Madison Realty Capital Provides $53 Million Construction Financing to Heritage Equity Partners for Multifamily Development in Brooklyn

NEW YORK, Jan. 19, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Madison Realty Capital, a New York City based real estate private equity firm focused on debt and equity investment strategies, today announced it has provided $53 million in construction financing to Heritage Equity Partners, led by Toby Moskovits and Michael Lichtenstein, for a 150–unit ground–up multifamily development located at 875 4th Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets, in "South Park Slope," also known as the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.

The construction loan features a LIBOR–based floating rate and was arranged by Meridian Capital Group and its Director Elliot Kunstlinger, who has a working relationship with both Heritage Equity Partners and Madison Realty Capital. The project is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2022. Heritage Development, a vertically integrated development and management firm with a focus on residential, commercial, and hospitality projects, is serving as general contractor for the project.

Located in an area certified as a "Qualified Opportunity Zone" under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the property will span approximately 140,000 square feet and include a total of 150 studio, one–bedroom and two–bedroom units. Residents will enjoy access to numerous top–tier amenities including a gym and yoga studio, children's playroom, shared workspace, function room, shared outdoor space, rooftop grill and sun deck, as well as in–unit washers and dryers. Further, the building boasts waterfront views and is the only Class A residential building within walking distance to the bustling creative hub at Industry City, as well as numerous transportation options including the D, N and R subway lines. Over the past five years, Industry City has experienced an influx of tech and creative jobs which has led to a vibrant revitalization of the area including numerous mixed–use, residential and retail development and office redevelopment projects.

"Sunset Park is a growing, creative neighborhood, yet suffers from an undersupply of attractive housing options," said Josh Zegen, Managing Principal and Co–Founder of Madison Realty Capital. "We are pleased to build upon our relationship with Heritage Equity Partners to provide a flexible solution and execute this $53 million loan that will bring vital new housing options to this vibrant and growing neighborhood."

"This area has seen major changes in the last few years, and there is not enough housing supply for all the new jobs created in this area," said Toby Moskovits, CEO of Heritage Equity Partners. "While there has been a large increase in companies moving into this area, there have not been enough residences built to accommodate the growth in population. There is a need for more housing in this area, for more rental apartments, and especially a need for new construction luxury units in this area. Our project will be providing both, as we are providing both affordable and luxury units in the two buildings that we will be constructing on this site. It is difficult to find sites in this area that allow for multi family development, and we are happy to be part of the solution for the housing shortage in this area."

Michael Lichtenstein, President of Heritage Equity Partners pointed out that this area is where the so–called South Park Slope area meets Industry city, "and so the confluence of neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Industry City and South Park Slope, makes this location very attractive for a mixed–use project, providing housing to all income levels that are attracted to this neighborhood."

"We have always focused on pioneering projects in new and growing neighborhoods, and are delighted to move ahead with this project, which brings to the fore our team's strengths in development, construction, and brings our vision to fruition, creating a beautiful building that will cater to all residents of these neighborhoods. While the pandemic has delayed all development projects in NYC, we are happy that we can move ahead with this project immediately thanks to our long running relationship with Madison Realty Capital," added Lichtenstein.

About Madison Realty Capital

Madison Realty Capital (MRC) is a New York City based real estate private equity firm focused on debt and equity investment strategies with regional offices in key markets including Los Angeles and Dallas. Founded in 2004, MRC has closed on approximately $13 billion of transactions in the multifamily, retail, office, industrial and hotel sectors. The firm manages investments in the United States on behalf of a global investor base. MRC is a fully integrated firm with over 60 employees across all real estate investment, development, and property management disciplines. Among other industry recognitions, MRC has been named to the Commercial Observer's prestigious "Power 100" list of New York City real estate players and is consistently cited as one of the industry's top construction lenders.

About Heritage Equity Partners

Heritage Equity Partners was founded by Toby Moskovits and Michael Lichtenstein in 2008, and has been at the forefront of innovative and community building projects. Heritage Equity Partners developed many well–known projects, such as the Spire Lofts, the Williamsburg Hotel, 25 Kent, and its principals have been amongst the first developers in Williamsburg, Long Island City, and are now developing in Mott Haven and South Bronx.

About Meridian Capital Group

Founded in 1991, Meridian Capital Group is America's most active dealmaker and one of the nation's leading commercial real estate finance, investment sales and retail leasing advisors. In 2019, Meridian closed over $40 billion in financing across more than 250 unique lenders. Meridian represents many of the world's leading real estate investors and developers and the company's expansive platform has specialized practices for a broad array of property types including office, retail, multifamily, hotel, mixed–use, industrial, and healthcare and senior housing properties. Meridian is headquartered in New York City with offices in New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and California.


“In Zimbabwe there is Freedom of Speech, but no Freedom After the Speech”

Working as a journalist in Zimbabwe has been particularly hazardous for investigative journalists in a country that makes regular appearances in global top rankings of corruption. Zimbabwe’s press freedom remains fragile. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Working as a journalist in Zimbabwe has been particularly hazardous for investigative journalists in a country that makes regular appearances in global top rankings of corruption. Zimbabwe’s press freedom remains fragile. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 19 2021 – A long-running gag says “in Zimbabwe there is freedom of speech, but no freedom after the speech”. But for journalists and activists who have been forced to endure nights in the country’s overcrowded and filthy holding cells, this is no laughing matter as prison inmates have no personal protective equipment to guard against COVID-19.

