A growing number of Israelis are gaining prominence as real estate investors and developers in the New York market. Here are some of the more prominent ones.
In July 1986, Ofer Yardeni arrived in Manhattan. He was 26 and had $600 in savings. As a recent graduate of Tel Aviv University, he moved to New York to pursue a graduate degree at New York University. After six months at NYU and a short stay with a tool company, he decided to get involved in real estate. "Everyone I met was in real estate, and I decided that would be my career," Mr. Yardeni said. "My first job was with L.B. Kaye, and in January 1994, I decided it was time to purchase real estate. With $25,000 in savings, I signed a contract with a deposit of $20,000 to purchase a mixed-use building at 240 W. 72nd St. My wife thought that I was crazy."
In 2005, Mr. Yardeni and his partner, Joel Seiden - principals and founders of Stonehenge Partners - invested more than $600 million in Manhattan residential rental properties. In April, they purchased a 35-story, 600,000-square-foot mixed-use building on West 33rd Street at Eighth Avenue for about $240 million. A few months later they acquired a complex on the Upper West Side, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues and 96th and 97th streets, with two 14-story residential towers and commercial property. In the fall, they purchased the Platinum Portfolio, consisting of four residential buildings, professional space, and retail buildings at 20 Park Ave., 41 Park Ave., 167 E. 82nd St., and 10 Downing St., off Sixth Avenue in the West Village.
Yair Levy immigrated to America from Tel Aviv in the early 1970s, when he was 24, and entered the garment industry. In 1985, he founded a ladies' sportswear and ready-to-wear company. In 1998, he decided to dedicate himself to real estate. Last April, he, a fellow Israeli, Serge Hoyda, and developer Kent Swig paid $418 million for the Sheffield, a 50-story, 845-unit market rate rental apartment building at 323 W. 57th St. Last September, as a joint venture, Mr. Levy, Mr. Hoyda, and Nathan Halegua and Marty Newman of Jonis Realty paid $95 million to Sterling Equities for a residential portfolio of 10 mixed-use retail and residential buildings in Greenwich Village. Later in the year, Mr. Levy paid $165 million to the Related Companies for the residential apartment buildings Columbus Green at 101 W.87th St., and Park Place at 225 Rector Place in Battery Park City. In December, Mr. Levy and real estate investors Joseph Chetrit and Charles Dayan paid $280 million for the seven-story, 670,000-square-foot mixed-use building at 620 Sixth Ave.
Last year, Yitzchak Tessler and Lehman Brothers paid about $150 million to Mr. Chetrit for a development site at 400 Fifth Ave. on the northwest corner of West 36th Street. Mr. Tessler had planned to build a residential condominium. According to the trade, he has retained CB Richard Ellis to sell the development site.
Mr. Tessler and the Chetrit Group are renovating the former Helmsley Windsor Hotel on West 58th Street into a luxury residential condominium. The properties at 260 Park Avenue South and 48 E. 21st St. were converted into 86 residential condominiums. Mr. Tessler's other projects include the renovation of buildings at 66 Leonard St. and 150 Nassau St.
Last month, real estate developer Simon Elias and his partner, Izak Senbahar, paid $150 million for the 176-room Mark Hotel at 25 E. 77th St. Mr. Elias was born in Iraq. His family moved to India then settled in Tel Aviv when he was 11. He and his partner are the owners and developers of the Alex Hotel at 205 E. 45th St., which opened in 2003. They are developing a residential condominium on the former site of the Collegiate Church on East 67th Street and York Avenue.
Later this year, the first residents will move into the Meridian, a seven story, 36-unit condominium at 260 W. Broadway in Long Beach, the first luxury condo to be built on the boardwalk there. The building is being developed by Ron Herschco, the principal of United Homes New York, who is involved in a number of projects, including a mixed-use residential tower in downtown Brooklyn, and other developments in the city.
Across from the Time Warner Center, the luxury condominium 15 Central Park West is rising. In 2004 a joint venture of Will and Arthur Zeckendorf, Goldman Sachs's Whitehall Fund, and one of Israel's wealthiest families, Ofer Brothers, paid $401 million for the former Mayflower Hotel and adjacent lot. Sami Ofer's New York real estate company, Eastgate Proper ties, is headed by Samuel Kellner, an Israeli, and owns three class A office buildings at 875 Third Ave., 99 Park Ave., and 410 Park Ave.
Another active New York developer with Israeli roots, Shaya Boymelgreen was born in Israel and arrived in the city in 1960 to attend a yeshiva. He first ventured into real estate in 1973, and when the market changed in the early 1980s, he and a friend, Meyer Eichler, founded Eichler's, the largest religious bookstore in the city. After selling Eichler's in the the late 1980s, Mr. Boymelgreen ran a diamond business then decided to return to real estate in 1993, when he formed Boymelgreen Developers. In 2001, he met Lev Leviev, a Russian-Israeli diamond tycoon who owns Africa Israel Investments, and they formed a joint venture called Leviev Boymelgreen. It went on to build residential developments in New York, Florida, Las Vegas, and Canada. Last June, Leviev Boymelgreen paid $215 million for 14 Wall St. The company's projects include the conversion of office buildings at 20 Pine St. and at 15 Broad St., and a new residential rental tower at 88 Leonard St.
One of the city's most active developers is Elad Properties. Miki Nafalti heads the company, which was founded in New York in the 1990s. The company is owned by an Israeli developer, Yitzhak Tshuva, who is chairman of the Delek Group and who built his fortune on Israeli gas stations. Elad's projects include the famed Plaza Hotel, the former gift building at 225 Fifth Ave., and the O'Neil Building on Sixth Avenue.
Moshe Dan Azogui is the CEO and partner in Brack Capital Real Estate Group, a subsidiary of an Israeli company. Brack Capital is run by Shimon Weintraub and Roni Yitzhaki. Brack Capital has been operating in New York for more than a decade, and its projects include the Element on West 59th Street between Amsterdam and West End avenues, the conversion of the Olcott Hotel on West 72nd Street, and the classic renovation of 90 West St. in Lower Manhattan.
Meir Cohen and Ben Korman are the principals of C&K Properties. Last November, Harry Macklowe sold a 410-unit residential rental apartment building, the River Terrace at East 72nd Street off York Avenue, for $365 million to C&K and a group of investors. Last August, it sold the office building at 156 William St. for $41 million, which it purchased in August 2000 for $18.5 million. Last August, C&K, in partnership with developer Joseph Moinian, sold the 1.1 million-square-foot complex EAB Plaza in Uniondale to Reckson Associates for about $240 million.
Ofer Yardeni underscored just how many Israelis have made contributions to the city's real estate market. He said that in today's marketplace, Hebrew is the language of preference. "Manhattan has become Little Tel Aviv," he said. "Israelis are involved in every aspect of real estate."
Mr. Stoler is a television broadcaster and senior vice president at First America Title Insurance Company of New York. He can be reached at [email protected].