2018 Summer Internships: Lera Covington, Albanese Organization, Inc. (4 min)

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Lera Covington

Lera is a second-year dual degree candidate pursing an MPS in Real Estate and Masters of Regional Planning at the Baker Program of Real Estate and the Department of City and Regional Planning. Lera has a passion for transforming communities through the power of real estate. Upon completion of her studies at Cornell, Lera intends to embark on a career in real estate development, focusing on residential and mixed-use projects that have a positive social impact.

 

I entered the Baker Program in Real Estate in 2017 as a career switcher.  Having cut my teeth in the financial services industry, I desired to pivot into a career in real estate development where I could create innovative projects with positive social impact.  I decided to intern with Albanese Organization, Inc. this summer because of the firm’s outstanding reputation, diverse portfolio, and strong ties to Cornell.  I was also drawn by the company’s ongoing work on a mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-orientated development (TOD), which resonated with my professional aspirations. My decision to work with Albanese Organization yielded tremendous rewards.  The paragraphs that follow provide insight into the company, highlight some of the dynamic projects that I was exposed to this summer, and discuss lessons that I gleaned from my internship experience.

512 West 22nd Street, a 175,000 RSF office, retail and gallery space under construction by Albanese Organization in the Midtown South submarket. Photo Credit: Albanese Organization

Albanese Organization is “a privately held, full-service real estate firm dedicated to creating commercial and residential buildings of distinction, quality and architectural merit that optimize value, are environmentally responsible, and enhance the communities in which they are located.”[1]  Founded by brothers Anthony and Vincent Albanese in 1946, the company started as a single-family homebuilder in Queens, New York. Overtime, the scale and complexity of the projects completed by the firm grew, along with the company’s reputation for high-quality work and innovative design.  The company is currently led by Chairman, Russell Albanese and President, Christopher Albanese (A&S ’86), the second generation of Albanese leadership.  Albanese Organization is renowned for building the first “green” high-rise residential property in the U.S. through its construction of The Solaire, a luxury apartment development in Battery Park City.  The company’s portfolio includes a diverse assortment of Class A office space, luxury apartments, hospitality assets and mixed-used developments.

Wyandanch Village – Photo Credit: Albanese Organization, Inc.

While I had exposure to various properties, Wyandanch Village was my project of focus for the summer.  Wyandanch Village is a 40-acre, $500 million master-planned community underway in Wyandanch, a hamlet within the Town of Babylon located in Suffolk County, NY.  Aptly described by the New York Times as a “downtown-from-scratch,” the project seamlessly combines a mix of residential, retail and public uses[2].  The project is part of the Wyandanch Rising revitalization initiative aimed at addressing longstanding issues of poverty and blight in Wyandanch where over 11% of residents between the ages of 18 – 64 live below the poverty line.  The Town of Babylon acquired more than 70 properties for the project site and built out the infrastructure necessary for the development. Capitalizing on the site’s proximity to an existing Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train stop, Wyandanch Village has been designed as a transit-oriented development.  The project features a new park with an ice-skating rink, new LIRR station house, and 500-car commuter parking garage.  Albanese Organization is the master developer for the community.  Phase I of the project began in 2013 on a 12-acre portion of the larger site.  This phase includes two completed, mixed-use buildings with residential and retail and a solely residential building that is currently under construction.

During my internship I worked closely with Vice President of Asset Management, George Kaneris (MPS Real Estate ’09) under the leadership of Russell Matthews, Principal and Executive Vice President of Asset Management and Operations.  My responsibilities for the summer included a variety of activities such as creating Asset Management Owner’s Manuals, analyzing monthly operating reports, strengthening affordable housing compliance protocols, conducting market research, and engaging with various stakeholders.  Each of these tasks exposed me to the critical role that effective asset management plays in optimizing the performance of real estate assets.

Island Jerk Grand Opening – Photo Credit: Town of Babylon

One of the highlights of my summer was attending a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of Island Jerk at Wyandanch Village on June 5, 2018.  This event was a homecoming of sorts for owners Lorraine Kennedy and Paul Gayle who operated the restaurant on the same site six years prior before relocating due to redevelopment efforts.  The restaurant was bursting at the seams with dozens of people who came out to celebrate the return of the community staple.  At this event I was privy to countless firsthand accounts from government officials, business owners and Wyandanch residents who all attested to the transformative effect that the Wyandanch Village development has had on the surrounding community.  This event was a meaningful display of real estate’s potential for positive social impact and one of many lessons learned during this internship that that I will carry with me throughout my career.

I had a tremendous experience during my internship and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Albanese Organization family this summer.

[1] See About by the Albanese Organization at http://www.albaneseorg.com/about/.

[2] See In a Long Island Hamlet, a Downtown Is Being Built From Scratch by C.J. Hughes at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/business/in-a-long-island-hamlet-a-downtown-is-being-built-from-scratch.html .

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