), as well as Silver Towers and 1 River Place, luxury residential buildings along the Hudson River; and the Four Seasons Downtown, an 84-story skyscraper with a luxury hotel, five-star restaurant, and condo units.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center and the West 66th Street development, including Disney’s ABC West Side headquarters.

WHY BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: As a part-time student, I could attend classes in the morning and work at my father’s real estate office in the afternoon. Brooklyn Law School taught me a new way of thinking—how to understand legal ramifications with logic and reasoning—and that’s been really beneficial to me in business all these years.

WHY REAL ESTATE: New York is an incredible city. I’ve been blessed to live my life here—and to grow my family’s real estate business here. Anything you want to access, anything you want to accomplish, you can do it here. After 9/11, I decided to rebuild because I felt an obligation to do so, and because I had the sense that everything I did in New York, I needed to succeed at. I know that this city will continue to grow and prosper. When it comes to real estate here, there’s only one direction to go—and that’s up.

WORDS OF WISDOM: I’ve had extraordinary good fortune in my life. But I’ve also found that the harder I worked, the luckier I got. So my advice? If there’s something you’re passionate about, like real estate in my case, give it everything you’ve got. Use good judgment, intelligence, and reasoning, and give it your all. If you do that, you’ll accomplish your goals. And always remember that, at the end of the day, what’s most important is your integrity and your family.

SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES is a privately held, full-service real estate development, investment, and management firm based in New York. It has developed, owned, and managed more than 40 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and retail properties.



CHARLES S. COHEN is best known for his remarkably conceived design centers that offer multiuse space for the creative community: Manhattan’s Decoration & Design Building (left, inset), Southern California’s Pacific Design Center, and Design Center of the Americas in South Florida. With a lifelong passion for film, Cohen went to Brooklyn Law School with an eye toward entertainment law, but instead went into the family real estate business, where he not only grew it to vast proportions but created distinction for its projects by working with world-renowned designers and architects. He has built on the success of his real estate firm by venturing into more creative fields: film production (Cohen Media Group), film exhibition (he renovated and reopened the Quad Cinema in Manhattan), hotel management, fashion labels, and an award-winning vineyard. As a film producer, Cohen has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning in 2017 for the Best Foreign Language Film The Salesman. At the heart of all his endeavors are creativity, passion, and respect for every individual he encounters.

WHY BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: A law degree gives a tremendous advantage for anyone. It changes how you look at the world and transact business. That’s why Brooklyn Law School was a critical building block for me. I liked that it wasn’t part of a big university, so I never felt lost. It also was a very professional environment—in addition to the real estate finance and real estate property classes I took, the practical education was valuable. You felt like you were going to work, not school.

Real estate, to be successful, has to embrace the community where it exists. I modeled the Pacific Design Center after West Hollywood itself—a creative building in a creative city. We wanted to provide programming and host events and share knowledge, creating a flow of traffic to the building so people could interact and network.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Find your passion and dive into it with vigor. Finish what you start, tell the truth, and honor your commitments. Treat people with respect no matter who they are or what they do. Do the best job you can do and do it with style.

is a private commercial real estate development and management firm with a portfolio of 12 million square feet of Class A office buildings and showrooms in New York, Texas, Florida, and Southern California.



AS PRESIDENT AND CEO of the Feil Organization, Jeffrey Feil has made his mark on the skyline of New York City, with prominent office and residential buildings throughout the boroughs. But it is his commitment to the highest levels of volunteer service and philanthropy, particularly academic institutions, that truly distinguishes his career. Since 2003, Feil has served as trustee for Brooklyn Law School; he also serves on the board of Weill Cornell Medical College. Through the Feil Family Foundation, he has endowed scholarships and donated funds for buildings at numerous schools and hospitals, including Feil Hall (left, inset), Brooklyn Law School’s 22-story student residence, which opened in 2005 and set the standard for major residential building projects in Brooklyn. Many of his endowments are named for his parents, who were passionate supporters of higher education.

ON BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL’S ALUMNI NETWORK: The Brooklyn Law School network means a lot to me. Most of my family went to Brooklyn Law School, and I’m still friendly with people I graduated with and use their services. Is it more helpful to have such a network in a city as big as New York? Absolutely. Because the city may seem big, but the world is small, and your reputation among your network counts.

