Self-made vs. a product of privilege
One fixture of every presidential election — including this one — is the battle between candidates over what they’ve earned and what’s been given to them in life.
Mitt Romney, son of a prominent politician and a product of the corporate establishment, like George W. Bush before him, has faced an uphill battle trying to shed that image. President Obama, on the other hand, may have challenges in the upcoming election, including diminished support from the business community, but he still has the advantage of his up-from-bootstraps life story.
This tension between the self-made success and the well-connected corporate operator is one that plays out in several stories in this issue.
In our profile of Edward Minskoff, starting on page 40, we look at the prominent developer who’s had a long history of betting on the market — and getting it right. This time around, Minskoff is building a speculative office tower in Astor Place, at a time when erecting a commercial building with no tenants lined up is not for the faint of heart.
Despite being the grandson of legendary developer Sam Minskoff, the younger Minskoff arrived in New York in the 1960s with only a beat-up used car and a few hundred dollars, he told our reporter Adam Piore. Minskoff’s uncles and cousins who controlled the family real estate empire did not get along with his side of the family, and Minskoff has long insisted that he “never took a penny from [his] family.”
Much of his early success, he says, was motivated by a “chip on his shoulder” against them, which instilled in him a desire to prove he could make it on his own.
Meanwhile, on page 30, we take a look at Anthony Lolli, the young founder of Rapid Realty, who’s emerged from nowhere to put down his stake in the outer boroughs real estate world. Still an unknown to most Manhattan real estate pros, Lolli has quietly built up a franchise network of residential brokerages with 51 locations in the city, and more than 800 agents, putting it up there with the biggest firms in the city. The company has garnered critics, but Lolli — raised in modest circumstances in Brooklyn by an Ecuadoran immigrant mother, who he’s still extremely close to — appears to have sold many on his rags-to-riches story in his quest to expand.
On the more privileged and well-connected front, our profile of Brookfield, starting on page 56, highlights the expansion of one of the biggest corporate players out there (besides real estate, the company also controls coal-shipping terminals and even makes bags for fast-food restaurants).
Of course, the advantage of being a corporate behemoth is scale — Brookfield plans to spend a massive $6 billion in the city over the next eight years on its real estate projects, including the gigantic 5.4 million-square-foot Manhattan West development near Penn Station, reporter Adam Pincus writes.
Lastly, in our cover story, we look at the brokers operating in Manhattan’s luxury market, many of whom have risen up through the ranks by their own efforts and others who have built on the societal connections they came into the business with. Neighborhood by neighborhood, we rank the agents who have done the most resale deals over $5 million in 2011.
It’s interesting to note that in the current political climate (post-Wall Street meltdown, and in the midst of a growing divide between Republicans and Democrats) some on the left are arguing that the self-made narrative is a harmful myth that allows Wall Streeters and other finance types to pretend that help from society (and government) didn’t contribute to their success.
Whether the self-made argument is a myth or not, I think it’s safe to say that those who cast themselves as self-made successes make for compelling stories. So definitely check out those profiles.
And don’t forget to check out our Data Book 2012, which is polywrapped with this issue. It’s our annual almanac of the top deals, top players, price trends and everything else connected to New York City real estate. I challenge you to flip through it and find new information you don’t know. It’s the one book you should keep on your desk throughout the year as a handy reference.
Enjoy the issue and enjoy the Data Book!
COMPANIES AND PEOPLE