When it comes to filing condominium plans for new development projects in New York, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel and Starr Associates continue to rule the roost, and in fact pulled even further ahead of rival law firms over the past year.
The Real Deal ranked the city’s top 15 law firms by the total value of new condo filings they prepared that were accepted by the New York State Attorney General’s office between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016.
Kramer Levin, whose real estate condo practice is co-headed by Jay Neveloff and Jonathan Canter, took the top spot in 2015, with seven projects valued at $7.3 billion, up 73 percent year-over-year. Starr Associates, whose condo practice is led by Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber, came in second, with 20 projects valued at $5.1 billion, up 31 percent year-over-year.
In third place was Holland & Knight, whose condo practice is led by Stuart Saft. The firm had $1.9 billion in plans accepted, down about 7 percent year-over-year, while Seiden & Schein, led by Alvin Schein, had $1.5 billion in plans, up nearly 90 percent year-over-year.
Rounding out the top five was Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, a firm founded in 2015 by alumni of the real estate practice at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz. Schwartz Sladkus, whose condo practice is led by Jeffrey Schwartz, had eight projects worth $609 million accepted over the past year.
The condo projects in this ranking, such as Extell Development’s One Manhattan Square and Related Companies’ 15 Hudson Yards, moved forward during a turbulent period in the high-end residential sales market, which saw softening demand and a softer international buyer pool.
|NYC’s top law firms by condo filings (based on dollar volume)|
|Oct. 1 2015 – Sep. 30 2016|
|Rank||Firm||Dollar value||Change (year-over-year)||No. of units||No. of projects|
|1||Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel||$7.3 billion||74%||1,952||7|
|2||Starr Associates||$5.1 billion||31%||1,220||20|
|3||Holland & Knight||$1.9 billion||-7%||634||6|
|4||Seiden & Schein||$1.5 billion||90%||355||7|
|5||Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas||$609 million||n/a||326||8|
|6||Law Office of Jay Lichtman||$368 million||27%||442||37|
|7||Herrick Feinstein||$326 million||423%||28||1|
|8||Marans, Weisz & Newman||$311 million||-12%||213||13|
|9||D’Agostino,Levine,Landesman & Lederman||$236 million||-36%||168||10|
|10||Goldberg, Weprin, Finkel Goldstein||$210 million||n/a||29||1|
|11||Tsyngauz & Associates||$158 million||196%||138||7|
|12||Dai & Associates||$154 million||527%||211||7|
|13||Law Office of Charles Mandelbaum||$144 million||68%||194||32|
|14||Daniel A. Schwartzman, Attorney At Law||$138 million||n/a||58||4|
|15||Ganfer & Shore||$137 million||-83%||58||2|
|Source: The Real Deal analysis of condo filings with the New York State Attorney General, accepted between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016, and compared with the prior 12-month period. The dollar ranking was based on price at acceptance.|
One of the most ambitious projects in recent years, the $1.9 billion offering for the upper portion of the Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue, was abandoned in April when Clipper Equity and the Chetrit Group decided to sell the building for $1.4 billion to the Olayan Group. The Saudi investment firm will continue to operate it as an office property.
Insiders said the slowdown on the high end has caused several changes, including a decline in land sales, and developers willing to put up condo buildings in more affordable neighborhoods, both in Manhattan and in the outer boroughs.
“The areas that are desirable for condo sales are expanding,” said Schein, citing a project on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn as a neighborhood new to their practice.
The current crop of projects, Saft said, are from acquisitions made years ago. That said, he believed the market was not as dire as some are saying.
“We really have more [projects] proceeding than we did a year ago,” Saft said.
The most active firm by number of filings was the Brooklyn law office of Jay Lichtman. His firm specializes in smaller projects, with most of them under $10 million, and did 37 projects with a total value of $368 million.
In addition to large and small law firms representing developers, there was one developer who used its own lawyer to file plans.
Francis Greenberger’s Time Equities relies on attorney Daniel Schwartzman to file its condo plans. It also came about in part because during the conversion boom, in the 1980s, some developers were converting dozens of buildings a year to cooperatives.
“I like being about to keep the business and the administration fully integrated with the legal,” Greenburger said.
