Mean streets bring out best in Breslin
By Al Barbarino
As a child, Studley EVP Patrick Breslin and his mother would often pick up his father, New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin, from work.
The elder Breslin had never bothered to get a license, having grown up too poor to imagine being able to afford a car. For Patrick and his siblings, that meant daily trips to breaking news scenes throughout the city.
The exposure gave the young Breslin a deep-seeded feel for the city, the people, the landscape, the buildings… and the diversity. It’s one of the reasons he knows the city just about as well as anyone else in real estate, he said.
“That’s how I first began to get an interest in real estate — because of the neighborhoods that I went to all over the city,” Breslin said. “I learned about the diversities of New York, and New York to me is a very special place. I thought that it was such a drastic difference in the neighborhoods and the type of people and immigrants that were there, and it just made me like my city more and more.”
It also gave him an early glimpse into the darker side of the city. Crime. Corruption. Shootings. Murders. Mayhem.
“We went to some gory scenes,” Breslin said. “That really kept me wanting to stay away more from the news industry.”
It was his father who publically corresponded with the David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the Son of Sam, when the serial killer terrorized New York City in the late 1970’s. With his dad having an office set up in the family home in Forest Hills, Queens, it was difficult to get away from the reporting.
“The Son of Sam was writing letters to him and shooting and killing people within a rock’s throw of my house,” he said. “For a year, it was a little scary.”
Despite his qualms, it seemed only natural to follow his father’s footsteps into the news industry. Breslin studied English at Fordham University, and by the early 1980’s he was working for ABC Network News, behind-the-scenes on shows like Nightline, Good Morning America, and This Week, hosted by David Brinkley.
But a few years into his venture into news, Breslin’s heart and gut instinct pulled him towards real estate. Though he said his family survived on a modest income, as his parents supported him and his five brothers and sisters, his father’s prominence gave him access to some important figures in the city.
He would ultimately use some of those connections — like Mort Zuckerman, co-founder of Boston Properties and owner of the New York Daily News, and the Rudin family — to help “steer him into the right direction,” but first he took a job with the city, assisting developers who provided affordable housing to low-income families throughout the boroughs.
The next logical step was retail, he said, so he jumped ship from the city job into the brokerage business, taking a job with a small retail brokerage firm.
“Let me get this straight, you took a job with no health insurance and no salary? That’s beautiful,” Breslin recalled his father saying when he called to relay the good news.
But a quarter century later, Breslin, 50, is doing okay, even in his father’s eyes. He gets periodic calls from him, jokingly asking for a cut of the money.
In September of last year, Breslin joined Studley to give the firm’s New York retail operations a boost. Prior to that he was president of retail at Grubb & Ellis, where he said he “saw sooner than other people that the Titanic was going down.”
He brings more than 25 years of commercial real estate experience, with more than 8.5 million square feet of retail transactions under his belt.
“We’re all cohesively trying to build a Studley retail brand that will compare to the other Studley brands,” Breslin said.
Breslin joined Studley at a time of particular prosperity. Last year was the firm’s best year ever, he said, calling the feat something that’s “very well-respected in this business, and it looks like 2012 is looking the same way.”
“I’m looking forward to the good times again,” he added.
During a tenure at CBRE prior to his work at Grubb & Ellis, Breslin developed and implemented a strategic expansion plan for AT&T’s wireless stores, increasing its retail portfolio from 40 to 266 locations in the northeast during a two-year period, later taking charge of the company’s national rollout of 1,500 additional stores throughout the United States.
“They were expanding all over the country, but they were doing it in New York fast and furiously and they were taking down some of the best real estate that they could find,” Breslin said. “Then it just kept rolling and rolling and rolling.”
Among a range of diverse clients, he has represented banking giants like Bank of New York and JPMorgan Chase. While Bank of America was never a client of Breslin’s, he took their recent announcement of 30,000 layoffs as a reflection of continued economic uncertainty.
“To lose 30,000 jobs anywhere is a horrific thing for the laid off employees, existing employees’ morale and for consumers who hear the news,” he said.
“I remember listening to my grandparents talk about when they banks failed in the 20 and 30s.”
“I never thought that the United States or Russia or Spain or Italy or Greece or any of these countries could be in the distress that they’re in… you lose the job or you get laid off, it’s double or triple the time to find a new job these days, even for the most well-qualified and educated people. It’s daunting,” he added.
But the current boom in high-end clothing and jewelry, like Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, – you name it – brought by a weakened dollar and soaring exchange rates is showing little sign of receding.
“I’ve got friends that come from Paris, London and Italy and the only vacationing they do is shopping because they can buy Gucci cheaper here than they can buy it in Italy,” he said. “It’s been a pretty good bonus to the retailers here and they continue to do strongly.”
He cited the success of lower-end retail clothing companies, like Japanese retailer Uniqlo and Sweden’s H&M, as a bi-product of that boom, predicting that the “next retailer to come here and explode is going to be from China.”
But it isn’t booms or busts that keep Breslin bustling. It’s the people.
“I’ve met some of the most fascinating and dynamic people in the real estate business and I enjoy it,” he said. “I’m a people person. I like people and the real estate business gives me the opportunity to meet and go to places where I wouldn’t have been able to go so freely.”
Much like that first brokerage job his father quipped about, a commission-based platform keeps Breslin motivated, he said – relishing every client referral like it was his first.
“Once I got in the door with retailers to do business, there was never a retailer I did just one deal with,” he said. “I always got repeat business… one of my happiest moments was the very first referral I got, which came from one of my existing retailers. To me that was always a big pat on the back.”
It’s a pat on the back Breslin wanted to give back to New York City after the attacks of September 11, 2001, during which he found himself tucked away in a London hotel room on business, felling “helpless and useless.” The events of September 11 shaped his favorite deal, which is ironically not a retail deal. It’s a rooftop antenna deal.
Shortly after 9/11 Breslin received a call from a broker who leased rooftops for antennas. CNN needed a replacement for an antenna that once stood atop One World Trade Center. At the time Breslin was representing Chase Manhattan Bank, and within a week he had arranged for the antenna to be placed atop One Chase Manhattan Plaza.
“To me that was just my little way of trying to put my city back together,” he said.
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