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Brokers find niche in Battery Park City.

While most brokers gnashed their teeth and cursed the real estate crash of the late 80s and early 90s, real estate veterans Bill Graizel and Gary Seiden decided to turn lemons into lemonade. Even as other brokers were closing, the two men took the daring step of opening Regatta New York Realty - their own full-service brokerage firm - before the market had even hit bottom in 1991.

But Graizel and Seiden were banking on two elements: their past success as vice president and top salesman at the offices of developer Gilbert Charles Beylen, where they rented four of Battery Park City's 14 buildings, and demand in the Downtown Manhattan development, an area in which few brokers specialized.

"We saw a beautiful neighborhood with 11 condos and three rental buildings that had a severe shortage of real estate services, according to many residents," says Graizel. "Limiting our efforts to a single area allowed us to maximize our product knowledge and limit overhead."

Though business took off almost immediately, recent activity has the partners believing that the real estate market has finally turned the corner. During the past year, the firm has registered 28 sales with a total value in excess of $8.5 million at the development's 11 condos; residential leases in excess of $1 million at its condos and three rental buildings; and retail leases valued at approximately $2 million at its three retail developments.

"People are drawn to Battery Park City because of the allure of a beautiful waterfront community just a few minutes walk from The World Financial Center, The World Trade Center and Wall Street," says Seiden. "It helps that many of the apartments have some of the best views in the world."

"This is a very rationally planned community," adds Graizel. "This neighborhood makes sense. With all the negative publicity about government planning, they got this one right."

Launched as an urban renewal development by the late-Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1966, the land was created by fill and rubble from the excavation of the World Trade Center, which was dumped along the shoreline around some decrepit Hudson River piers.

Following a master plan approved by the City of New York, the Battery Park City Authority leased out building sites by competitive bid to several developers. To date, 14 buildings have been completed, representing only about half of the available building sites. Nearly 4,800 apartments were created, and were quickly snapped up.

A third of Battery Park City's 92 acres consists of parks and open space, including a beautiful 1.2 mile public Esplanade featuring views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New Jersey.

The architecturally diverse residential buildings are separated by wide streets and sidewalks edged with cobblestone, reminding one of Riverside Drive along the Upper West Side.

The brokers say that the majority of buyers at Battery Park City work in the nearby Financial District or at the World Trade Center, where about 65 percent of residents can simply walk to work. Other buyers include empty-nesters who still love the excitement that New York City offers and Battery Park City's convenience to the New Jersey suburbs, shoreline and shopping. Still others are young families with a demand for larger apartments not available Uptown.

In addition to location, Graizel and Seiden attribute the firm's success to its clientele, the majority of whom are from the business community (approximately 30 percent of the firm's business comes from corporate relocation departments). In an era when sellers balk at taking losses, most sellers in Battery Park City are able to consider offers as non-emotional business decisions.

Though much of Regatta New York Realty's success is due purely to hard work, networking and a tremendous referral rate from area residents have also played a part. Graizel and Seiden have become a source for Uptown brokers unfamiliar with Battery Park City and Asian brokers, who provide many referrals. The firm also maintains a list of attorneys, appraisers and mortgage brokers who are familiar with Battery Park City and its unusual land lease set-up.

"Concentrating on one area has allowed us to maximize our knowledge of the market," Seiden says. "Battery Park City is very complex, and we often have to explain it to other brokers. But we don't mind. In fact, we've developed a wonderful relationship with them. They don't know Battery Park City, and we don't go Uptown."

While other areas of the city were experiencing a 20 to 25 percent decline in the early 90s, most of Battery Park City's condos maintained their value, primarily because of their outstanding views overlooking the Hudson, New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

In addition, all but two of the buildings in the complex were completely sold out early on, creating a pent up demand for these outstanding residences.

The partners recently completed the largest residential sale in the history of Battery Park City. A 4,567 square-foot duplex penthouse condominium in Liberty House sold for $1.875 million. "In terms of views, appointments, interior space and terraces, this is the most extraordinary condominium in all of Battery Park City," says Seiden. The penthouse occupies the entire 27th and 28th of 377 Rector Place and features 360-degree views, among a host of other features.
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Title Annotation:Profile of the Week: Bill Graizel & Gary Seiden Regatta New York Realty
Author:Gerard, Eric R.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 19, 1994
Previous Article:Economists predict recovery slowdown in '95.
Next Article:West Side brownstone market picking up.

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