LeFraks say Jersey City is answer to Manhattan’s tight office market

NEW YORK — To deal with the squeezed Manhattan office market, Jamie LeFrak and Harrison LeFrak are touting development opportunities in Jersey City, N.J., to real estate lenders. The brothers — managing directors of the family-owned Lefrak Organization based in Queens, N.Y., and grandsons of company chairman Samuel LeFrak — made their pitch Tuesday at the New York-based Real Estate Lenders Association’s monthly breakfast meeting.

"Construction needs to happen in Jersey City now," said Jamie LeFrak. He said if the real estate community doesn’t address this issue, New York and the surrounding areas could lose tenants and residents to less constrained markets in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Lefrak Organization already is heavily invested in the New Jersey waterfront. The $10 billion Newport project in Jersey City — a 600-acre mixed-use community featuring office space, apartments, a shopping mall and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel — has proven successful. Harrison LeFrak said the Newport development boasts 13,000 employees, and when completed will employee 20,000. Newport also has 10,000 residents.

Jamie LeFrak emphasized that Jersey City is poised to become an even more prime location. "In the long run, there will be an equalization of these two locations, Jersey City and downtown Manhattan," said Jamie LeFrak. He said Jersey city was many displaced companies’ first choice.

A viable development option

The LeFrak brothers contend that developing new properties in Jersey City makes sense right now because development in downtown Manhattan won’t be possible for a few years. Rebuilding in lower Manhattan can’t begin until after the WTC site cleanup is completed and the foundation is repaired. Transportation issues also need to be addressed.

Due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Harrison LeFrak said that companies will move toward location diversification. Companies have discovered they can’t place all of their mission critical processes and data in one place anymore. The LeFrak Organization wants companies to consider Jersey City as one option.

Jersey City, Harrison and Jamie explained, complements lower Manhattan with a well-functioning transportation system. And the brothers contend there are other benefits — for example, barriers to entry for development in Jersey City are less taxing than in Manhattan, and there is land ready for immediate development.

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