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Thinking Outside the Box

Ellen Israel is among New York’s most accomplished commercial real estate professionals, having executed transactions totaling more than 25 million square feet of salesand leasing on behalf of owners, investors, andtenants. Throughout a distinguished career, spanning more than three decades, Ellen has worked for some of the largest institutional and entrepreneurial real estate organizations, and brings a unique perspective from each side of a negotiating table.

Currently, she is the managing director for JRT Realty Group—the nation’s largest certified woman-owned commercial real estate services firm (MWB/E).

After graduating from Ithaca College, she started graduate school at the Sino-Soviet Institute at George Washington University. Her parents referred to the institution as a “Spy School”. After the hostages were taken in Iran in 1979, she opted to join her father in real estate. Within a year, Ellen closed her first major deal, and it was evident that she had a natural knack for the business. Ellen’s talent for abstract thinking has played a large role in her success. She has not only been well recognized for her excellence in handling complex leasing and investment sales transactions, but she is impeccably skilled at conceiving and orchestrating innovative deals. In her first deal, 555 West 57th Street, which was a 1-millionsquare- foot building, sold in 1982 from Ford Motor Company for $40 million, to George Kaufman and Aaron Gural.

During this time, there was an oil crisis, and car companies were struggling. General Motors and Chrysler had already sold their buildings, and she knew that others would be on the market for better-priced real estate. Ellen also was able to use her talents for out-of-the-box thinking to sell the New York Post building to Peter Kalikow back in 1988. Rupert Murdoch, the then owner, also owned the Channel 5 building, and Ellen knew that he would be selling soon because at that time, you could only own one media property within the same market.

Ellen has an encyclopedic knowledge of the boroughs, through working with Verizon, Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the MTA. “One of my favorite parts of my job is helping gutsy owners create thriving properties in emerging markets such as Staten Island or the Bronx and Queens,” said Israel. “I know these markets and the potential that they hold for becoming booming hubs of opportunity for users and landlords alike.” Ellen is also a natural networker—if there is someone she doesn’t know, she makes it a point to not only meet that person but learn as much as she possibly can about him or her. In fact, her firm had t-shirts made, stating: “Have you been Ellen Israelized?” She has a strong reputation amongst her peers, colleagues, and clients of being in the ‘know-all’ and ‘be-all’. “The beauty of being a woman in this industry is that it’s centralized around communication, and women know how to communicate,” Ellen proclaimed. “It’s all about the relationship. I love to know all I can about a person. I think women are great relationship engineers; it’s the thoughtfulness to detail which helps move their connections forward.” Ellen continues: “I love working in a predominantly female firm at JRT. I relish in helping women and minorities come to the table who otherwise might not have an opportunity to be there.”

Before joining JRT, Ellen served as a transaction manager with Cushman & Wakefield, where she helped Verizon reduce the size of its real estate portfolio and operating expenses. Here, she directed the all-cash sales of nearly 1 million square feet of condominium interests in Manhattan for Verizon-owned office buildings, including 240 East 38th Street, 210 West 18th Street, and 50 Varick Street. She also repositioned several hundred thousand square feet of third-party leases for the Verizon account. Previously, Ellen was senior vice president of The Witkoff Group, a leading entrepreneurial investor and owner of New York property. During her 12-year tenure at Witkoff, she managed leasing activities for the 1.1-million-square-foot Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street, the 935,000-square-foot Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway and the 540,000-square-foot Pepsi Bottling Headquarters in Westchester, among other properties. She was also responsible for acquiring, and later selling at profit, properties such as 20 Exchange Place, the landmarked 59-story building in Lower Manhattan; and the 376,000-square-foot office tower at 28 West 44th Street in New York City’s Grand Central district. Ellen is involved with the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association and the Real Estate Board of New York and cofounded the New Leadership Division for the State of Israel Bonds Real Estate Division.

Compliments of JRT – a member of the EACCNY