Quay Tower is a magnificent new residential building situated directly on the Brooklyn waterfront and rising thirty stories. Its position directly across the water from the southern tip of Manhattan makes for spectacular harbor and city views. Together with the building’s amenities, they create a hotly-desired living experience. Everyone wants gorgeous sunset views, waterfront locations, walking-friendly neighborhoods, park and recreational spaces and a place to store bicycles, play music or to socialize with the neighbors. That mixture of location and ease of living can be at its best in New York City, but it is not easy to find.
It is also increasingly rare. In fact, Quay Tower, located at 15 Brooklyn Bridge Park Drive, on the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront, is the last new building it is possible to construct in Brooklyn Heights.
For the past 15 years, New York City has made waterfront development a priority, seeking to develop former industrial waterfront land that is no longer used to service the shipbuilding and marine companies that once thrived in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“The 95 acres that we built Quay Tower on was all Port Authority piers,” says Robert Levine, the chairman of RAL Companies, developer of the building. “Those piers were active until 25 years ago. We started this project around 2005 or 6; we knew it could be a spectacular place to call home.”
Seen from Quay Tower, the piers are a strong reminder of the area’s history. One is home to a collection of soccer fields, another has garden plantings and paths. Between them is a marina. All are managed by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.
“They said, before we began, that they would manage the facilities if they were self-funded,” Levine says. “We developed them as part of building the tower and then turned them over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy for perpetual use.”
RAL Companies, founded in 1979, started as an architecture and design firm.
“We segued into land development and have done everything in high-end hospitality and rental construction in the United States and the Caribbean,” Levine explains in a personal interview.
This history enabled Levine and his company to go through the grueling rounds of approvals required from zoning boards and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, which has played an increasingly large role in dictating how new construction sites connect with public land. Levine and RAL Companies considered resiliency during flooding and setbacks from the waterfront, ever more important as the climate becomes more threatening and unpredictable.
“For anyone developing real estate in New York, Hurricane Sandy was a major wake-up call,” Levine says.
The pre-building process was arduous: careful negotiations regarding land use, connection to the park, enhancing the park, retail tenants, land leases, and more, took years.
Considering the hurdles, RAL Companies and Oliver’s Realty Group’s success in developing a record-setting building is extraordinary. In 2022, a year when macro headwinds put massive downward pressure on the luxury market, Quay Tower sold $98 million of inventory; six deals were entirely cash transfers. Only a handful of units remain available.
It’s easy to predict that they won’t stay on the market for long.