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Real Estate Board of New York shows leadership after Sept. 11.

No one will ever forget where he or she was on Sept. 11, 2001. Real Estate Board of New York members will also recall what REBNY did following the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center to stabilize a chaotic property market, prevent profiteering from this catastrophe, and design the government assistance programs to build Lower Manhattan's future. Over that time, the board also extended the industry's hand to those whose lives were shattered by the bombings and took steps to enhance New Yorkers' sense of security in the wake of those horrifying events.

On the day of the disaster, REBNY chairperson Burton Resnick issued a memorandum urging members to keep rents at levels achieved prior to Sept. 10. In addition, our brokers agreed to waive commissions on new leases of a year or less for tenants displaced by the assaults. Residential brokers volunteered as well to assist those left temporarily homeless find temporary quarters. We also sent out a directive discouraging our members from playing on tenants' fears to influence their leasing decisions.

With Downtown's property market in disarray after the destruction or damage of 29 million SF of office space--about a third of the district's inventory--REBNY staff and broker members put in seven-day work weeks to help relocate some of the 100,000 jobs dislodged by the terrorists' assaults. REBNY executive committee member Jerry L. Cohen led telephone bank volunteers who dealt with over 500 requests and found new operating quarters for more than 120 firms.

While waging these campaigns on the "homefront," REBNY and its allies argued successfully in Congress and at the White House that the nation's stake in Lower Manhattan's revival as America's nerve center of global commerce warranted federal assistance to speed the district's recovery. The board lobbied the federal government alongside Senators Schumer and Clinton, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, Representative Rangel and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation John Whitehead. As a result, President Bush pledged a total of at least $20 billion in aid from Washington, including a $3.2 billion grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the largest single such commitment in that agency's history. The HUD appropriation will fund recovery grants to compensate businesses that sustained economic injury from the terrorists' acts, as well as business attraction and retention grants. These awards are pegged, in part, to the applicant's proximity to Ground Zero and require a five-year lease to demo nstrate a company's allegiance to downtown. Another key feature of the federal assistance package is the Liberty Bond program, which provides $8 billion in private activity tax-exempt bonding authority to finance rebuilding in and around Ground Zero. REBNY and the Alliance for Downtown New York, in conjunction with senior public officials and representatives of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, co-sponsored a seminar to teach applicants on how to obtain these benefits.

The board and LMDC arranged for housing grants of up to $12,000 for residential occupants making a two-year commitment to lower Manhattan.

To help thousands of wounded families, REBNY members raised over $13 million for the Twin Towers Fund and other charities dedicated to those most victimized by this tragedy. Of special note, broker Frederick Marek created the REBNY Children's Fund whose proceeds were donated to leading Downtown social service organizations attending to the needs of young people from the neighborhoods near Ground Zero.

Anxieties about possible future terrorist offensives convinced REBNY to create a Security Task Force. We enlisted the city's Office of Emergency Management and New York's law enforcement agencies to help us protect tenants and properties from terrorists' aggressive acts. For that purpose, REBNY's e-mail notification system will transmit advisories from OEM and the police department that offer useful information and dispel false rumors.

New York's buildings are the world's safest. Faced with newly perceived dangers to the city, however, REBNY and the police department's Joint Terrorism Task Force are raising already model standards for security even higher. The department and REBNY have co-sponsored two seminars for building managers who learned about distinguishing characteristics of potential terrorists as well as how to let the police know about their whereabouts and activities.

REBNY marks the first anniversary of the worst day in New York's history by requesting building owners to fly the American flag at half mast on Sept. 11 and asking all members to wear a flag lapel pin or some other patriotic insignia. We look forward to working with New York's elected leaders and Whitehead to rebuild a more prosperous and diversified Downtown whose assets include an expanded public transit network suitable for the nation's third largest business district, a secure and sufficient power grid and a memorial worthy of those we lost a year ago.
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Author:Spinola, Steven
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 11, 2002
Words:784
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