Fox Rothschild has added a five-member zoning and land use team to its New York office, including former Wachtel Masyr & Missry name partner Jesse Masyr.
Masyr is a well-known figure in New York real estate circles, serving as longstanding counsel for Related Companies' Stephen Ross and Thor Equities' Joseph Sitt.
His team's addition, including two nonlawyer urban planners, also adds some new positions to Fox Rothschild that speak to the complicated process of getting approval for large-scale real estate projects within the five boroughs of New York, firm leadership said.
Masyr is joining Fox Rothschild along with partner Karen Binder, associate Jodi S. Stein and urban planners Ethan Goodman and Jerald Johnson. Goodman will serve as Fox Rothschild's new director of New York planning and project management and Johnson will serve as the firm's new director of New York zoning and land use.
"If you're looking to develop a real estate project in New York City, Jesse, Karen and their team are the go-to group you want at your side," said Michael I. Slapo, managing partner of the firm's New York office, in a statement. "Their extensive familiarity with New York regulations and approval processes — at the city, state and federal levels — is renowned."
Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark Silow said the larger the city, the more bifurcated real estate practices become, with New York being the "ultimate home of specialization." In most markets, real estate lawyers handle both land use and zoning as well as the transactional portion of the business. In New York, "all of the top land use development work gets done by specialists as opposed to real estate lawyers who do a bit of each," Silow said.
There is a bit of a government relations component to land use and zoning work, and Silow noted both Masyr and Binder have previously served in New York City government. Before joining private practice, Masyr was deputy borough president of Manhattan. Binder spent seven years as counsel to New York City's zoning board, the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Fox Rothschild has a land use and zoning practice out of several of its offices, including most recently in Roseland, N.J., thanks to the acquisition of nine lawyers from Day Pitney's real estate department, Silow said. He said it was logical to expand that to New York, where the firm hopes to couple the transactional real estate practice with the land use and zoning work.
The firm's decision to hire the urban planners reflects the complexity of the regulatory scheme for executing the large-scale real estate projects Masyr's team handles, Silow said. The projects require comprehensive plans that are submitted to the city and its agencies. Goodman and Johnson, who will work on an hourly basis, have master's degrees in urban planning and put together the technical development plans for clients, Silow said.
"It's a function that I do believe is unique to New York City," he said.
According to Silow, Masyr and his team were an "entirely self-sufficient" unit at their prior firm and were not receiving or able to offer referrals. Silow said the group was looking for the "proverbial bigger platform" that offered a deeper bench strength. Silow said all of the group's clients are moving with them to Fox Rothschild. Wachtel Masyr & Missry has since changed its name to Wachtel Missry, according to its website. Wachtel Missry founding partner William Wachtel wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday.
The team's addition brings Fox Rothschild's New York office to just over 30 lawyers. Silow said there is a lot of activity for the firm in New York, where it is talking to a number of other lateral candidates. Silow said he hopes to build up the transactional real estate component in New York. He is also talking to litigation and corporate attorneys there.
The Masyr group follows a few other lateral additions to Fox Rothschild's New York office. James M. Lemonedes, former senior counsel to the New York City Corporation Counsel, now serves as chairman of Fox Rothschild's New York employment litigation group. Other recent additions include intellectual property partner Alan M. Sack, corporate and real estate attorney Richard Bier and corporate partner Leonard N. Budow, who now serves as co-chairman of the firm's fashion law practice group.