And when government spokesperson Nick Mangwana warned ominously last year that, “No one is above the law,” it only confirmed what many here have always feared: that the ruling Zanu PF party will not hesitate to arbitrary apply the law to silence critics.

Mangwana’s comments had come after the arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was accused of using social media to foment public violence.

Chin’ono was back behind bars on Jan. 8 on charges of posting “fake news” on Twitter.

Soon after Chin’ono’s arrest, opposition Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC-A) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala, an opposition legislator who also serves as a MDC-A vice chairperson, were also detained by the police for posting the same story Chin’ono had shared on social media.

The widely-shared story alleged that a police officer attempting to enforce COVID-19 restrictions had aimed his baton stick at a woman carrying a child, but fatally struck the child instead.

According to reports, the child died on the spot. Police, however, dismissed the story as fake news despite video footage of the mother wailing that the police officer had killed her child. 

The arrests were immediately condemned by rights defenders with Amnesty International, which demanded their release.

“The latest arrests are part of a growing crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other critical voices,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa said in a statement dated Jan. 13.

“Zimbabwean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release and drop the malicious charges against them,” Mwananyanda said.

However, it is the arrest of Chin’ono – for the third time in six months – that has placed the spotlight back on Zimbabwe’s fragile press freedom, where critics say journalism has for years remained a dangerous occupation for a country not in a warzone.

It has been particularly hazardous for investigative journalists in a country that makes regular appearances in global top rankings of corruption.

“I was jailed after exposing corruption,” Chin’ono wrote last year after his first arrest, which came after the authorities criticised the media for allegedly reporting falsehoods about members of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family being involved in shady COVID-19 equipment procurement deals which prejudiced the country of millions of United States dollars.

Chin’ono’s exposé reportedly led to the firing of Zimbabwe’s health minister, yet it was to prove to be just the beginning of the investigative journalist’s brushes with the law for his work reporting corruption in high places.

“The onslaught on investigative journalists is part of the administration’s hostile campaign against human rights defenders,” Tawanda Majoni, an investigative journalist and National Coordinator of the Information for Development Trust, a local media NGO, told IPS.

“Media freedom campaigners have done a spirited job, but what they can achieve will always be severely limited in a repressive regime,” he told IPS.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of 2019, Zimbabwe ranked 158 out of 180 countries making it one of the most corrupt in the world.

“In Southern Africa, journalists and others working to expose corruption face an unacceptable level of risk,” Transparency International said in a statement last year.

The international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Zimbabwe number 126 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, making the southern African country one of the worst places to work as a journalist.

“Zimbabwe’s serious abuses of press freedom, free expression and the rights of government critics are worsening as the year begins,” Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch southern Africa director, told IPS.

“It seems there are some within government who wish to undermine Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts through their reckless abuses that entrench the pariah state image,” Dewa told IPS.

The European Union in Zimbabwe also added its condemnation of the arrest of Chin’ono, Sikhala and Mahere, posting on Twitter on Jan. 13 that “the current pre-trial detentions, delays of proceeding without serious charges are questionable”, while the Dutch Embassy in Harare reminded the country’s minister of foreign affairs Sibusiso Moyo the commitments Zimbabwe made on Dec. 9 at the World Press Freedom Conference to increase the safety of journalists.

The crackdown continues almost six years after the disappearance of journalist and activist Itai Dzamara whose whereabouts remain unknown but is widely feared dead. 

“We have a government that is driven by paranoia and doesn’t want to be held accountable,” Nqaba Matshazi, of the Media Institute for Southern African (MISA) – Zimbabwe chapter, told IPS.

While police say Chin’ono faces up to 20 years in prison, his lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of the charges and the journalist remains defiant in a country where media activists say journalists are shying away from probing investigative journalism for fear of arrests. 

“The persecution of investigative and other journalists routinely face has several retrogressive effects, among them fear, self-censorship and capture. When you see a journalist being brought to court in leg irons for posting a Tweet, you naturally wonder whether if your next story is worth dying for,” said Majoni.

Human rights attorneys say it has been particularly frustrating defending journalists.

“Journalists are being arrested for doing their job and our real challenge is that the arrests show an increase in the monitoring of journalists’ social media activity,” Roselyn Hanzi, executive director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who are representing Chin’ono and other journalists and citizens arrested under questionable charges, told IPS.

“Despite constitutional provisions, what is required are administrative reforms to weed out bad apples in the system and also human rights training for institutions that have become very partisan,” Hanzi told IPS.

There are concerns however that there still are no critical voices emerging from regional bodies, which analysts say could be emboldening impunity and continued human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

“The silence and indifference of Zimbabwe’s neighbours like South Africa, SADC and the African Union has emboldened rogue elements with the Zimbabwe regime to go for broke,” Mavhinga told IPS. 

“But tyranny has a witness and one day there will be justice and accountability for all the abuses,” Mavhinga said.


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Nothing to Learn from East Asia?

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 19 2021 - Covid-19 infection and death rates in the Western world and many developing countries in Asia and Latin America have long overtaken East Asia since the second quarter of 2020. [...] Read more »