Bob Knakal 2024 full w. jacket

As the Editor of, I'm thrilled to introduce Bob Knakal as our Exclusive Commercial Real Estate Partner. Bob's remarkable journey in the real estate industry exemplifies leadership, innovation, and an unparalleled commitment to excellence. With over four decades of experience, Bob has shaped some of the most significant transactions in New York's real estate market, and we're excited to collaborate with him for our soon-to-be-launched Commercial Real Estate section on

In our comprehensive interview, Bob shares insights from his distinguished career, discussing memorable milestones, the transformative role of artificial intelligence in real estate, and his visionary approach that continues to redefine the industry standards. We delve into the strategies that have propelled his success and explore how BKREA is gearing up to lead the future of commercial real estate in New York.




Join us as we uncover the depth of knowledge and expertise Bob brings to our platform, enhancing the resources we offer to our audience and contributing to the vibrant growth of New York City's real estate landscape. Here is our exclusive interview with Bob Knakal.  Fred Mercaldo,



Fred: Welcome, Bob! We're thrilled to have you as the Exclusive Commercial Real Estate Partner of Let's start by delving into your remarkable career. Over four decades in commercial real estate brokerage, what have been some of the most memorable moments or milestones for you?


Bob: The most memorable event was simply the event that started my career in brokerage: a mistake. In 1981, I was a freshman at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and wanted to be an investment banker like every other Wharton kid at that time. During my spring break, I drove around northern NJ, where I grew up, dropping my resume off at every investment bank and commercial bank I saw, looking for a summer job. I came out of a Paine Weber office in Hackensack and across the hall I saw, “Coldwell Banker”. I walked in with my resume thinking it was a bank. Handed them my resume and set up an interview for the following day. There was no internet back then so I went to the library to look up this bank and saw it was a commercial real estate brokerage company. I almost didn’t go on the interview but they were the only ones hiring college kids for the summer and I took the job. I loved it from day one, went back my next two summers and started with CB full time after graduation in 1984 in their Manhattan office.

I also fondly remember my first exclusive listing (115 East 55th Street), my first sale (1421 Third Avenue for $3,125,000) the first day we opened Massey Knakal (November 15, 1988) and the day we sold MK for $100 million (December 31, 2014). Those are all wonderful memories for me.



Fred: As the #1 commercial real estate broker in New York, what do you attribute your success to? Are there any guiding principles or strategies that have been central to your approach?


Bob: If I had to pinpoint one thing that has increased the probability of success for me over my career, it probably has been my perspective on the business and my approach to dealing with people. I have always tried to do the right thing in all circumstances, always treated clients like family and kept their best interests at the front of the line and always tried to lead those colleagues around me using a servant leadership management approach and mentality. The servant leadership management style centered around trying to get the folks who worked for me to reach beyond their full potential and do better than I did. It revolved around intensive training – at the beginning of their careers and every week throughout their career – building up their self-esteem, and constantly letting them know how their efforts impacted the goals and objectives of the firm. In almost every survey ever done on job satisfaction, feeling like what you are doing is important, and appreciated by the company, ranks at the top of the charts, even more so than money. We were always aware of that and made sure everyone felt important.
Another aspect of what has been helpful in terms of achieving success has been staying true to core values while constantly adapting to a changing environment. Our core values always were Passion, Integrity, Excellence and Responsibility. Passion for what we do everyday and the well-being of those around us, Integrity with respect to how we approached our business and how we dealt with people, striving for Excellence in all we did and a keen awareness of the Responsibility we had to give back, tangibly, to the communities in which we lived and worked. We always encouraged our people to give back to charities not only with money, but, more importantly, with their time. 
Lastly, adapting to a changing environment is critically important. Quickly adopting changes in technology has been at the forefront of this. At BKREA we are using artificial intelligence in a variety of ways, many of which we believe will fundamentally change the way the business is done moving forward.



Fred: Bob, as a follow-up to that, BKREA is making waves in the industry by leveraging artificial intelligence. Can you tell us more about how AI is transforming commercial real estate in New York and how BKREA will participate in this evolution?


