The State of Brooklyn: How to Succeed in the Face of Tremendous New Development

Bisnow hosted their 4th annual “State of Brooklyn” event at 1 Hanson Place. The former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, one of the borough’s architectural icons, was recently acquired by Madison Realty Capital and has been transformed into retail space that boasts 60-foot vaulted ceilings, an ornate Art Deco interior and impeccable architectural detail throughout. This year’s event boasted over 500 registrants.

Mitch Korbey, Chair of Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning Group, and self-professed “zoning geek” moderated the panel entitled: “How to Succeed in the Face of Tremendous New Development.”

Panelists included:

  • Ofer Cohen, Founder & President, TerraCRG
  • David Kramer, Principal, Hudson Companies
  • Ronnie Levine, Senior Managing Director, Meridian Capital Group
  • Jason Muss, Principal, Muss Development
  • Susi Yu, EVP of Development, Forest City Ratner

Mitch noted that Brooklyn now has 2.5 million residents and that the borough is bigger than Philadelphia by over 1 million people. He asked the panelists, “With Brooklyn being its own city, how do you feel about the current marketplace?”

Ofer Cohen responded, “Brooklyn has been going through a 25-year transformation and I believe we are in the middle of it right now. I don’t think a small economic pick-up can stop this borough now.” David Kramer added, “2003 was our first big project in DUMBO. Using baseball analogies, different areas in Brooklyn are in different innings of the game. Some say Williamsburg is in the 9th inning but we are working on a project there now. Sunset Park is just starting their first inning. It’s a complicated but exciting story.” Susi Yu said, “There is a residential boom in Brooklyn because people want to live where they work. Brooklyn is a 24/7 city where people want to live, work and shop. Manhattan used to be considered ‘the city’ but now Brooklyn is a city on its own.”


In response to Mr. Korbey’s question about supply, demand and saturation in the borough, Jason Muss explained, “We are only now approaching the population Brooklyn had in 1957. If people think there is not enough room in Brooklyn, that is just absurd. Upzoning is what the city is doing to accommodate the population. There is room here. The technology in tall buildings has advanced so dramatically in just the last three years! Brooklyn is its own animal. There is plenty of room for development, even now.” Mr. Korbey agreed, “Density is a good thing. It’s even good for the environment. The taller the buildings the smaller the impact on ground areas and less of the environment is impacted. We have grown accustomed to living in small spaces.” Ronnie Levine added, “I don’t think that it is so much an issue of supply, as it is an issue of affordability.” Ms. Yu then said, “There are very big issues with affordability. We do not want to be faced with middle income families leaving. The diversity of this segment of the market is what makes Brooklyn great. These people are the pulse of Brooklyn.”

On the question of a favorite or most impressive project in Brooklyn, Ms. Yu and Mr. Muss both agreed that Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of Brooklyn’s greatest triumphs. Mr. Cohen chose Industry City and Mr. Levine mentioned the transformation happening in South Williamsburg.

The discussion concluded with a question from the audience about whether Sunset Park would be a good investment. Mr. Cohen responded, “Sunset Park has not gentrified as quickly as Bushwick and Bedstuy and I am not sure why, because transport is quite adequate in the area. I believe though, that Industry City will be a strong catalyst to create new energy in Sunset Park in the next 2 to 3 year cycle.”