New Alumni Networking Group Offers Exclusive Opportunities

YU Real Estate Executive Circle Established to Create High-Level Connections

In its ongoing campaign to create rewarding networking opportunities for Yeshiva University alumni, the Office of Alumni Affairs has established the YU Real Estate Executive Circle. The group is an outgrowth of the YU Real Estate Professionals, a networking group with a current membership of 500 alumni and friends of YU.

Panel for the discussion on the future of Washington Heights. (l-r): Michael Stoler, Adam Mermelstein, Ari Hirt (Chair, YUREEC), Daniel Levy, Bryan Woo and Joshua Muss

Two elements make the Real Estate Executive Circle distinctive. First, it offers an even higher degree of exclusive connections: the group is made up of real estate professionals who have each paid $1,000 to become members. According to Ari Hirt ’84YUHS ’88YC, managing director of debt and financing at Mission Capital Advisers and chair of the Real Estate Executive Circle, a membership fee at this level ensures “more active participants and a higher level of networking. But more importantly, not only does it bring value to the industry, it brings together professionals who recognize the value, and values, of YU.”

Jennifer Prince ’99SB, controller at Macklowe Properties, became a founding member of the Real Estate Executive Circle because “it combined my desire to support the institution that provided the basis for my career and an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals.” She felt that the smaller, more intimate structure of the group allowed for more effective give-and-take among professionals, and she liked the fact that she can help others learn from her experience while also learning from theirs.

Robert Scharf ’97YC, executive vice president of real estate at Edison Properties, agreed with Prince that it was beneficial to have the opportunity “to network with other experienced real estate professionals who face similar issues and challenges in navigating today’s increasingly complex real estate market,” but he also valued having the chance “to catch up with some old friends and colleagues that I hadn’t seen in a long time.” Brian Gurtman ’97SB, partner at Venable LLP, had a simple and straightforward reason for joining the Real Estate Executive Circle: “It was the right thing to do and the right time to do it in order to support the University.”

To make good on what Hirt called the group’s “value proposition of better networking,” the Real Estate Executive Circle held an inaugural event on  August 9 at Weil, Gotshal & Manges at 767 Fifth Avenue. Hosted by J. Philip Rosen ’78YC, the evening presented a panel discussion to 60 attendees on a topic of immediate importance to the real estate industry and YU: “Real Estate Trends in Emerging Markets: Washington Heights.”

Moderated by Michael Stoler, of The Stoler Report, Joshua Muss (’62YC, Muss Development LLC and a YU Trustee), Daniel Levy (Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.), Bryan Woo (Young Woo & Associates) and Adam Mermelstein (’97YUHS ’01YC, Treetop Development) held a lively discussion and Q&A about retail trends and possibilities in upper Manhattan and the effect of YU’s presence on neighborhood and commercial development.

(l-r): Jennifer Prince, Jordan Ray, Ari Hirt and Steven Buchwald

Among the points suggested by the panel were the ideas that Washington Heights is the next great untapped market for residential and commercial development and that its changing demographics are bringing in a younger generation with new expectations and sophisticated buying power. The presenters also discussed the role YU played in the evolution of Washington Heights. According to Muss, who went to Yeshiva College five decades ago, YU’s presence has enabled the 185th Street-area to blossom into “a neighborhood that has been upgraded by new construction, such as the Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Study and the campus plaza in front of it.” Mermelstein characterized YU as “the stabilizing factor” in the area, and Woo is pursuing a combined office space/hotel project because “being within walking distance of YU makes it attractive to investors.”

The panel discussion is the first of four annual Real Estate Executive Circle-related events. For more information about joining the group, go to, call 646.592.4485 or send an email to