Bob: BKREA is utilizing AI in two main ways: 1) for prospecting and transaction execution, and, 2) for data interpretation.
On the prospecting and execution fronts, there are many applications that exist today that can make those activities much faster, effective and efficient. In fact, many of these applications came out two months ago and have already been replaced by something newer that is bigger, faster, smarter and better. Staying on top of the latest developments is a key to being able to effectively using these technologies. 
With regard to data interpretation, that is the area that has the most potential and the most powerful. The right AI algorithms can do millions of calculation in a second. The challenge for the commercial real estate industry is that most data sets are not very good. Market participants have no incentive to provide third-party aggregators with inside information. Brokerage companies have the greatest potential to create data sets with integrity but rarely does “research” act arm-in-arm with “brokerage”.
Further, there is little acknowledgement within commercial brokerage that absolute numbers don’t mean much. For example, if I tell you that in 2019 in Manhattan, there were $26.3 billion of investment sales volume, you really don’t know what to think about that number. Is it good? Bad? Mediocre? Without relative perspective, we don’t know what to think about that number. So, it is the relationship between the numbers that reveals insights and is important. The direction of the movements and the relative magnitude of the fluctuations is what matters. Further, and even more importantly, it is the methodology that is used to determine the numbers that must be consistent in order for the relationship between the numbers to have integrity. I know of one big brokerage shop in NYC where they have had three different heads of New York research within the past 6 years – each having their own methodology for determining numbers. How do you calculate cap rates? Trailing 12? Forward 12? How do you deal with vacancy? If the methodology is different, the relationships lose their statistical significance.
Our data sets go back 40 years and have used the same exact methodology for calculating numbers every year. With data sets that have integrity that high, AI should be able to determine a metric, or group of metrics, that are predictive of changes in the direction of the market. This could produce some never-before-seen stuff if done properly.
We are comparing the fluctuations in values to metrics within each of the major product silos, like rents, occupancy rates, etc. But we are also comparing them to many macroeconomic factors such as interest rates, lending rates, the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500, the price of gold, the price of oil, consumer sentiment and a host of other metrics. This is totally cool and will be groundbreaking stuff.



Fred:  What inspired the creation of BKREA, and what sets it apart from traditional real estate agencies?


Bob: Fred, The creation of BKREA came out of a dissatisfaction with my personal experiences with a couple of the global giants and the fact that I want to remain focused on NYC only. Market presence for a broker is critically important and has always been part of my approach to the business. Does the client come first, of course! But who is the client? For the broker, the principal is the client. To those that own or run a brokerage business, the brokers are the clients. If you have never owned a brokerage business this may not be obvious to you. Market presence activities are done because they are accretive to the goals and objectives of the clients as brokers can achieve higher prices and better results for them. So my thougths revolved around what platforms out there could enhance my market presence campaigns in New York City. While there are many great platforms out there, there was not an obvious brand in the city that would be highly accretive enough in that area to help my clients. There are some good talking points out there about having offices in Antarctica but the fact is there is little integration that actually happens to help local clients. Continuing to leverage my own brand, as I have done for 40 years, I thought, was in the best interests of my clients.
We are trying to differentiate ourselves with the quality of our research and data and combining market leading analog resources with new technologies. The Knakal Map Room has been a big hit with clients. It’s a map of Manhattan south of 96th Street that identifies every development site under construction, every pending and potential site so our development pipeline is itemized down to the square inch. And we are developing the Knakal Land Index which analyses every development site sale going back to 1984 and we disaggregate that data into five buckets: rental, condo, hotel, office and a miscellaneous bucket for everything else. There have been 2,417 and we have studied every one of them. Moving forward, we will create map rooms related to Northern Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.



Fred: How do you envision AI shaping the future of commercial real estate in New York and beyond? What opportunities and challenges do you foresee?


