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New York’s 10 biggest property owners

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See all the key players in New York’s real estate scene and to what extent they control the city’s landscape

The island of Manhattan with many tall buildings. Max Touhey

Earlier this month, The Real Deal put out a monster analysis looking at the biggest property owners across the city based on square footage, along with their annual net operating income.

Their thorough analysis is definitely worth a read, but right here we’re going to give you a breakdown of the top 10 biggest property owners in the city, and some of the projects you might recognize them for.

  1. The city of New York: Unsurprisingly the city’s own government came out on top with the amount of properties and square footage it owns across the city. TRD’s analysis revealed that the city owns 362.1 million square feet and nearly 5,000 parcels of land and buildings across the city. Some of the city’s most recognizable and prized real estate includes the David N. Dinkins Municipal buildings at 1 Centre Street, which houses over 2,000 city employees; and the Fifth Avenue location of the New York Public Library.
  2. Vornado Realty Trust: With nearly 30 million square feet to its name, Vornado Realty Trust comes in second place. The massive real estate firm got its start as a discount chain in New Jersey in the 1940s, and has gradually built up its real estate empire since. Today some of its most recognizable real estate includes One Penn Plaza, and the upcoming 220 Central Park South, which will be home to a one of New York’s most expensive apartments.
Tall skyscrapers and city buildings.
When complete, One Vanderbilt will become the fourth tallest building in New York City.
Courtesy of SL Green
  1. SL Green Realty: With 28.7 million square feet, SL Green Realty only owns a fraction less than Vornado. The development firm got its start when its founder Stephen L. Green began taking Class B office buildings and renovating them for modern tenants. That paid off in a major way and SL Green now owns 73 buildings/parcels of land across the city. One of its most notable upcoming projects is the office supertall, One Vanderbilt, which is currently rising next to Grand Central Terminal.

4. Tishman Speyer: The existing company was founded in 1978 when Robert V. Tishman, the grandson of a Polish immigrant who founded the predecessor to this company, started a new firm with his son-in-law Jerry I. Speyer. Today, the firm owns 20.5 million square feet in NYC and 167 million square feet across the world. In recent years, Tishman Speyer has been behind a colossal 1,800-unit rental in Long Island City, known as Jackson Park; more recently, the firm unveiled its redevelopment of the Downtown Brooklyn Macy’s, and the 51-story, Studio Gang-designed condo next to it.

5. Blackstone Group: Blackstone started off as a boutique mergers and acquisitions firm in 1985, and was founded by Peter G. Peterson, and Stephen A. Shwarzman (whose name is now synonymous with the main library in Manhattan). It’s sinc become one of the largest private equity firms in the world. In NYC, Blackstone owns 20.1 million square feet of real estate, and in 2016, they purchased the Stuy-Town/Peter Cooper Village complex for over $5 billion.

An aerial view of Hudson Yards in New York City. There are many tall city buildings next to each other. There is a body of water in the distance.
Hudson Yards as seen in April this year.
Max Touhey

6. Related Companies: The real estate firm is almost singularly responsible for creating the enormous Hudson Yards megaproject, so it only makes sense that they own about 18.7 million square feet of space across the city. But Related Companies got its start from a $10,000 loan its founder Stephen Ross borrowed from his mother to focus on developing affordable housing. Aside from Hudson Yards, Related is also behind other big-name projects like 70 Vestry, and the High Line-hugging, Thomas Heatherwick-designed condo, Hudson Residences.

7. Columbia University: Unsurprisingly, Columbia University has managed to snag a spot in the top 10 on this list. While the square footage of its holdings puts it in seventh place, in terms of actual buildings and parcels of land owned, it’s only second to New York City, with 246 sites. The university has been in the midst of a major expansion of late what with its new Manhattanville campus, and its new medical building in the Washington Heights campus.

8. Brookfield Property Partners: With 17.5 million square feet, Brookfield comes in eighth place on the list. The firm’s name is perhaps best known for its massive office and shopping complex in downtown Manhattan, Brookfield Place. More recently, the firm was in the news for taking over from Kushner Companies at the troubled Midtown property 666 Fifth Avenue.

9. RXR Realty: One of the newest real estate firms on the scene, RXR has already made a major impression on the NYC real estate scene in the little over a decade that it has been in business. Today, it owns 16.5 million square feet of space across the city and 22 buildings or parcels of land. Notable NYC projects include the redevelopment of Pier 57, and a 34-story rental at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. RXR is also part of the development team trying to reimagine Philip Johnson’s postmodern icon 550 Madison for the 21st century.

A rendering of a city block with many tall buildings.
The University’s Mercer Street expansion.
Illustrations by studioAMD

10. New York University: Rounding out the top 10 is NYU, which has cemented its stronghold on vast portions of Manhattan. TRD estimates that it owns 14.3 million square feet of space and 111 buildings and parcels of land. Much like Columbia University uptown, NYU is undertaking a major expansions downtown with its massive student hub on Mercer Street. It’s also in the midst of a $500 million expansion in Downtown Brooklyn.