Supporting educational institutions was important to my parents, and I’m proud to continue their legacy. I look at real estate as an instrument for philanthropy and an instrument for students to learn—a building is the foundation of a school. The world has changed—with new technologies, the internet, and environmental concerns—and there are changing demands to building structures. Advances in medical research, for example, create the need for a tremendous amount of new space. I’ve been privileged to have helped redevelop school facilities into worldclass institutions with the latest advancements.

THE FEIL ORGANIZATION is one of New York City’s oldest family-owned real estate companies, with a portfolio of $7 billion and more than 26 million square feet of office space.


OUR BOARD OF TRUSTEES boasts several legal and business leaders with remarkable careers in real estate, who have given back to Brooklyn Law School and the community:

JEFFREY D. FORCHELLI ’69 is managing partner of the law firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana, which represents major real estate developers and property owners and operators. In addition to two faculty chairs that his family has endowed, the Jeffrey D. Forchelli Conference Center is named in honor of his family.

FREDERICK COHEN ’67 is a partner at the law firm Duane Morris who is consistently recognized as one of the leading construction lawyers in the country. The Law School has relied on his advice and counsel on a variety of large-scale construction projects and transactions involving the school.

MARTIN A. FISCHER ’64 is a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkshire Bank, New York. He was previously president and chief operating officer of Kinney System and the Katz Parking System. He was also chair of the New York State Insurance Fund. Fischer and his wife, Susan, have endowed a scholarship at the Law School and have been strong philanthropic partners with the Law School on several projects.



IN LARGE MULTIFACETED construction projects with numerous parties and moving parts, delays are almost inevitable. But delay wasn’t an option for Linda Chiarelli when she managed the construction of the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, complete with a three-acre green roof. The project came with a hard opening date and 18,000 people scheduled to arrive on day one. As deputy director of construction at Forest City Ratner Companies, Chiarelli managed every hurdle—complicated agreements with government entities, dozens of lawsuits, a contractor that had its doors locked by its lender midway through the project, and even a complete redesign made necessary by the 2008 economic downturn. Chiarelli then took her career to the next level: the management of one of the largest property owners in New York City. Today, she is head of planning, construction, and operation of NYU’s properties, both in New York and in all its global sites, and is responsible for a $3.9 billion capital plan. In a nice twist of fate, her next challenge brings her back to Brooklyn: NYU is building a 500,000-square-foot technology center in Downtown Brooklyn.

It may sound strange for an engineer to go to Brooklyn Law School, but for me it was a natural transition. I was taught in engineering school to question and to think logically. This was reinforced in law school, where the ability to analyze an issue was layered on top of thinking logically. The legal intricacies of real estate can be hard to navigate, and I found having a legal background to be essential. Now, when I work on development projects, my approach is to gather information, reason through my position, consider how my audience is going to hear it (and what their interests and concerns are), and then lay it all out in a way that is hard to dispute.

Thirty years ago, it was common for businesspeople to raise their voices to make their point or bully through intimidation to get their way. I have never found that to be an effective way to get to the best end result. The mutual respect that develops when you talk and, more importantly, listen lives far beyond the life of the deal.

is one of the top 10 property owners in New York City, with 15 million square feet of space and 111 buildings and parcels of land.



SO MANY THINGS we take for granted today did not exist in 1952 when Milton Cooper graduated from Brooklyn Law School, and it’s thanks to enterprising minds such as his that new ideas take off and become established. Cooper is known as the creator of the modern real estate investment trust (REIT), the means by which real estate portfolios can be publicly traded. Cooper, who left legal practice because he thought real estate was more enduring than lawyering, noticed that the real estate business was hard for smaller investors to break into. Real estate was not liquid, and lawyers and other professionals were needed to buy, sell, and obtain title. Through REITs, ordinary individuals could purchase shares of real estate as easily as they could purchase an index fund. And a portfolio that is a publicly traded company can be grown much more quickly. Through this vehicle, Cooper was able to turn Kimco, which began as a small developer of regional shopping centers, into a national public company with shopping centers across the country. Today, REITs own approximately $2 trillion of commercial real estate assets, public equity, and mortgages.

