The Moms Of Real Estate: Part 2

Last month we introduced our readers to four outstanding local mothers, all at the top of NYC’s vibrant real estate industry. From their personal stories of finding “home” to sage advice on the benefits and drawbacks of both the big city and the ‘burbs, it was clear that each had a special perspective on family living. Readers loved hearing from them too, so we’re back with more: four awesome moms on work, family, and their own decisions about where to live. Who better to offer living tips than women helping to shape the city’s neighborhoods and real estate landscape?
Sally Gilliland with her husband, Dan, her daughters, Macy (left) and Claire (center), and her son, Jamie (right)

Sally Gilliland, Director of Architecture at The Hudson Companies

Describe your main professional responsibilities.
My role is to lead the design process for all of Hudson’s projects, most of which are new apartment buildings. I select the architects and engineers, define a program that meets Hudson’s vision for the project, and manage the design process.

What do you love most about your job?
I love to make things, whether it’s designing buildings at work or doing hobbies like blacksmithing in my free time. I have a job where I get to make things all day long.

What are your job’s biggest challenges?
The big challenge is to accomplish our architectural goals within a budget, but I regard that as more of a test of ingenuity than an onerous challenge.

Tell us about a career highlight.
Jay Condo in DUMBO was one I especially enjoyed because it was thrilling to work on such a huge, complicated project. It’s a 33-story apartment building that was completed in 2007… I was involved in all aspects of it from the start of design through construction.

Do you have any personal rules or priorities to help you balance work and home life?
As a parent of three kids, I have learned that flexibility is key. I take pride in being able to manage all of my responsibilities, both at work and at home, with intelligence, diligence, and good humor.

What neighborhood and in what kind of housing do you live?
I live with my husband Dan, who is also an architect, our 22-year-old son [Jamie], our 19-year-old daughter [Macy], and our 13-year-old daughter [Claire] in a three-story 1903 house in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. We moved there 10 years ago after spending 14 years in a prewar apartment building on Eastern Parkway. Two architects naturally have strong opinions about their own home, and we agreed the goals were: single family house, natural light on all sides, private outdoor space, and a driveway or easy parking.

What do you like most about your neighborhood?
It’s dense enough to be active and interesting, but also removed from the city and quiet… When I walk my dog around our neighborhood, I get a real sense of calm and happiness.

Tell us about the key factors that originally compelled you to your present living situation.
When Dan and I first moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan in 1989, we were newly married. But after 14 years, living in a 185-unit co-op started to wear on us…[and] by 2003 there was no “edge” left at all to the neighborhood—well-heeled Manhattanites were moving into our building, and apartment values stated to soar. So we took the opportunity to sell our apartment for more than three times what we paid for it and bought our six-bedroom house for the same amount.

Tell us about your children and about some of the neighborhood places and activities you like to share with them.
When our kids were young, we spent a lot of time at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and made use of all the other great Brooklyn venues: the Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and Prospect Park… We always took our kids exploring [too]—to Queens to see the Noguchi Museum and eat ices at the Lemon Ice King, or to Brooklyn’s Chinatown to shop at an enormous Chinese supermarket.

What are some of your favorite pearls of advice for families who are figuring out whether to move to the suburbs?
New York City kids are exposed to a diverse population, see how all types of people live and work together, and learn by osmosis how complex our society is. That exposure teaches them to be tolerant of other people and to be self-sufficient. There are endless and constantly changing ways to access the arts, education, and sports, which makes the city perpetually interesting.

Frances Katzen with her husband and her daughter, Freya

Frances Katzen, Managing Director at Douglas Elliman

Describe your main professional responsibilities.
Advising clientele on their real estate acquisition or sale and brokering the communication lapses amongst all parties as the deal moves towards closing and the product is transferred.

Do you have any personal tips for balancing work and home life?
Create space within the day to have the family time both in the morning and evening so that when you are in work mode, you don’t feel that you are losing or are feeling guilty for being away at other times. Maintain an appropriate degree of boundaries between business and family life; it’s important to be in each environment fully, otherwise everyone loses and you are only at 50 percent of your best.

