Commercial Real Estate’s High-Stakes Role in Homelessness ExaminedPDF Icon

On June 23, BOMA New York’s professional development committee members Tom Krol, Committee Chair and Vice President of Donnelly Mechanical, Debora De Luca from Electric Drives, and Deborah Tomasi, Managing Director of Asset Services for Cushman & Wakefield, put together an industry briefing on homelessness in New York City.

The seminar provided a perspective on the many causes of homelessness, including tragic life occurrences, the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes.  Many of the homeless population may suffer from depression, untreated mental illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder or physical disabilities.  Through the recession, many lost homes after losing jobs and suffered eviction or foreclosure. With the economic downturn, the number of homeless women and children has increased at an alarming rate.

Currently, the New York City Department of Homeless Services houses over 60,000 people, each night, in shelters, a number which is 91% higher than it was 10 years ago.  In addition, thousands of homeless individuals sleep in the City’s streets, subway systems, and in public places every night.  While homelessness rates climb, commercial real estate faces significant legal issues arising out of the failure to effectively manage homelessness issues, including increasing premises liability law suits, loss of tenants, and increased costs of security and insurance.

At the planning stage, it looked like this program would be about protecting commercial properties and tenants and keeping courtyards and lobbies clean—free of the impact of the homeless. Once BOMA New York’s property manager audience engaged with the four panelists and learned how to protect their properties at the same time, they discovered how to actually change outcomes of individual homeless people. The audience then discovered the significant resources available to better understand and address homelessness and its impact on New York City.

Program Outcome

The BOMA program met the following goals:

  1. To provide a guide of resources available for property managers to utilize;
  2. To identify best practices in addressing homeless issues; and
  3. To show you how essential it is that property managers engage with the NYC Department of Homeless Services, the NYPD, and the highly dedicated and effective service providers, such as Breaking Ground, who work hand-in-hand with the City’s law enforcement, homeless agencies, and local community boards.

Attendees learned strategies to address encampments, hot spots and pop-ups created by homeless individuals. The property and security manager’s most valuable asset is the ability to understand the homeless population and to consistently engage with organizations and people who manage issues affecting the homeless population.

As Roy Kaplan from NYPD Crisis, Outreach and Support Unit states, his unit is available around the clock to address issues which may turn violent, the NYPD will respond to a 911 call which deals with homeless issues or the unit may be called in when a 311 homeless call turns to potential violence.

The panel included Daniel Braccia of L&L Holding Company, Roy Kaplan of the NYPD, Marian Moorer of the NYC Department of Homeless Services, and Claire Sheedy of Breaking Ground. Together, the panel included representatives of commercial real estate, the NYPD, the NYC Department of Homeless Services, and NYC’s largest provider of homeless street outreach.

About the Author

John E. Osborn, Esq. is the Managing Partner of John E. Osborn P.C., a 10-lawyer firm concentrating in complex construction, environmental, real estate law and litigation, which he founded in 1992. Mr. Osborn and the firm are focused on legal issues relating to the development, construction, and operation of hotel properties. The firm’s clients include hotels, college and universities, school districts, charter schools, healthcare and not-for-profit institutions, commercial and residential developers, construction managers, architects and specialty contractors.

Our Practice

John E. Osborn P.C. is a 10-lawyer firm founded in 1992. The Firm’s practice concentrates in complex construction, environmental, real estate and commercial litigation and focuses on representing large property owners, construction managers, contractors and design professionals. The types of owner-clients that the Firm represents include school districts, charter schools, colleges and universities, hotels, office buildings, apartment complexes, restaurants, nightclubs, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, arenas, museums, industrial properties, airports, auto dealers and commercial and residential developers. A thorough, long-term knowledge of the real estate, construction and environmental industries and design profession—together with comprehensive experience dealing with government entities—is critical to the Firm’s success.

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Published on: September 1,  2016