WHY BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: I went to Brooklyn Law School for practical reasons—it allowed me to work during the day and take classes at night. And it was wonderful. The Law School brought together so many other people who were in the same position—young people hustling and working hard to get ahead.

ON THE REVOLUTIONARY IDEA OF REITS: What I’m proudest of in my career is to have been part of the democratization of the ownership of real estate by the formation of the REIT industry. Through a REIT, anyone could own portions of real estate by simply buying shares. No small investor could own a portfolio of shopping centers otherwise. This allowed ownership of real estate on a level not before seen. REITs simplified things.

KIMCO REALTY is a real estate investment trust that is one of North America’s largest publicly traded owners and operators of open-air shopping centers (above, right, Kimco property Lincoln Square in Philadelphia). Publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Kimco owns interests in 460 U.S. shopping centers comprising 79 million square feet of leasable space.


IRWIN COHEN ’58, the developer of Chelsea Market in New York City, one of the most renowned food halls in the world, turned the then-desolate western edge of the Chelsea neighborhood into a thriving commercial and residential area.

Previously profiled in Brooklyn Law Notes, Cohen is a major supporter of the Law School who has made generous gifts to redesign and renovate the Irwin B. Cohen ’58 and Jill Cohen Lobby at the school and to endow a faculty chair, held by Professor Aaron Twerski, among other philanthropic contributions.



WHEN ANDREW ZOBLER launched the Sydell Group in 2006, he set out to build beautifully designed hotels in unique neighborhoods. After the opening of the Ace Hotel in New York City in 2009 with his partner Alex Calderwood, his reputation soon grew as the hotel developer whose properties define and redefine neighborhoods.

“The Ace Hotel was groundbreaking because it was in what was then a no-man’s-land on West 29th Street near Broadway, and it was the first hotel lobby that was open to the public 18 hours a day,” Zobler said. “Soon it was full of people socializing, drinking coffee, and working on their computers.”

Zobler set out to build a second hotel in the nondescript area near Madison Park in Manhattan, deciding to name it “NoMad” (short for North of Madison). The name caught on for the entire neighborhood, which has since gone from “up-and-coming” to “trendy.”

“It took me a year to raise capital for NoMad (above, right); for the second NoMad it took two phone calls,” he said of the impact of his hotels’ success. Today, with hotels in major cities across the country and in London, Zobler is recognized as a leader in the industry. He was named one of the top 50 people who defined global business in 2017 by Bloomberg Businessweek.

HOW HE GOT HERE: “I didn’t intend to focus on real estate law when I was in law school, but I did take several business classes,” Zobler said. “One of the best professors I had at Brooklyn Law School was Norman Poser, a well-known securities lawyer [and professor emeritus]. I thought his securities law course was excellent background.”

Zobler practiced law for 10 years before moving into a business role with his client, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. As senior vice president of acquisitions and development, he was responsible for overseeing acquisitions across all Starwood brands in North America. Zobler then served as a principal in the managing member of the real estate fund Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors and as partner and chief investment officer of André Balazs Properties before venturing out to build his own hotels.

WORDS OF WISDOM: If you’re interested in going into real estate, practice law for a while. As a young lawyer, you’ll have entrée into the room where the deals go down. That’s a better window than you would get as a young apprentice in a hotel or real estate company.

SYDELL GROUP is a hospitality company known for creating unique award-winning hotels rooted in their location and architecture. It brings together art, design, restaurants, and bars to create hotels that engage the communities around them.



JODI STEIN WAS COUNSEL in the land use and zoning practice at Herrick Feinstein, helping developers navigate the many legal hurdles of construction in New York City, when she was presented with an unexpected opportunity. Her client, the Lightstone Group, one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the U.S., wanted to create a position for her: vice president of acquisitions and development, responsible for growing the company’s $2.5 billion development platform in New York City. It was a hard offer to turn down. In this job, she gained firsthand experience on the business side, navigating significant projects such as the Moxy by Marriott brand of designer hotels, which needed someone just like Stein, experienced in dealing with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Board of Standards and Appeals. Just as Lightstone saw the value of having a businessperson with legal prowess, Herrick Feinstein saw the value in having Stein back, this time as a partner responsible for business development as well as lawyering. Stein decided she was up for this next challenge.

