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Thousands Pack Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island at PCON Convention to CementGains in Real Estate Industry

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What a difference three years makes. The last time the premier convention for the real estate industry in the Jewish community gathered, the year prior to the Covid outbreak, the new law vastly reining in real estate developers was all the rage. Attendees worried that it spelled the end of their industry.

On Tuesday, nearly 3,000 men and women affiliated with real estate and property management packed a conference hall in Staten Island. The attendance, more than double that of last time, shows how strongly the industry recovered from the pandemic slowdown, organizers said. The transformation was evident in every booth at the convention, which took place at the ornate Hilton Garden Inn and featured anyone affiliated with real estate, including property management and construction — whose acronym supplies the convention’s name. Booth operators competed for the attentions of developers, electrical engineers and roofers. On the sidelines, mortgage brokers networked with contractors, while representatives from elevator maintenance companies and lighting experts discussed future plans with flooring specialists and
scaffolding engineers.

“It’s exciting to just meet so many people who are in the same line as I am,” one attendee enthused.

Alongside the expo were three breakout sessions, which featured a dozen speakers, interrupted by a sumptuous five-course dinner. Mayor Eric Adams sent a letter praising PCON’s work, which was read aloud by Community Affairs Commissioner Fred Kreizman, and his administration sent a substantial delegation of high-level commissioners and aides. This allowed the real estate folks to get a feel for the people regulating their industry. The mayor’s senior advisor, Joel Eisdorfer was also present, where he was awarded on stage for his dedicated service to the city and community.

Attendees peppered Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich and Housing Preservation and
Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. with questions about regulations and violations, earning the rare opportunity to receive answers on the spot. Also present were representatives from the Department of Social Services. The agency chiefs reassured the anxious assembled that they were committed to working with them and did not want to play gotcha with the rules.

The chief concern of questioners appeared to be New York City’s slow processing of violations. “This was one big concern that people were asking about,” one attendee said. “And it was a relief to hear officials from the Department of Buildings assuring the crowd that they are working on getting them processed faster. They said they want to give them a chance to fix it before getting fined.”

“People felt,” said another attendee, “that they were heard by the people in government. They appreciated getting a close-up look at how the agencies were working for them.”

The convention floor was mostly a sea of black and white — virtually every booth at the expo was fielded by a yeshiva graduate, including Yedidya Leibler, the organizer of the convention. He said that the goal of the conference was to maximize the power of unity in the real estate arena, and the turnout proved its success.

“We haven’t had a PCON convention in three years so I was expecting only one or two thousand people to come,” Leibler said. “But we had a strong lineup of presenters, and the leaders in the industry just followed. It was amazing to see almost 3,000 people there.”

Aside for those, there were workshops on various issues which affect real estate. Daniel H. Rowoth, a partner at the prestigious Manhattan-based Clifton Budd & DeMaria law firm, lectured on labor laws and prevailing wages. Jeffrey Saltiel, a partner at the Wenig Saltiel law firm which focuses on landlord-tenant litigation, delivered a well-attended session on “Winning an L&T case” — or winning a landlord and tenant case. Bruce E. Schekowitz, a judge in New York City’s housing court, rendered his ruling on “The Law of the Landlord,” the dos and dont’s of managing a rental property.

One featured presenter was Inspector Richard Taylor, the highest-ranking Orthodox Jew in the New York Police Department who has become something of a celebrity this past year. He outlined some positions on how to keep buildings safe and secure. Then, Mark Hertz, the president and CEO of the eponymous real estate company, advised on how to keep current “with the ever-changing NYC building regulations.”

Yossi Gestetner, delivered the “Voice of PCON,” delineating the organization’s Mission
Statement, followed by Rabbi Moshe Duvid Niederman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, who spoke briefly about the beauty of seeing how successful yeshiva graduates are in the business world.

John Catsimatidis was the keynote speaker, focusing his address on the future of New York. The billionaire founder and CEO of the Red Apple Group, a real estate and aviation company with holdings in several states, including in New York, he is also a prominent political commentator and hosts a weekly radio show which regularly makes news.

State Senator Mike Martucci, a Republican from Sullivan County, revealed some of the behind-the-scenes brawls which take place in the Capitol as Democrats attempt to pass a Good Cause Bill. The legislation, which is strongly opposed by landlords’ groups, which would bar property owners from evicting a tenant without a good cause.

The day ended with a panel discussion by Avi Schron, the vice president of Cammeby’s
Management Company, as well as Steven Goldschmidt, Jason Wisotzky and Isaac Katz.
Together, the trio has 150 years of combined property management experience.

“It’s amazing how PCON knows exactly which people to speak and which topics to cover,” said one attendee. “The issues discussed today are the ones we are concerned about all year. PCON proves that our industry is alive and well.”

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