(Back row) Honoree Moses Seuram, Assemblyman David Weprin, honoree Sidney Luu, Michael Nussbaum, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and honoree Wellington Chen; (Front row) Honorees Sam Chang, John Lam, Xuejie Wong, Sam Suzuki and Louie Liu
The Queens Tribune honored eight emerging real estate leaders who are transforming the city’s skyline during the paper’s Real Estate Marketplace Awards and Reception on Oct. 26 in Flushing.The Queens Tribune honored eight emerging real estate leaders who are transforming the city’s skyline during the paper’s Real Estate Marketplace Awards and Reception on Oct. 26 in Flushing.
The event was held at the New Mulan Restaurant, where New York Building Congress president and CEO Carlo A. Scissura acted as guest speaker. The Queens Tribune honored Sam Chang, founder of McSam Hotel Group LLC; John Lam, a hotel developer and founder of the Lam Group; Louie Liu, CEO of Really Management; Sidney Luu, president and CEO of Clean Tech Service Solutions; Xuejie Wong, founder of Research Institute Joint Affiliation with China Real Estate Club; Sam Suzuki, founder of Suzuki Capital LLC; Moses Seuram, secretary of the New York State Association of Realtors and the group’s 2018 president-elect; and Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership.
Scissura told the Queens Tribune that neighborhoods in the five boroughs with large Asian American populations were booming and that Asian American developers were among the city’s most prolific.
“A lot of these developers went into communities that had seen better days and took a chance on these neighborhoods,” he said. “The neighborhoods flourished and [the developers] got a great return on their investment.”
Scissura said that he expects to see continued rapid growth in Flushing and Sunset Park, adding that the Queens neighborhood will likely see the development of more empty lots into hotels, while the Brooklyn community’s development could be “from the waterfront to 8th Avenue.”
“I don’t like when people say that Flushing is the second Chinatown and Sunset Park is the third,” Scissura said. “They are economic engines for the city and state and among the fastest-growing residential markets in New York.”
Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, a senior advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio and speaker at the Real Estate Marketplace event, said that development is on the rise in communities with large Asian American populations since the group is among the fastest-growing populations in the nation.
“When people think of the Asian market, they always think Chinese,” said Cortes-Vazquez. “But the most important thing that we should realize is that it’s one of the oldest ethnic groups besides African Americans in the United States—and is now one of the fastest growing.”
Cortes-Vazquez said the Asian American community often contributes some of the strongest small-business entrepreneurs.
“It’s a market you have to take into account with all of its specialties, its assets and also its many needs,” said Cortes-Vazquez. “You can’t make assumptions or take that for granted.”
Louie Liu, whose Really Management company is located in Brooklyn, said that although Flushing is bursting at the seams, he doesn’t think that another city neighborhood will draw away its Asian American population.
“Flushing is overpopulated, but no one can copy Flushing,” he said. “Flushing is special.”
Cortes-Vazquez said that Flushing’s overcrowded community bears similarities to Asian culture.
“It’s in sync with Asian countries,” said Cortes-Vazquez. “For 5,000 years, they all lived together with their family in the same country. They don’t want to be separated for too long or even be too far. So, when they migrate, they look for that same culture. They want to be where it’s easy to have a community—someplace where they can be with their family.”
Cortes-Vazquez said that the large Asian American population in Flushing is no different from the city’s predominantly Italian or Puerto Rican communities.
“That’s what all immigrant groups do,” Cortes-Vazquez said. “People are communal. You’re going to go where you feel comfortable, where people speak your language. It’s like Cheers: You want to be where everyone knows your name. It’s the familiarity—it’s the support, the networking, the family.”
With Flushing growing at such a rapid pace in both population and development, some realtors are keeping their eye on what’s next—for example, Sunset Park.
Suzuki said that he believes Sunset Park could be the next Flushing in terms of development, and added that he is looking to venture into the Brooklyn community.
Lam said that both Flushing and Sunset Park are going to continue to grow, despite overpopulation and overdevelopment, since they offer many of the amenities that Asian American communities seek.
