Strasburg to head RSA.
Strasburg, who takes his post on February 1, is currently Chief of Staff for City Council Speaker Peter Vallone. In that role, he has had dealings with all of the Council Members as well as Albany legislators. Those social skills will come in handy as Strasburg faces the challenges of implementing apartment deregulation laws and trying to confront other housing problems that are considered onerous by owners.
In his 15 years with the City Council, Strasburg has performed in a variety of positions. He was counsel to the Housing and Buildings Committee and Assistant Counsel to Vallone's predecessor as speaker, Tom Cuite. Strasburg played a key role in the negotiations regarding the Council's functions after the abolition of the Board of Estimate and was the Council's liaison on redistricting.
Arnold Goldstein, Acting-Chairman of the RSA board said, "Joe's a superstar. He is known as brilliant, tireless and a man of his word. RSA is most fortunate in obtaining Joe Strasburg's services because of his unequaled knowledge in the workings of government and his enviable reputation. He's an excellent man and we're very happy to have him. "
Goldstein also praised Freund for his work during the interim period. "Jack has done a magnificent job and as a result, has been promoted and appointed Executive Vice President."
Before joining the RSA in 1985, Freund served as Director of Policy and Research for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, holds a B.A. from the State University of New York at Stonybrook and a Masters Degree from New York University.
He is married to novelist and freelance writer Eva Marie, who has worked on many projects for RSA, including the half-hour documentary "Lost Horizons: 50 Years of Rent Regulation in New York City."
Freund believes Strasburg, with his many years of experience in government, brings tremendous attributes to the RSA. "I look forward to working with Joe in order to protect and advance the interests of rental property owners," he said.
Strasburg perceives his new job with the RSA as a tremendous opportunity that could not be replicated. "Opportunities were made available to me in the past," he confessed, but he was not ready to leave his post. Leaving was something he began to consider as he thought of his two young children who are facing college within the next ten years. Recently he said he weighed a lucrative corporate position. But Strasburg, like others who help shape the trends of government, did not want to leave his political relationships, including a warm one with Vallone, for a sedentary position.
"My decision in terms of leaving in my mind was made up once I recognized that the Speaker would get elected again," he said. "I made up my mind to leave and take this offer before [Gov. Mario] Cuomo made up his mind," he added, setting to rest industry rumors about what was holding up his decision. "In my mind it wasn't an issue."
After turning down the RSA early in the Summer because of continuing Council responsibilities and the upcoming elections, Strasburg said he was offered the job once again in late August, but was leaving for Israel the next day. While there, he realized that fate had handed him the chance of a lifetime and one he should not pass up.
"If I said no to it I would have been kicking myself," he admitted. "It's not very different from what I do here, running an organization with a $24 million budget and 300 employees. I would have ongoing relationships here, but advocating a particular cause."
Strasburg is very aware that he cannot lobby the Council for a year and said he is being particularly careful about what he says during these last few weeks at City Hall. None of that troubles him, however, as he noted on the other hand that he now has an opportunity to raise money and campaign for the candidates of his choice. As an attorney, he is concerned about maintaining high ethical standards, and that training also bodes well for the RSA, as it will help him interpret laws and court decisions.
"I know many of the players and I just have to come up to speed on the regs outside the City of New York and the lawsuits that are out there," he said.
Strasburg says he is an optimist about taking over an organization that is often derided in other media and by tenants' organizations, which h e said are expressing great discomfort about his joining the RSA. "While some people perceive that all landlords are the lowest of all life forms, there are tenants, from where I sit, that are just as bad," he relayed.
The RSA's new president is upbeat about changing politicians' perceptions as to the number of owners that are voters. Strasburg points to the cooperative and condominium owners as being natural allies in the efforts to confront onerous rent regulations and other issues, including water and sewer charges, lead paint insurance controversies and unfair real estate taxes.
"Having that kind of alliance changes the dynamics of the debate," he said. "We saw that with J-51 when we recognized it should be covering co-ops. The Speaker said, 'A unit is a unit, a home is a home.' The co-op movement is going to help support many of the issues that the RSA and other owners will be fighting. The [tenant] advocates of this world are going to have a hard time saying 'Its the landlords.' Rental housing is very critical and with the taxes that they pay, it makes the engine run in the City of New York. If it wasn't for real estate, the city would go down the tubes."
Strasburg holds a B.A. from the City College of New York and a J .D. from the University of San Fernando College of Law. He is admitted to the bar in New York, New Jersey and California.
He and his family, his wife Joan and the two children, are residents of Staten Island.
Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said "Joe's a very good friend and a very talented guy who knows government and understands real estate, and in my judgment, has great common sense that will be helpful in that position. It's a great decision for RSA."
Dan Marguiles, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), another rental owners' group, said "Joe has always been a complete professional working for the Council who has listened well to all sides. He's bright, he's capable and he understands the politics of doing business in New York as well as anyone the RSA could have chosen. He's someone city and state officials respect. He'll bring some new strengths to the industry and we look forward to working with him on the same side of the table."
RSA had been searching for a president since late last spring when John J. Gilbert III, who led the organization for nine years, announced he was leaving to take a post with the Rud in Organization, which he did in September.
"I think RSA specifically, and the industry it represents, is honored' and privileged to have someone of Joe's stature, savvy and intelligence as its new leader," pronounced Gilbert, now executive vice president and CO0 of Rudin Management Co. "I predict that Joe will lead the organization and the industry to new heights."
With Strasburg as chief executive and Freund as second in command, Goldstein proclaimed, "We now have a dynamic team that will move our organization forward and be of enormous benefit to our industry."