Citi Field in New York could become known for more than hosting New York Mets games and large concerts, thanks to NYC Real Estate Expo founder Anthony Kazazis. He oversaw the event’s move this year out of Manhattan to Queens.
Kazazis was responsible last week for the NYC Real Estate Expo’s first in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic, this time at Citi Field. The event, which attracted more than 7,000 real estate commercial and residential real estate pros, marked the first time the event has been held outside of midtown Manhattan since the event began 15 years ago.
As the show’s executive director, he said crime and safety, tolls and parking were among concerns he heard from exhibitors from other states including California, North Carolina and Texas in a survey centered on whether the NYC Real Estate Expo should return to Manhattan. Citi Field emerged as a favorite alternative venue in the survey, with 60% to 70% of respondents giving it a thumbs-up among new site options.
“A lot of people were unhappy about what’s happening in the city,” Kazazis said in an interview. They “didn’t want to go into the city….They were excited about the stadium. That turned them on….They liked the idea of going over there by the baseball field.”
On top of that, Kazazis said Citi Field also offered the extra benefits of offering free Wi-Fi and parking.
“As an event planner, you want to work with an organization that treats you like a king,” he told CoStar News. “When I worked with the hotels in the city, it’s a nightmare. It’s an aggravation that you don’t need and that you don’t want….These guys [at Citi Field] treat me like a god.”
That the event was hosted outside of Manhattan also sent a signal of sorts.
The outer “boroughs are on fire,” he told CoStar News. “Brooklyn’s doing well. Queens is doing well. This is Willets Point [area]. They are going to have a soccer stadium here.”
As part of a public-private partnership with New York City Football Club and developers Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, New York is poised to get its first professional soccer-specific stadium, by Citi Field and U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, as part of a megadevelopment set to transform the traditionally industrial area.
While the stadium also has hosted other events such as weddings, Kazazis said this was the first real estate event at the arena. He plans to double down and host a two-day event next year.
Still, he admitted there were lessons learned and kinks to be worked out for next year. For example, long lines were observed during lunch hours in front of only one concession area opened.
There was a good reason Kazazis got into hosting real estate networking events. When he worked as a mortgage broker and in the title insurance business he attended many trade shows. Then, a light bulb went off in his head.
“I was always a networker at heart,” he said. The “trade show business….is something I could fall in love with.”
As to this year’s turnout, Kazazis said the crowd was more than triple the average of about 2,000 who attended NYC Real Estate Expo events before the pandemic. About 30% of this year’s attendees came from other states and from countries including Mexico, Panama and Singapore, he said.
“Everybody’s hungry,” he said. “They want to come out. It was a comeback year.”