"People are dying to buy in Brooklyn," Brookland Capital co-founder Boaz Gilad told us recently at the company's offices in Bed-Stuy. "The reason there is so much noise around us is because we are the only one with product out there, not because I'm some brilliant guy, but because I am stubborn. I keep doing what I know." Like a lot of real estate developers, Gilad had been hit hard during the financial crisis in 2008. But unlike many others, he immediately jumped back in. "I came out of the crisis bruised, but not crushed," he says. Now, along with new partner Assaf Fitoussi, he boasts 40 employees and has more than 40 projects, mostly condos, all in Brooklyn, in "the pipeline." ("Pipeline," Gilad explains, "means [anything from] we have one more unit to sell, or we purchased it, we're working plans and we're going to develop it.") Those 40 or so will join a similar number of new buildings that Brookland has completed and sold in recent years.
"We always joke that Assaf and I have a Google Map [of Brooklyn] in our heads," Gilad says. "You bring me a deal and you say Lexington Avenue and blah blah, and I say, oh yeah, between the red door and whatever." This intimate Brooklyn knowledge is what has allowed him to change the borough's housing landscape, establishing an ever-more-noticeable presence one small building at a time. "We rarely, rarely buy through brokers," he explains. "We're very connected to the community. There's a reason why we chose to do the office on Malcolm X [Boulevard]. We're not some Midtown Manhattan company that says, oh, Brooklyn is cool now. We don't have huge towers in Williamsburg. I've been living in Brooklyn for 18 years, so we want to send a message we are a part of this community. Part of the changes, but also part of the community."
Gilad's deal-hunting practices have won him success, but the design of many of his projects has earned criticism (including—ahem—from us). On this front, he's self-effacing. "We spend a lot of time and efforts on the design," he says. "Now, there are projects in the past that I am not proud of. We are very conscious of it and sometimes we fail. [But] ask Picasso if he loves all the paintings he painted and he will tell you, some of them I did very well, and some of them I didn't." Some elements of the design are dictated by the surrounding area. But, in the case of the new buildings that have been called out as non-contextual, that's not always a concern. "If the block is beautiful, we communicate with the block," Gilad says. "If the block is ordinary or even ugly, I won't communicate with the block."
Ultimately, though, the condos are selling, and selling fast. A recent open house at 875 Saint Marks Avenue drew 168 prospective buyers. "Even if you don't think it looks good, and even if I don't think it looks good, the bottom line is people are buying it and they are happy," Gilad says. "I look at a building and think, would I like to live here? Am I proud of the product? And in most cases I am."Read More