HOW SHE GOT HERE: When I graduated from law school, it never crossed my mind that I would not be a lawyer. But I took a chance and went to work with Lightstone on the business side rather than as the general counsel. In that role, I learned so much more than I ever could have on the legal side about the inner workings of my client. I was involved with deals from when a property first comes on the market all the way through to the opening party. Seeing every stage of a project like that has been exponentially helpful to my legal career.

HER SECRET TO SUCCESS: I’ve realized success is not about book smarts or billable hours. It’s about knowing how to work with people—getting out there with your clients and negotiating the best possible deals at city agency and community meetings, or with adverse parties. The experience at Brooklyn Law School that prepared me best for working in real estate was being president of the SBA, which was all about working with people. Negotiating with city officials, neighbors, or rent-stabilized tenants wasn’t any different from dealing with the administration or students. Brooklyn Law School graduates are well-suited for this kind of career because they’re known for thinking quick on their feet.

Founded in 1928 as a real estate boutique, HERRICK FEINSTEIN now has one of the largest real estate practices in the country. Today, the full-service, midsized firm also boasts strong litigation, art law, and sports law practices, among others.


WARREN ESTIS ’73 (L), DEBORAH RIEGEL ’93, AND GARY ROSENBERG ’74 are partners at Rosenberg & Estis, one of the most prominent real estate law firms in New York City. The firm has been instrumental in the construction of major projects including One Bryant Park and One World Trade Center, with the Durst Organization and New York City Port Authority. The partners also are building a Brooklyn Law School legacy: Riegel’s father is Arthur Riegel ’94. Estis is the son of Nathan Estis ’34 and the father of Alexander Estis ’17. Rosenberg’s daughter, Jana, graduated in 2006. Read their Q&A in the fall 2017 issue of Brooklyn Law Notes.




NEW YORK CITY isn’t the only place with neighborhoods that are up-and-coming. Michael Simkins found his calling in Miami, making a career out of revitalizing areas that were previously neglected. In the historically segregated Overtown neighborhood—once called the Harlem of the South—that has suffered blight, he has been working to rebuild and revitalize, with an aim to restoring it to its glory days as an entertainment hub. His plans include the Miami Innovation District (rendering right), a 10-acre planned “live-work-play” tech hub with 7 million square feet of office, residential, and retail space targeted to the entrepreneurial community, which he hopes will attract income and opportunities to the area.

WHY BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: I wanted to be in New York City, and particularly in Brooklyn, at a time when the borough was transforming. I’m very proud to have attended Brooklyn Law School, and it was invaluable for the relationships I made there.

WHY REAL ESTATE: I believe in transformation. In many of my projects, it takes some vision and faith to see what’s possible, for example in going from an industrial area to adaptive reuse to entertainment use. We have gone into some challenging neighborhoods and worked through critical issues with the community, politicians, and stakeholder groups, but then we see real change. It’s inspiring, and I want to be a part of that.

WHAT’S NEXT: As a native Miamian, I know that our city desperately needs to attract higher-paying jobs, foster a culture of investment in technology talent, and support the evolution of a tech-based local economy. That’s why we’re the developer for the Miami Innovation District, a project that will lead to more opportunities and better cultural institutions and will have a positive ripple effect throughout the entire community.

INNOVATE DEVELOPMENT GROUP is a privately held real estate development, property management, real estate brokerage, and construction company headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. The company specializes in development and redevelopment projects in urban settings and emerging neighborhoods centered on the intersection of technology, culture, and the arts.


ELIZABETH HOLLAND ’93 is CEO of the Chicago-based Abbell Credit Corporation and Abbell Associates, leading the private real estate acquisition, development, and management company and its more than 3.5 million square feet of shopping center and office space. In addition to actively managing, leasing, and redeveloping the projects in its portfolio, Abbell pursues real estate assets with financial partners—largely buying shopping centers, and then redeveloping and selling them.

