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Development lawyers go mainstream.

Development lawyers go mainstream

"Pure" real estate deals are a dying breed. Among the factors complicating matters are: The environmental and landuse questions that face even the smallest of ventures; the thousands of properties and deals that must be "worked out"; and governments taking a larger role in real estate transactions as they beef up their business and economic development efforts.

That is why, in part, Howard J. Goldman, Stephen Lefkowitz, and Max Friedman, three development lawyers involved in many of the most ambitious, high-profile private and public/private projects of the last decade and today, have signed on as senior partners with the formerly traditional real estate practice of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts.

"We joined with the notion that people would need more than just traditional real estate services," said Lefkowitz. "...Between the three of us we span the gamut of what lawyers can do in the development process."

Since April, the three have been busy integrating their knowledge of zoning, land use and environmental issues with the firm's work - financing, acquisition, disposition, and work for banks and corporate clients - that now, due to market conditions, involves, among other services, restructuring and refitting of problem projects and land use dilemmas for banks.

The partners say it is not that common for a firm to specialize in both development and traditional real estate services. "We try to erase that distinction between the two," said Goldman.

Goldman, Friedman, and Lefkowitz were involved in, among other developments, Zeckendorf Towers, Columbus Center, the 42nd Street/Times Square Redevelopment, Rockefeller Plaza West, World Wide Plaza, and Hunters Point. Their expertise lie in acquisition, joint venturing, the public approval process, land use, environmental issues, leasing, and sometimes litigation.

"The mix has already occurred," said Friedman. Each of the partners is working on a number of more traditional transactions.

Winthrop, Stimson's environmental practice is centered in Washington, D.C. and Goldman said, they are hoping to meld their experience and know-how together. As they will with the firm's public utilities practice.

"It fortifies our capabilities and we hope it contributes to their practice," said Goldman.

The three partners will also be helping with the firm's international clients. The Japanese clients have been fairly active in the United States, Goldman said, and they expect their European clients - the firm has offices in London, Brussels, and Tokyo - will become more active here and in their own countries.

"With the changes in Europe, who knows what kind of development and environmental things will be happening over there," he said.

The real estate practice also has two other partners - Herbert F. Fisher and Arthur W. Hooper, Jr. in the Stamford office - and some 20 associates. In addition to New York, Stamford and Washington, D.C., the firm has an office in Palm Beach.

Development Track Record

The three attorneys, formerly with Patterson Bellknap Webb & Tyler, have represented both private- and public-sector concerns in the building process. They represented, for example, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in the Coliseum development, and the Battery Park City Authority in connection with the development of various projects at Battery Park City. Meanwhile, at Worldwide Plaza their client was Bill Zeckendorf, at Rockefeller Plaza West they worked on behalf of the Rockefeller Center Development Group, and, at Hunters Point they are representing Zeckendorf and the Dreyfus Corporation.

The partners structured many of the existing co-ventures between private developers and public agencies, which, Lefkowitz says, continue to be common, especially in today's market. They designed such an arrangement for, among others, the 42nd Street Redevelopment.

The firm is currently representing the city's Economic Development Corporation and the state's Urban Development Corporation in the development of the new 1.2 million-square-foot headquarters being erected for the Commodities Exchanges. The $100 million building is rising on city-owned land and Tishman-Speyer is the private-sector partner. According to Lefkowitz, the Commodities Exchange is a vital project for the city and state, because of the jobs that would be lost were the exchanges to move elsewhere.

There's "a lot of public sector involvement in what is viewed as a private sector project," said Lefkowitz. "...It's a big deal for the city to keep the exchanges."

In addition to the Commodities Exchange project, the attorneys are currently involved on Manhattan's West Side with the Capital Cities/ABC project rising due North of Dan Brodsky's residential building and due East of the Riverside South plan.

"The future development of the ABC site is important to the future development of the Upper West Side and how it's developed," said Goldman.

They are also representing Montefiore Hospital in an expansion of their existing facility and a new medical office building and a private development group in connection with a proposed 10-acre shopping center in the Bay Ridge/Boro Park section of Brooklyn.

They are assisting the Museum of American Folk Art, which is building a new museum and office space at West 53rd Street on the North side. The project entails a complicated rezoning.

"Much of the new development now is institutional or for a specific user as opposed to speculative which has pretty much stopped," said Lefkowitz.

They are also proceeding with the 42nd Street Development Project and Hunters Point mixed-use development in Queens, in which they represent the Zeckendorf Organization and the Dreyfus Corporation.

Goldman specializes in land use, zoning and environmental matters. Before entering private practice, Goldman was deputy counsel to the New York City Planning Commission, where he was responsible for the review and approval of zoning applications, the 1983 Midtown Manhattan rezoning and the city's environmental quality review program. Prior to that he practiced environmental law in the State of Alaska, working on oil and gas leasing, timber and fishing matters.

"I enjoy dealing with government agencies," said Goldman. "I've spent a lot of my work on that side of the fence."

Friedman is the more traditional real estate lawyer specializing in the structuring and restructuring of complex real estate transactions such as joint venture arrangements, financing, acquisitions and disposition of real property and leasing.

He has been involved in such arrangements as the sale, to an off-shore investor, of an ownership interest in a major New York City office building; the sale of interests in shopping centers and other commercial properties; the acquisition of a multi-acre development site in New York City and its financing through a joint venture with a foreign construction company; and major office leases for, among others, a law firm, insurance brokerage company and savings bank. Friedman negotiated the ground leases for the 42nd Redevelopment Project and Battery Park City.

Specializing in development, land use and complex transactions, Lefkowitz has his "foot in both" doors. He was formerly special assistant counsel to the governor of New York State, general counsel to the New York State Committee on Housing and Urban Development, and an associate professor at the Columbian University School of Law.

He has worked on 42nd Street/Times Square Redevelopment, the New York Coliseum Redevelopment, Rockefeller Plaza West, World Wide Plaza, Hunters Point and Television City. He has represented a number of developers including William Zeckendorf, Jr. The Dreyfus Corporation and The Rockefeller Center Development Corporation. Institutional representations include Cornell University Medical School and the City of New York and New York State Urban Development.

While there are few announced projects these days, the attorneys say, given the lead time on approval, they are helping a number of developers with preliminary planning or "homework" on projects that will come on the horizon when the market improves.

PHOTO : Attorneys Max Friedman, Stephen Lefkowitz and Howard Goldman have joined Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam and Roberts.
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Title Annotation:Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts Real Estate Practice
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Sep 25, 1991
Words:1269
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