State hires Newmark, Cushman to push Start-Up NY

Leslie Whatley, executive veep of Start-Up NY: Trying to hook bigger fish for SUNY properties

The state has hired two of New York’s top real estate firms to help market space at state schools for its Start-Up NY business incubator program.

As part of the deal, Cushman & Wakefield will handle upstate and western New York, while Newmark Grubb Knight Frank will rep Long Island and other adjacent regions. New York City, where SUNY schools already have relationships with area brokers, is not included in the program.

Cushman and Newmark will work jointly with a third firm, Pyramid Brokerage Co., which has a strong presence in western New York and the capital region.

Leslie Whatley, executive vice president of Start-Up NY, said the two firms were chosen because of their long track record and strong client bases, both in the United States and abroad.

“There are companies all over the world that are looking to set up shop somewhere, and they are hiring firms like Cushman and Newmark to help them do it. Our thinking was that this is a great way to expose SUNY to all of these companies,” said Whatley, who previously ran real estate operations for Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase. “Start-Up NY is doing great — we have 121 companies already in the program — but they tend to be companies of a smaller size, and we’re hoping to expand on that by engaging brokers who have relationships with larger companies.”

The firms will work for standard commissions — so no fees — following the Golden Rule rule of commercial real estate in which “he who gets the rent pays the commission,” Whatley said.

Newmark’s top target on Long Island is clearly Building 1 at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at SUNY Farmingdale, a 60,000 square-foot structure that once served as executive offices for OSI Pharmaceuticals. The building’s heating and air conditioning was designed for a single firm, making it costly to convert for startups, so the hunt is on for a large tenant.


Cushman & Wakefield’s David Pennetta: Given time, the overheated NYC market will drive tenants to Long Island.

“Those are spectacular pieces of real estate,” Whatley said of the two buildings in the park, which total 102,000 square feet. “But we really need to attract bigger fish for the first building.”

And there may be interest if the Manhattan real estate market continues to boom, according to Cushman’s David Pennetta, who recently negotiated deals in the area at $35 a foot.

“Those were at top buildings at top locations, but it shows you where the market is going,” he said. “Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens — they’re all booming, and if the market keeps going long enough we should see very strong activity on Long Island as well.”