“They are both growing very fast,” said Lam. “The real estate market drops, but in Sunset Park and Flushing, it never drops. It just keeps growing. People are going to always invest in those communities. It’s a major market.”
Seuram said that growth and development in neighborhoods such as Flushing are unavoidable.
“I think in our metro area, we are so dense in population that there will be major growth, even in Flushing,” Seuram said.
Chen said that while Flushing is currently seeing heavy development, that shouldn’t cause fear.
“Flushing is going through a normal cycle,” Chen said. “On the way over, I thought about what this area used to look like when George Washington and James Madison came here to buy fruits in their time. There had a very different outlook. We’ve seen the Long Island Rail Road get developed. People had a different outlook then. Today, we are not in the same stage as before.”
He said that a newfound outlook will give people today insight into how to correct the mistakes of yesterday.
“The 18th- and 19th-century policies of putting the warehouses, slaughterhouses, the railroads on the waterfront, those days are gone,” Chen said. “The lessons from the mistakes of Robert Moses, who cut through the South Bronx with the Cross Bronx Expressway, and urban renewal are also accounted for. With each successful cycle, we are continuing to learn and evolve. And I think that is how we improve.”
Chang said he didn’t believe that overpopulation was the most pressing issue in Flushing.
“We can see how Flushing is growing,” he said. “I don’t know about it being overpopulated—but the real estate is overpriced in Flushing.”
Seuram said that other neighborhoods—for example, downtown Jamaica—will likely soon follow Flushing’s example.
“It’ll be the site of the next big boom in real estate because of density and demand for housing,” he said.
But Luu predicted that the next Flushing could be Long Island’s Hicksville, which also has a fast-growing Asian American population, while Cortes-Vazquez said that she believes the next major Asian American community could pop up in the Bronx—perhaps in Pelham Gardens.
“Because of the built-in market, the Asian community opens doors for business,” said Cortes-Vazquez. “We just have to focus on managing growth and keeping pace with the growth, whether it be infrastructure or transportation. It’s an ever-growing population.”
During the Queens Tribune’s event, the honorees said that they were pleased to be recognized for their work in the real estate industry.
Wong, a Shanghai-born real estate attorney who has spent her career helping the Chinese community, said that it was “such an honor” to receive the award for her work.
“I am glad to have this opportunity to serve the Chinese community,” she said. “Wherever there are Chinese people, there will be a booming real estate market. That is known around the world.”
Through her position as a real estate lawyer, Wong said that she has been able to create lasting relationships between Chinese investors and American entrepreneurs. Her job has allowed her to leave her mark in the developing Flushing area.
Upon being asked what has enabled Asian Americans’ success in New York’s real estate business, Wong noted the community’s drive and ability to seek opportunity in a growing industry.
“It’s the diligence, the timing, the intelligence that Chinese people have,” she said. “It is also the belief that real estate is always the best place and the safest place to accumulate wealth.”
Seuram said that he was excited to see so many of his counterparts receive similar accolades during the awards ceremony.
“Very little is given to volunteers in today’s world,” he said. “We’re so busy. So, it’s nice to see [the Queens Tribune] recognize a few of us within this arena.”
Seuram attributed Asian Americans’ ability to succeed in the real estate industry to their “hardworking culture.”
“They believe in their net assets and being able to save up and own a home,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a great American way of achieving wealth. It’s a very old-fashioned way of thinking. Work hard, put your money into your home and let it grow.”
Chen said that being honored by the Queens Tribune marked his return to the borough.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s good to have a chance to come back to Queens. I feel like I’ve been exiled for a while.”
Chen said that the “immigrant spirit” of working hard has enabled the Asian American community to thrive in New York City, especially in the real estate business.
“If your back is against the wall, and you left everything behind to start a new life, your outlook is very different,” he said.
While all of the honorees said that they were proud of what they had accomplished in their careers, one of them said that he was not satisfied with resting on his laurels.
“I want to build my company into a much bigger company than the previous one I’ve built,” Suzuki said.