“Brick and mortar stores account for over 90 percent of all retail sales,” Holland said in a 2016 interview with Brooklyn Law Notes. “Our strategy is to acquire assets where we add value by repositioning the asset; that means we lease, densify, and reconstruct. Real estate is still all about location, location, location.”

WILLIAM LEVINE ’54, founder of the Phoenix -based Outfront Media, which grew into the largest billboard company in North America, went west in the late 1950s equipped with his Brooklyn Law School degree and an entrepreneurial spirit. He started out in real estate, purchasing almost 50 restaurants that he advertised on billboards. But Levine started to build his own billboards instead of paying another company a rapidly increasing price.

“Soon, I developed more billboards than I needed and so I started selling the extra advertising space to others,” he told Brooklyn Law Notes in a 2015 Q&A.


WITH RECORD-SETTING LEVELS of development, revitalization of neighborhoods in every corner of the borough, and a skyline that is starting to resemble that of its neighboring Manhattan, Brooklyn is at the center of a historic real estate boom—and alumni are making their mark.

“I’m proud to be a part of the influx of established companies, from Manhattan and beyond, to the Brooklyn office and retail markets, and helping to make the DUMBO waterfront a truly ‘live-work-play’ arena,” said MARK JACKSON ’11, (left) real estate counsel and leasing director, Two Trees Management. Jackson said that in his three and a half years with Two Trees, he has negotiated more than 200 new office leases and more than 500 renewals, with a range of interesting start-ups, many in the technology, advertising, media, and information sector.

Jackson previously was part of the game-changing transformation of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from an old manufacturing facility for warships to an enclave of dynamic business activity, with more than 1.4 million square feet of space being developed and generating more than $2 billion per year in economic impact for the city. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation he worked with RICHARD DRUCKER ’67, senior vice president, and MARTIN BANKER ’72, vice president and deputy general counsel.

Meanwhile in Downtown Brooklyn, C. GLENN SCHOR ’72, founder and chief executive officer of Treeline, which owns more than 2 million square feet of office space in the New York City area, continues to be a major player in the neighborhood’s booming real estate market. One of the company’s signature projects is the renovation of a vacant warehouse at 180 Livingston Street that today is a Class A office building.


THE LAW SCHOOL’S exceptionally strong adjunct faculty in real estate teach what they do for a living: demonstrating to students how deals and litigation are done,” said RICHARD SOBELSOHN ’98, adjunct professor of real estate at Brooklyn Law School and legal counsel at Cohen Brothers Realty. Outstanding alumni in real estate like Sobelsohn often return to the Law School to share their expertise in the classroom and mentor students interested in pursuing careers in the field. They include JOSEPH GIAMBOI ’86, general counsel to the Zucker Organization; JEFFREY A. MARGOLIS ’71, founding principal, the Margolis Law Firm; LEONARD WASSERMAN ’72, consultant to the New York City Economic Development Corporation; and BENJAMIN WEINSTOCK ’78, partner, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek.

They are joined by other notable real estate practitioners and policymakers who teach at the Law School, including Ira Goldenberg, partner, Goldenberg & Selker; Lewis Polishook, chief counsel, Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, Real Estate Finance Bureau; and David G. Greenfield, member, New York City Council.


FOR MANY MEMBERS of the Brooklyn Law School family, real estate is a family business. Some notable real estate dynasties:

CALEB KOEPPEL ’81, Koeppel LP: One of the oldest real estate family firms in New York City, Koeppel LP’s roots go back to 1870. Today, the family owns and manages numerous commercial buildings in Manhattan and is also the operator of Five Guys Canada, through Bantam Restaurant Group.

MICHAEL ROMANOFF ’58, Romanoff & Milianta; Romanoff Equities: Romanoff Equities is a thriving real estate management firm, with a focus on Manhattan’s historic Meatpacking District. Michael’s father Nat, a native of Russia, entered the meatpacking business in the 1930s and bolstered his enterprise with real estate in the 1940s. The operation evolved as the district became a hot spot for tourism and luxury retail. Romanoff’s current tenants include luxury brands Tory Burch and Helmut Lang.