Faith Hope Consolo is the chairman of the retail division at Prudential Douglas Elliman and known as "The Queen of Retail" in the mostly male commercial leasing industry. She is also featured in Rod Santomassimo's new book, "Brokers that Dominate." Consolo lives with her third husband, an investment banker, on "Fifth Avenue, overlooking the Park."
Q What would you most like to see changed or accomplished in NYC?
A Doormen outside of all the stores to help you with all your shopping bags would be great – they could help you get a cab when you're laden with packages.
Q: You really think New York City's most pressing need is to help shoppers hail taxis?
A: It would be really helpful! Watch them struggle with their 20 shopping bags! People come from all over the world to shop here. The number one entertainment in New York is not Broadway, not movies – it's shopping. And that comes from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Q: Should all those taxis be handicapped-accessible?
A: They should all be accessible. Everyone has a right to an accessible cab, just like we've made public transportation. It's not just the disabled people who need them. My friend just had her hip done: Everyone is having operations!
Q: Tell me something about NYC that nobody else knows.
A: We have 250 retail shopping districts in NYC – they're not just in Soho, Madison Avenue and the Meatpacking District. But none of them are in Staten Island. I'm sorry, but no one cares about Staten Island.
Q: What is the best investment a New Yorker can make? You're in real estate, but what's the best real estate investment?
A: The best investment you can make in NY isn't real estate: It's yourself! Invest in yourself. This is my third career and I've leaned that no one becomes successful dreaming about it: You have to put in the hours with work, work and more work. There's so much to learn in New York. If you can't afford college, get some home study programs. I'm like CSI: I never close. That's why my clients love me. If I'm at a wedding and I get a call, I answer. We're in a service business. If they can't reach me, they can reach someone else. Plus, a lot of my clients are calling me from Australia, Asia. They're in a different time zone and they need answers. When I go on vacation, I'm working on vacation: I'm looking to see what the trends are, who might be new customers, what are the new and upcoming stores. That's how you stay ahead of the curve. No one shuts down ever – it's what the competition is today.
Q: Okay, so what areas of the city do you think are under and over valued?
A: The side streets – particularly off Fifth Avenue and in Soho – are undervalued (for retail). The meatpacking district is probably overvalued. The retail rents there are so high for the area's reputation and convenience.
Q: You're behind a lot of the big deals putting super stores into NYC. But what can be done to save the character of NYC and its little businesses in the face of relentlessly higher rents?
A: I represent 20 or 30 block fronts on the Upper East and West Sides. A new owner will come in and want to take out four or five mom and pops to turn them into one super store: It's less risk for him. The percentage of those stores that close, compared to the mom and pops, is very low. Sometimes you can negotiate, but sometimes (the superstores) are a vision of the new owner: The owner just doesn't want the mom and pops. If the moms and pops want to stay in the area, they have to think about getting off the avenue (main thoroughfares with high pedestrian traffic) and go to the side streets. But if they get a space off the avenue, they have to be very careful – they have to do the numbers, and make sure their business is visible.
The cost of living here is so very, very high – we lose a lot of residents who would like to stay, but can't. You can't be poor in New York: The grandparents all have to move away. One thing we could do is get a handle on the taxes. Everyone is very unhappy with that. The city taxes are just so high.
Q Being a New Yorker means ...
A: Being a survivor! Being at the center of the universe and a lot of mental and physical stress – but if you're unhappy, you just go outside and see people less fortunate. Don't fool yourself. It's the greatest city in the world. Everyone would live here if they could afford to.