A Realty Brotherhood Constructed in the Bronx
Mario and Billy Procida Grew Up in the Construction Business
By Sarah Rose
July 27, 2014 9:27 pm ET
Mario and Billy Procida grew up in the construction business and as young men in the 1980s and early 1990s played a key role in developing affordable housing in the Bronx and working-class neighborhoods in other boroughs.
But it was clear to both brothers that they have different styles—and personalities. They decided to part ways in 1994 soon after being named New York’s Developers of the Year by the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York.
Billy Procida is younger and more gregarious; at one point, he called himself “the first apprentice” because of a short stint with Donald Trump. He pursued a career in real estate finance and now, at age 52, runs Procida Funding & Advisors, a real-estate financing company based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Mario Procida, 56, runs the family company, Procida Realty & Construction Corp. He became a major developer of luxury residential property in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including a well-known tower at Grand Army Plaza designed by Richard Meier. Like many developers, he ran into problems during the economic downturn, and has since focused more on the type of affordable-housing projects that he built early in his career.
Family splits happen frequently in New York’s real-estate dynasties. Other families that have seen such breaks—with varying degrees of acrimony—include the Rechlers, the Resnicks and the Elghanayans.
Rarely do family members regret striking out on their own. But they aren’t always able to earn as much as individuals as they might have together.
Today, the Procida brothers are running successful enterprises and in a meeting last week said they are happy with the way their careers have turned out. But they also agreed they have had their ups and downs over the years.
Billy Procida said he looks fondly back on the days when he and his brother were rebuilding the South Bronx.
“We were at our best back then, no question,” he said.
The Procidas’ roots in real estate lie with their grandfather, Mario, an Italian immigrant who made his living as a bricklayer and started the family business in 1928.
In the 1970s, the company was one of the first to sign up for the affordable-housing programs of the Koch administration, building or rebuilding thousands of units in the Bronx.
“Mario and Billy were pioneers, ahead of the pack, at the vanguard of reinvestment in the Bronx, but they’re very different,” said Kenneth Knuckles, who was deputy Bronx borough president in the late 1980s and is now chief executive of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp.
“Billy is ebullient, outgoing, extroverted, with a lot of salesmanship. Mario is more measured and introverted,” Mr. Knuckles said.
Billy Procida started working for his father right after he graduated from high school in 1980. He began writing letters to Donald Trump, suggesting they invest together, and the two became friendly. He worked for Mr. Trump about a year before returning to the fold.
In 1994, he left again to pursue a career in consulting and real-estate finance. He helped found Palisades Financial, a private-equity firm, but sold his stake to his partners in 2008.
Today, Procida Funding & Advisors has a fund with $75 million in assets under management. It advised on about $150 million worth of deals in 2014.
Mario Procida was trained in engineering and architecture. Under his leadership, Procida Realty & Construction has revenue of about $75 million a year.
But he had bad timing in his push into luxury Manhattan and Brooklyn development in the mid-2000s. Through a partnership with Louis Greco named SDS Procida Development Group, he had several projects with weak sales because they opened during the last recession. SDS Procida remained in control of the projects but had to restructure some loans that were eventually paid off, he said.
Since then, Mario Procida has focused mostly on his company’s original business model: low-income affordable projects in partnership with government agencies that limit profits to builders. Current projects include a 108-unit rental development in the Weeksville section of Brooklyn and a 134-unit, mixed-use rental development in the Parkchester section of the Bronx.
Over the years, the brothers often talk real estate together at family events, showing off pictures of new buildings as if they were babies. They even did one deal together: The Dillion, a luxury condominium on West 53rd Street in Manhattan was financed, in part, by Palisades Financial. And they don’t rule out the possibility of working together again.
At their get-together last week, Mario Procida said he often has found development and construction frustrating. But he adds: “Once you’re in it, you stay in it.”
Billy Procida expects to close on a $35 million gut renovation of the Divine Lorraine building in north Philadelphia over Labor Day. But he said: “Three and a half years more and then I’m out. This will be my last deal.”
“That’s what everyone in this business says,” his brother responded.
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