Between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan filed plans for $3.6 billion worth of projects, including Vornado Realty Trust’s 220 Central Park South. During that period, the firm placed third on the list, but dropped off the ranking this year, with no projects. Stroock has only submitted one project since late 2014, a relatively small one in Brooklyn.
But the firm’s hiring earlier this year of Erica Buckley, the former chief of the AG’s Real Estate Finance Bureau, will turn things around, said Ross Moskowitz, a partner at the firm.
“We have clients [who say], ‘We want to move now on the plan because you have Erica,” Moskowitz said.
Yet he said even before she was hired, Stroock was still gunning for deals.
“We all pitch everything,” Moskowitz said. “I am sure there was a deal we did not get. We don’t get every one.”
Our team has had the pleasure of working with Starr Associates on our project at 150 Rivington Street. The entire Starr team was a tremendous asset to the success of our project. Through very challenging times, Starr Associates came through time and time again. It is an honor to work with everyone at Starr!
I have known Allan Starr for many years and worked with him on many projects. He has always exceeded my expectations. He not only knows the ins and outs of the law, but knows how to make the whole process easy and quick. I’ve found him to possess an incredibly astute legal mind, combined with a common sense approach that always accomplishes my goals. He’s not only a gentleman and a friend, but a brilliant lawyer.
It has been an absolute pleasure working with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber over the past twelve years. They are not only the utmost professionals, but also wonderful people who I have grown to love like family. I trust them with all of my new development projects and private clients, and we support each other in our business and personal lives. Starr Associates LLP has always been there for me and my clients and I would recommend them as highly as I recommend anyone.
Allan and I have worked together for decades; along the way, I have worked with Samantha Sheeber, Andrea Roschelle, John Rodriguez and Erica Starr and have always been pleased with their quick and accurate responses. They have worked with us on closings (with great and efficient results), restatements of stale plans, amendments and other assorted AG requirements, always on a timely and cost-effective basis.
“Working with Starr has been great on three condo projects in Manhattan to date. The accessibility and direct attention of the partners is unsurpassed. Allan and Sam have the interests of the owner at heart and make every effort to protect our interests in a responsible and defensible manner. Their practical approach and deep knowledge of the offering plan process and requirements of the AG office combine to make a highly effective and efficient package. At the associate level they have good support as well. The closing office has to be the best in NY – never a failed closing in 15 years. We are repeat customers and will be going forward.”
“Samantha Sheeber is a partner in making transactions successful. She’s resourceful, respected, smart, funny as hell, and is swift to constantly embarrass us (and clients) because she sees the end while we all muddle in the middle. She saves time. She is selfless and fast and conscientious. She’s loyal to the notion of selflessly getting stuff done. She cultivates great talent. And she makes the process fun, even when she is mad at us for asking the same impossible question 11 times hoping for a new result (a solution for which — by the way — she often discovers).”
“As an active developer in New York City, Magnum Real Estate Group is proud to have partnered with Starr Associates, LLP as our legal counsel in 5 significant projects valued at approximately $800 million. Over the last 5 years, Starr has provided us with exceptional advice on condominium Offering Plans and related transactions. Partner Samantha Sheeber, Esq. and her team have professionally guided us, and provided creative and effective solutions when needed.”
“I have had the fortunate opportunity, over the past 16 years, to work with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber who I consider to be experts in the field of real estate law. They, together with their team, have a deep understanding of Attorney General Offering Plan registrations and continually seek to identify creative solutions to complicated issues. Their level of integrity and commitment are unwavering no matter how large or small a project. I completely endorse Starr Associates LLP and look forward to our mutual continued success.”
“Starr Associates’ specialty in the creation and representation of condominiums is unmatched. Their knowledge, experience and professionalism in the office condominium sector is best-in-class. Starr Associates’ hard work and expertise has been critical to the success of our firm’s office condominium projects.”
“Starr Associates have been our condominium attorneys for many years. Their counsel goes well beyond just drafting the condominium documents, which of course they do extremely well. They also represent us and our brand with condominium unit purchasers, and with our lenders and partners on condominium related matters. We have always found Starr’s attorneys to be professional, responsive and cost-conscious.”