Where do you live and in what kind of housing?
We lived in a cool duplex townhouse in the West Village, but upon having our baby we bought on the Upper West Side/Central Park West. We found a classic seven that needed an entire overhaul. The place had not been touched in over 30 years, and the condition was appalling… [but] it faced the park, the light was phenomenal, the proportions of the floor plan were perfect, and the scale of the rooms was fantastic—a true Emory Roth floor plan.

What do you like most about your home?
We created a phenomenal kitchen, with a 20-foot prep station and an eat-in area within the kitchen, so it’s just a really lovely hangout space.

Tell us more about the area. What were the key factors that originally compelled you to buy there?
Trees are the first thing that compelled me to consider the UWS. I grew up in South Africa and Australia, and I never expected to have a child in this city, so it was really important to have the opportunity to expose my child to as much nature as possible. We literally live across from Central Park and walk our little one into the park daily and put her on a picnic blanket on the grass.

What do you like most about your neighborhood? And what do you like the least?
I like the laidback vibe and the neighborhood’s rhythm. It’s kid-friendly, stroller-tolerant, and everybody knows what everyone else is dealing with in terms of fatigue, multitasking, and socially wanting to connect. Plus, everyone needs to be able to take their kids to music, dance classes, play areas, parks, sports, and easy food shopping—and the UWS is ideal for all that. The drawbacks are that when you’re a downtown gal by nature, you miss the cutting-edge, hip, fashionable vibe and the food of downtown.

Tell us about your family. What do you like to do with them in your neighborhood?
My husband and I have a 7-month-old girl, and her name is Freya Grace Fahrbach. Freya does swimming lessons with her dad at The JCC on Sunday mornings, Little Maestros [also] at The JCC, and a playgroup in Central Park every day.

What are some of your favorite pearls of advice for families who are figuring out where to live in the city or whether to move to the suburbs?
I would suggest living somewhere that allows you a space to be outside of the home, that provides a respite from the everyday frenzy, and that has some nature element to it. We really struggled with the decision to stay in the city or move out, and what ultimately won me over is that if anything happened to my child [in the suburbs] while I was in the city working, it would take me at least 45 minutes to get to her if I was commuting. The other issue is that I still wanted to work, as I feel it is really important for a woman to have her own identity within the family.

Lydia Rapillo at The Solaire building

Lydia Rapillo, Vice President and Director of Residential Marketing For the Albanese Organization, INC.

Describe your main professional responsibilities.
My main responsibilities involve overseeing the leasing, marketing, and management of three rental properties in Manhattan: The Solaire, The Verdesian, and The Vanguard Chelsea.

What do you love most about your job?
I am very fortunate to truly love the company I work for. The principals of the Albanese Organization are outstanding and set such high standards for quality, excellence, and integrity. Our development projects feature innovative sustainable designs and engineering that allows me to use my creativity in a unique way when marketing our homes.

Tell us about a project that you consider one of your career highlights.
Opening The Solaire truly stands out as a career highlight. The Solaire is the country’s first environmentally sustainable, multifamily rental building, and working on The Solaire—on both the pre-and post-development sides—was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Do you have any personal rules or priorities to help you balance work and home life?
As a working mother, I believe it’s important to manage my time efficiently. When my workday ends, I become a full-time mom and devote quality time to my children. I believe in fully immersing yourself in what you are doing at the time, whether it be working or spending time with your children, and this enables me to achieve a delicate balance between my family life and my professional life.

What neighborhood and in what kind of housing do you live?
I live in the area where Kips Bay and Gramercy Park overlap, and we I have a two-bedroom condominium.

What do you like most about your neighborhood?
I like that my neighborhood is located within close proximity to Grand Central Station and Tudor City Park. The schools my daughters attend are both within walking distance, so I value the [proximity] to their schools and extracurricular activities at the Vanderbilt YMCA. I also like the sense of community I have established in my neighborhood.

What do you like most about your home?
We love its open layout. One of the most important features in my home is an open kitchen, which allows me to make dinner while always being able to watch my daughters. We have an open living room and dining room, which allow for ample space for play dates and the occasional scooter ride.