Bob: AI is going to change everything moving forward but the important thing to remember is that AI is not going to replace anyone. However, someone using AI will replace someone who doesn’t. The advantages afforded folks who can use the technology effectively will create significant competitive advantages. After all, as I always say, we are not in the real estate business, we are in the information and relationship business. The information can be more voluminous and of higher quality using AI. And the number of relationship and the quality of those relationships can be better using aspects of AI. I don’t want to give away too much, but the utilizations in these areas are mind-blowing!
The main challenges are based upon the lack of quality data that exists in the industry generally. The best AI models in the world will produce poor results if the data going into the model is poor. 
From a more macro perspective, AI is going to create some problems in the broader economy as the income inequality gap is going to grow substantially. Low paying jobs will increasingly eliminate lower paying jobs and fewer people are going to be able to support themselves. But that is a much longer conversation for a different venue.



Fred: Bob, with your wealth of experience, what advice would you give to aspiring real estate professionals looking to succeed in today's competitive market?

Bob: Fred, I would suggest that aspiring real estate professionals focus the early years of their careers learning as much as they possibly can. Don’t worry about being in a position to make the most money. Put yourself in a position to learn the most. Talk to senior people, ask questions, ask the whos, whats and whys of the things they have done.
And read as much as you can. I have two great resources I think people would like. The first is a reading list of books that I have found very helpful in terms of implementing the brokerage business. They deal with business, selling, negotiating, time management, persuasion, human behavior, psychology and other things that are helpful to salespeople.
The other is a summary of my Knakal Knuggets which are lessons learned during the 26 years and 46 days of owning and running Massey Knakal. I am happy to send the suggested reading list and Knuggests pieces to anyone who would like to see them. They can email me at



Fred: is a platform that celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of New York City. How do you see commercial real estate contributing to the city's character and growth?


Bob: Commercial real estate and architecture can greatly impact a city’s skyline and character. How often do you recognize a major city by simply looking at some of the most prominent buildings in its skyline. Additionally, much of the public policies that NYC has enacted pertaining to new development have requirements for public benefits and spaces which alter the nature of someone’s experience walking around the city.  There are many privately owned public spaces “POPS” that add to the allure and quality of life for residents of the neighborhoods in which they are created.
Additionally, people are attracted to new and interesting architecture. Cities need to grow to survive and as long as people from around the country and around the globe continue to want to come live and work here, we will need new buildings to accommodate them. Making those buildings architecturally interesting adds to the character of the city.



Fred: Can you share any recent or upcoming projects that BKREA is involved in? What excites you most about these ventures?

Bob: BKREA is just getting off the ground but already has several sale assignments we are working on. While it is technically a new business, I am simply doing the same things I have done for 40 years – just with a different business card now. We will continue to represent sellers and maximize the prices they achieve for their assets. And our land arbitration consulting business has been growing robustly as participants in those matters want to take advantage of our land sales database which is unrivaled in the industry. I was recently representing a party involved in a land value reset arbitration case and was the broker on 6 of the 9 comps that were the subject of the arbitration. That “inside information” was a significant advantage to our client in that case. My client’s result was outstanding! We are excited to continue to provide that competitive advantage to our clients. After all, it is all about maximizing results for our clients!



Fred: In your opinion, what are some of the key trends and developments shaping the commercial real estate landscape in New York right now?

