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Home builder is voice for others.

To say R. Randy Lee, sq. is "involved" in housing construction is a gross understatement.

In addition to being a prolific builder of subsidized and market-rate housing, Lee represents home builders all over the country in his law practice. And, in his "spare" time, he speaks out on behalf of home builders as a leading member of a number of advocacy groups.

"I was already a builder and then I became a lawyer," said the graduate of Brooklyn Law School.

In additionto his market-rate projects, Lee is one of the lead builders of subsidized "ownership-occupied" housing with the New York City Housing Partnership and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, having built 590 units in just the past three or four years.

Today, despite the near-stagnant development climate, on-going building projects for Lee, as development partner or general contractor, total more than 1,000 residential units in every borough of New York City except Manhattan.

Projects include: West Farms Haven - 109 two-family homes in The Bronx with the New York City Housing Partnership; Celebration at Rainbow Hill586 one-family homes developed under the New York City Housing Partnership/New York City HPD Homeownership Program in Staten Island; The Hamlet - 200 one-family, market-rate homes in Staten Island; Buckingham House - a gut rehab of a 36-unit apartment house being developed under the New York City Housing Preservation and Development SRO loan program on Staten Island; Crown Court/Alpha Homes - 57 one- and two-tamily homes developed on several sites on Staten Island as market-rate projects.

Lee hopes to soon start construction of 30 luxury one-family estate homes on two- to 10-acre parcels in Hopewell, New Jersey.

"In the boom years, on Staten Island, the building industry built 4,500 homes yearly," he said. "This year we'll build probably just 2,000. So we're operating at 40 percent, but that's still a lot of houses."

Lee has employed some innovative development and marketing ideas at his developments ???. At Celebration at Rainbow Hill, Lee and partners Ralph Zurlo and Ely Reiss, have added a day care center, one of the first to be built in a New York City residential project.

And with a policy he purchased from a New Jersey insurer, Lee is offering a "job loss" insurance program at his Crown Court and Cambridge Homes market-rate projects in Staten Island. Under the program, mortgage costs will be paid, up to $1,200 per month, if the home buyer should lose his job within one year after purchase.

Legal Projects

On Staten Island, Lee is a partner in the law firn of Lee File & Amtzis, which speciallizes in the representation of home builders. Lee is general counsel to DeLuxe Development of New York, Inc. the builder designated to build new modular suburban-type townhouses for low-income families that would blend with the market-tate houses that existed in the middle-class neighborhood of east Yonkers. DeLuxe was named to the project in 1990 after immense resistance from the Yonkers City Council to comply with a landmark 1985 housing desegration ruling by the U.S. District Court. The BerwynPennsylvania-based home builder recently delivered the first 142 units of scatter-site housing, built in five differ- ent neighborhoods several miles apart, and the first residents moved in June 1.

As president of the Building Industry Association of New York City, Inc., Lee leads the group's efforts in trying to effect change on the local, state and federal levels. One of the organization's missions is to make city agencies more "user friendly" and expeditious.

The organization has been instrumenttal in the implementation of a self-certification process with the New York City Buildings Department. As a result, qualified professionals can vouch that certain city codes are being complied with on a building project.

While the complexity of building work has increased. Lee said, agency staffing and budgets have been reduced. This program, he said, would allow city officials to assume more of an "auditing role."

"So, they'll check up on people that do the work they used to do," Lee said.

The Building Industry Association also responded when the city installed a policy barring weekend and after-hours work.

"We worked together with the city council on a [statute] that now allows reasonable work to take place in the evenings and weekends "Lee said

By appealing to city and state authorities, tee group was also instrumental in the lifting of a moratorium on septic tanks in homes in the city.

"Many areas of the city, in Staten Island, Queens and The Bronx, will not have sewers built for 20 or 30 years," Lee said.

Lee is also a board member and a former chairman of the Wetlands Task Force of The New York State Builders Association.

Wetlands, Lee explains, is a controversial topic, and, as groups seek to preserve these lands, the amount of wetlands in the country is actually growing. On Staten Island, he said, there were 700 acres of wetlands in 1975 and today there are three times that amount.

"The definition of wetlands does not necessarily include land that is wet or near water," Lee said.

On the national from, Lee is chairman of the Legal Action Committee of the ment.

The group is currently seeking lay schools willing to sponsor land-us conferences for judges.

"Land use law is very complicate and it's something judges don't see a the time," he said.

Lee attributes his ability to stay active to diversification - he has also sold low-income tax credits -and a faithful lender, Gateway State in Staten Island

"Through the financing crisis, they've stuck with me," he said. "Some of the other banks have failed or are out of the lending business altogether."

And the demand for at least one of niches - subsidized housing for the who make between $30,000 and $50,000 - has remained steady.

Lee said he believes the worst is over for the homebuilding market and that it is "bouncing along the bottom." One silver lining for the industry, he said that when the market rebounds there will be fewer players.

Unfortunately, Lee said, the banks, not there to fuel the come-back, and is hoping some "Wall Street" whiz will come up with an idea.

"The banks were always there to feed the growth when it came," he said "now what I see is the banks are not there ... There are jobs today that are viable and they just can't get finacing."
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:profile of R. Randy Lee, building contractor, counselor and advocate
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 29, 1992
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