Amazon deal in Long Island City sparks an even bigger boom for neighborhood real estate broker

Photo courtesy of Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

It is an amazing time for Modern Spaces, the Long Island City-based real estate brokerage which just turned 10 years old and was in the process of a major expansion before Amazon would move its HQ2 campus to the neighborhood.

The company began in a storefront office on Vernon Boulevard and somehow survived the economic crisis in 2008. Now, it’s just weeks away from moving into a new 8,000-square-foot headquarters on 46th Avenue.

“It will have room for more than 40 people, new staff and new agents,” Modern Spaces co-founder and CEO Eric Benaim said. “It was in the works way before the Amazon announcement and it’s funny, my wife Stephanie and I were touring the new site and she said to me, ‘If you build it they will come,’ and they did.”

Word of the Amazon deal hit the street days before the formal Nov. 14 announcement, and Modern Spaces became inundated with calls. Benaim even had to leave his son’s birthday party because his agents were calling and texting him.

“Since a couple of days before the announcement, it’s been amazing,” Benaim said. “It only slowed a bit this week because of New Year’s.”

The company has received more than 700 inquiries in that time in Skyline Tower, a 802-unit condominium high-rise now under construction in Court Square across 44th Drive from Citi Tower.

“It’s going to be the tallest building in Queens and the borough’s first billion-dollar tower,” Benaim said. “It will be the second-largest condo project ever in New York City. All that right across the street from Citi Tower which Amazon is taking over this year as their advanced team moves in. I hear they’re going to change the name to Amazon Tower.”

Back in late July 2008, when Benaim and his business partner Ted Kokkoris started Modern Spaces, running the business without a website, and just months before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, causing the collapse on Wall Street, resulting in hardships for his fledgling business.

“It seemed like the world was going to end,” Benaim recalled. With no money in the bank the two borrowed money from family to keep Modern Spaces afloat during its “dark winter.”

Now the full-service company, which is involved in all aspects of the real estate process including pre-development consulting, staging and selling properties, has more than 100 agents with more than 70 percent of Long Island City’s market share.

In addition to Skyline Tower, Modern Spaces is handling several other Court Square condominium projects including the Corte, the Bond and Craftsmen Townhomes.

“We were already the largest broker in all of Queens and we expect to expand throughout Queens,” Benaim said. “I never imagined anything like this, not even when I realized Amazon was on the way here.”