Bob: Current market dynamics in New York City today are most accurately represented by acknowledging that we are at or near the bottom of this cyclical trough. While there is a long way to go, we are beginning to turn the corner. To really understand where we are, it is important to understand where we have been.
It is remarkable to think that the cyclical peak of the market was all the way back in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, there were 5,534 buildings sold in NYC, an all-time record by more than 10%. That was followed up with $80.1 billion of sales volume. That was also an all-time record and both of those still stand today. That bull market changed in October of 2015 when cracks in the market began to emerge. From October of 2015 to February of 2020 saw a reduction in the dollar volume of sales and the number of properties sold by 56% and 54% respectively. During that time. Values dropped in aggregate by only 12%. Covid came along in March of 2020 and converted this mostly volume correction into a value correction. This value correction impacted Manhattan much more than the outer boroughs, which is always the case. In good times, Manhattan is disproportionately better than the outer boroughs and in bad times, Manhattan is disproportionally worse. Market conditions and values bottomed out in 2020. 
In April of 2021, the market turned as first quarter 2021 market performance was very positive. We came out of the longest correction within the last 50 years and the second half of 2021 and first half of 2022 were great. We thought for sure that we were out of the bear market, then the Fed started to increase interest rates in March of 2022. This exerted downward pressure on property values and another downward correction was upon us. 
Today, the biggest issue with the market is the maturing debt. Owners have $50 million in debt on a building that may have been worth $100 million and now may be worth between $45 million and $55 million. The debt was at 3.5% and today, the bank will refinance at $35 million, and the rate will be in the 7s. Does the investor have the $15 million to put into the asset? If not, the writing is on the wall. If they do, do they want to invest fresh capital into that asset?
Some lenders are kicking the can down the road, however, their shoes are off, the can has become very jagged and the lenders foot is bloody and it hurts more with each additional kick. These stressed assets need to be dealt with in order for the market to fully recover and the market has not yet begun the address this issue in a comprehensive way. This is going to come and transaction volume will increase substantially. 



Fred: As someone deeply connected to the pulse of New York City, what do you believe sets the city's real estate market apart from others around the world?

Bob: New York City is unique in the US based upon the size of the market and is unique worldwide based upon the international allure of the city. While large, the city still has the potential to grow substantially and as long as people from around the country and around the globe want to continue to come to live and work here, the growth of the city is insured. However, our policy makers must make sure the city maintains it allure so things like crime and quality of life must be addressed in positive ways. Over the course of human history, the greatest cities and civilizations, that were considered to be the center of the world at the time, have fallen. At some point so will NYC – but let’s hope that is not for many decades, or centuries. Our politicians must be aware that they have a heavy hand in determining what NYC’s standing in the world is going to be.



Fred: Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for BKREA? How do you see the company evolving in the coming years?

Bob: My goals for BKREA is that we continue to serve our clients in ways that maximize their results and leaves them wanting to come back for more. We want to deliver great results through flawless execution and keep all of our clients as happy as possible. I am currently unsure where the company will go in the future, but the opportunities are limitless and as long as we remain focused on clients, good things will happen. 



Fred: Amidst the challenges of the past year, how has the commercial real estate industry adapted, and what opportunities have emerged?

Bob: In a market with challenges, opportunities abound. We want to take advantage of those opportunities. We used the pandemic to beef up our informational systems and created The Knakal Map Room. We are using today’s slower times to understand AI and work on different implementation approaches. When times are good, you take advantage of those good times and in slower times, you prepare yourself to take advantage of the good times. We believe a rebound in transaction volume is right around the corner and we are positioning ourselves to take full advantage of that rebound.



Fred: Collaboration and innovation are essential in any industry. Are there any partnerships or collaborations on the horizon for BKREA that you're particularly excited about?

Bob: I am very excited about our new Knakal Affiliate Program. We are partnering with brokers around New York City and around the country to create a network of professionals that can refer business to each other. Each year, we receive referrals from other brokers who come across opportunities that they are not in a position to effectively service. Either the property is too big (or sometimes too small) for them or is not of the type they have expertise to handle. We are happy to pay referral fees to these brokers. Additionally, there are attorneys, appraisers and other professionals that have historically referred business to us. The KAP formalizes this program and allows participants to be part of regular calls to discuss business opportunities an trends in the market. The KAP also provides our platform with a network of professionals that we can refer business to that are not opportunities that we are ideally positioned to execute. Knowing what you do well and what others should do is an important part of doing what is in the best interest of the client!



Fred: Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Bob. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to add or any message you'd like to share with our audience at

Bob: I would just like to add that all of us at BKREA are so excited to be the exclusive commercial real estate partner for We can’t wait to see what exciting things folks will be doing on the site and what opportunities will be made available by virtue of our partnership. New York is the greatest city in the world and we want to help promote New York in any way possible. We look forward to being cooperative and accretive members of the community!



BKREA LogoFor more information, contact BKREA at: 

BK Real Estate Advisors

40 West 37th St, Suite 1203

New York, NY 10018

(917) 509-9501