The Law School Magazine The New York University School of Law


Built on Sandy

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Thousands of New Yorkers have dramatic Superstorm Sandy survivor stories, but few can claim a $200 million deal weighed in the balance.

After 10 months of preparing to buy Ocean Village, a 1,100-unit affordable-housing complex in Far Rockaway, Queens, NYU Law Trustee Ronald Moelis ’82 and his firm, L+M Development Partners, were scheduled to close on the very day Sandy touched ground in New York City.

The buildings had already been in distress from mold and disrepair. But then Sandy buried the transformers under 51 inches of saltwater. “That meant no lights, no heat, no running water,” says Moelis. Approximately 100 families remained despite the order to evacuate. “Most were elderly or challenged, and there was a lot of distress,” he adds. Generators were brought in.

Ultimately, L+M went ahead with the closing less than a month later, and renovations on 350 vacant apartments and the building exteriors began almost immediately, financed largely through a Citigroup fund that encourages investing in affordable housing.

Three years ago, Moelis funded the Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy, part of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. The institute aims to improve affordable housing policies and programs by providing research, data, and rigorous evaluation of innovative practices. Ocean Village will put such policies to the test.

“The storm made this area incredibly visible, which is both good and bad,” Moelis says. “We now have the opportunity to be visible in a positive way. We are trying to bring in resources to enhance the property, including food, security, and social services as well as open space, all things missing in this community.”

Poor timing could turn out well for Ocean Village after all.

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