The Conference was filled to capacity with not-for-profit executives, real estate attorneys, professionals, and enthusiasts alike. On April 1, 2016, the Rooftops Project of the Center for Real Estate Studies at New York Law School hosted its sixth annual Rooftops Conference, which is a symposium for the not-for-profit sector focused on the role of real estate—owned, leased, or hosted physical space—in the operations, financial performance, and achievement of mission by not-for-profit organizations of all sizes and missions. The Conference presented a forum for meaningful discussion and also a chance to interact with peers in the social sector and the real estate industry.
The Conference began with opening remarks by Rooftops Project Director James Hagy, which was followed by a slideshow presentation given by Gerald Korngold, Program Chair of the Center for Real Estate Studies and a Professor of Law at the Law School, which displayed a historic overview of the various locations throughout New York City which, over time, have been home to New York Law School.
New York Law School President and Dean Anthony W. Crowell delivered the first presentation, which explored the necessity and utility of not-for-profit organizations’ emergency response plans. Dean Crowell showed the audience an inside view of New York Law School’s emergency response plan in action as he explained how the law school responded to the crane collapse in TriBeCa on February 5, 2016.
The second presentation celebrated New York Law School’s 125th anniversary with a panel discussion featuring not-for-profits which have operated out of the same location for approximately or more than 125 years. Representatives of the Arts Students League of New York, the Bowne House Historical Society, the Bronx Zoo, Carnegie Hall, Middle Collegiate Church, Flushing Friends (Old Quaker) Meeting House, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanic Garden, and Sailors’ Snug Harbor spoke on the panel. The panelists discussed the history of their locations and their experiences in operating their mission-driven organizations in aging structures. [The Project has produced an extensive, companion electronic print interview with these organizations that can be accessed here.]
The third presentation focused on the ways in which not-for-profits can make their buildings more accessible to the public by discussing the issues faced by older buildings and some correlating solutions for common issues. Victor Calise, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and Paul Feuerstein, Founder, President, and CEO of Barrier Free Living, discussed the need for buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities, and the options available today for buildings seeking to achieve accessibility-related goals. Ross F. Moskowitz, Partner at Stroock and Stroock and Lavan LLP, touched on the obstacles normally confronting landmarked buildings seeking to become more accessible for persons with disabilities.
The fourth presentation dove into the challenging circumstances that face not-for-profits who are looking to improve their organization’s sustainability—financially, physically, or otherwise—in creative, budget-friendly ways. Peter Anthony Irwin, former vestry member of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, Meredith J. Kane, Partner at Paul Weiss, Elizabeth Leber, Partner at Beyer Blinder and Belle, Stephen Powers, Senior Manager of Transaction Services at Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, Reverend Caroline Stacey, Rector of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, and Paul Wolf, Co-President of Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, participated as panelists by discussing the instrumental role real estate can have in helping not-for-profit organizations reach their goals by explaining the experiences had by the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in undergoing a complicated block-wide re-development in Manhattan’s West Village.
During the fifth and final morning presentation, Glenn Newman, former president of the New York City Tax Commission, answered a lightning round of questions on topics surrounding the security and maintenance of a not-for-profit’s real estate tax-exempt, while shedding light on common mistakes made by not-for-profit property owners.
During lunchtime breakout sessions, guests chose from workshops addressing lease cost auditing, a review of current real estate market conditions in New York City, the details of available support and funding from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for green infrastructure improvements to not-for-profit properties, and segregating risk through the ownership of real estate in a subsidiary to an organization’s primary not-for-profit entity.
“After 40 years in the real estate field, I continue to learn something from every organization and professional we interview or meet,” says Professor Hagy, who founded The Rooftops Project here after an extensive career as a partner with a global law firm. “It is a privilege to have members of the not-for-profit community share in our exploration of the myriad of issues – and opportunities – related to the real estate that they occupy in support of their diverse and important charitable missions. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference on March 31, 2017!”
Rooftop Conference, April 1, 2016