Tell us about your family. What neighborhood places and activities do you like to share with them?
I have two daughters, ages 2 and 7. Both are enrolled in wonderful schools that they absolutely love. We spend a lot of time on the Upper West Side because we love the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre and oftentimes spend the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History or the Planetarium. Another favorite neighborhood is Battery Park City. My daughters enjoy the parks in Battery Park City and the ability to ride their bikes on the waterfront esplanade. We love the program of events sponsored by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy—the storytelling and sunset jam on the Hudson are our personal favorites. My daughters love plays and children’s productions—their two favorites were “Fancy Nancy” at the Vital Theater and “Wanda’s Monster” at Making Books Sing.

What advice would you give to families who are figuring out where to live in the city?
I believe it is important to spend time and engage in activities in various neighborhoods to get a feel for that particular community. Focus on proximity to local schools, parks, fields, bike paths, and locations of cultural and enrichment classes for children, because having these family-friendly amenities within walking distance is important. Having worked in Battery Park City for the last 10 years, I would urge families to explore this neighborhood as it has become one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods in Manhattan… I would recommend focusing on what your personal goals are in raising a family and looking at what each location has to offer.

Robin Dolch plays with her sons, Milo and Emmett, in the children’s playroom at Azure on East 91st Street; photo by Andrew Schwartz

Robin Dolch, Founder and President of Hundred Stories PR

Describe your main professional responsibilities.
I create compelling communications programs for highly anticipated real estate projects as well as for developers, architectural firms, brokers, designers, and financial services firms.

What do you love most about your job? What are its biggest challenges?
I love getting in on the ground floor of a new project, coming up with creative ideas and partnerships, and then working hard to secure the payoff in the form of media and customer interest. Ideally, if I have the opportunity to work on a project from the beginning, I am able to shape the narrative from the outset, and it’s always very rewarding to be a part of the whole evolution of a building. That said, PR is a notoriously stressful profession.

How did you get started in real estate?
Real estate is in my blood. My father is a founder and EVP at Lansco and my mother worked in residential real estate for decades. But it was one of my first PR clients—the Octagon on Roosevelt Island—that sealed the deal. The property had a storied history as a former insane asylum that burned to the ground and was later rebuilt as a model for green living. In my zeal, I got almost every news outlet in the city to cover the opening. Afterward, I only handled real estate PR.

Do you have any personal rules or priorities to help you balance work and home life?
As an entrepreneur and workaholic with young children, I knew I needed to have everything within arm’s reach, so I set up my office across the street from my home. That way, even if there is a fire to put out or a client emergency, I can still run home to give the kids a bath or dinner. This decision has been key to balancing work and family—or at least trying to.

What neighborhood do you live in? Tell us about your home.
I live on the Upper East Side. I’m an art-deco furniture fanatic. Before the kids, I was always collecting pieces for my apartment at antique shows and auctions. After the birth of my first child, everything had to be baby-proofed, so most of the furniture went into storage to make room for cribs and changing tables and coffee tables without dangerous corners—and sofas that were actually comfortable! Now that the kids are older, some of my favorites are slowly coming back.

What do you like most about your neighborhood?
The parks, museums, great schools, classes, and activities. Least—the construction of the Second Avenue subway!

What were the key factors that originally compelled you to move to the neighborhood?
My whole family—my mom, dad, and brother—live within a four-block radius. When you have babies, nothing is better and more wonderful than having family close by to help out. Also, I partly grew up in the neighborhood. When I was in high school, we lived on East 72nd Street. It’s home.

How many children do you have and how old are they? What are some neighborhood places and activities you like to share with them?
[I have] two boys: Milo and Emmett, ages 6 and 4. They love the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (which has some of the best children’s plays), the Roosevelt Island tram, St. Catherine’s Playground, Mary Arnold Toys, and Golosi Pizza & Gelato between East 68th and East 69th Streets on Second Avenue, which is very kid-accommodating and will give extra sprinkles ad infinitum.

What advice do you have for families who are figuring out where to live in the city? How about for families who are debating whether to raise city kids or move to the suburbs?
The gap between neighborhoods, from a child-amenity standpoint, has really disappeared in the city. Now, virtually every neighborhood, along with the newest buildings, has a robust offering for children and families. From FiDi and Tribeca to Midtown West and the Upper East Side, a family doesn’t need to compromise… My tip is to stay in the city as long as you can. Treat the city like your backyard and let your kids explore the many wonders: museums, Broadway, restaurants, parks, cultural diversity.