CIBS was formed in 1992 out of the shared belief among the region’s leading brokers that the region needed a unified voice to advocate on behalf of professionalism, ethics and industry cohesion. Founders and original board members include Herb Agin, Paul Amoruso, Joe Lagano and Sam Rozzi. From the start, membership was based on individual participation rather than involvement by firms. Since its formation, CIBS has helped upgrade the industry by offering hundreds of educational programs, seminars, and presentations; advocated professional standards and offered grievance resolution; provided informal mentoring relationships; raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities; and created social settings in which colleagues have become friends, and competitors respected peers.
Born out of adversity in 1992 to bring together some of the most competitive real estate brokerage businesses on Long Island, the Commercial and Industrial Brokers Society of Long Island (CIBS) has evolved over 25 years into one of the most respected business organizations in the bi-county region.
Today, with membership in the hundreds, CIBS is providing networking venues for brokers and those in related businesses, educational programs for new brokers, philanthropy for area charities and it’s been recognized as one of Long Island’s leading business organizations by elected officials on Long Island, Albany and in Washington, D.C.
CIBS founding goes back to the early 1990s, when the region’s economy was in the depths of recession and a tight market that reduced brokers’ incomes and intensified competition for deals.
Not much earlier, the region’s developers and landlords had banded together as the Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI).
CIBS gestation began in 1991, when Syosset developer Edward Blumenfeld, of Blumenfeld Development Group, then the ABLI president, called together four industry leaders: Herb Agin of Sutton & Edwards, Paul Amoruso of Oxford & Simpson, Joseph Lagano Sr., who then headed the Long Island office of Cushman & Wakefield, and Samuel Rozzi, president of Corporate National Realty.
“How come you guys have no organization?” Blumenfeld recalled asking the brokers.
The reasons may have been obvious.
“The brokerage community was very fractious,” said co-founder Herb Agin, now chief executive of Colliers International Long Island. “Landlords and tenants didn’t look at commercial real estate brokers with any high level of esteem.
Blumenfeld recalled telling the four powerful brokers that developers thought the Island could be better served by a commercial brokerage industry that spoke with one voice. They felt that the Long Island Board of Realtors, focused on residential real estate, did not represent their interests.
“It was time,” said Amoruso. “It was a voice that was needed for some time.”
But it wasn’t easy getting competitors to work together, brokers recalled. “We were all very nervous,” Agin said.
“There was a need,” said Dom D’Angelo, who served as the organization’s first president, explaining the necessity of getting brokers to compete in a more gentlemanly fashion. “Some brokers had to be smacked on the wrist.”
Nevertheless, after months of meetings, CIBS officially came into existence in January 1992 and soon after the new organization attracted more than 140 brokers to its first meeting, a dinner at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho.
“It took off right away,” D’Angelo, now an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield of Long Island, recalled. It was pretty strong.”
In those early days, meetings were held at the Milleridge – and other spots around the Island —and there were speakers, such as Bernadette Castro, then New York State’s parks commissioner.
Today, membership, which has expanded and contracted over the years with the economic cycles, now hovers around 300 and accounts for almost two-thirds of all commercial brokers on Long Island.
“It’s evolved as a cohesive group in an industry in which we compete with each other,” said Amoruso, adding that CIBS has become a voice for promoting Long Island at a time when others, among them the former Long Island Lighting Co. and Roy Cacciatore, the late Hempstead Town economic development commissioner, disappeared from the scene.
In recent years, CIBS’ leaders have worked to make membership more desirable, offering educational programs, a dispute-resolution mechanism, an ethics code, and, albeit briefly, an online database of available properties.
As membership grew, CIBS became a forum for brokers to handle their problems. Brokers who came to networking events, such as the annual Spring black-tie dinner held in conjunction with the ABLI, found it easier to resolve problems by calling each other. “The communication took away some of the fear of dealing with each other,” Chuck Tabone, a former CIBS president said in an interview during his term.
With the 2008 downturn in commercial real estate, things got tough for the industry – and for CIBS membership, which declined as brokers left the industry. “Things were a mess,” said then treasurer, Gary Joel Schacker. “I had to preside over the smallest budget in many years. We survived, and things ultimately got better. The organization was boosted by the passion of the members of the board, and their willingness to do the work in a cooperative manner. This is the fundamental, and driving force for the accomplishments, and longevity of the CIBS organization.”
In 2013, with its membership again growing, CIBS began to project its voice, adding the position of strategic officer to its leadership tier to enable the group to have a more active role in the community, form alliances with other business groups, provide CIBS’ perspective on local issues and make the organization more visible. David Pannetta, twice president of CIBS, took on the role.
CIBS’ educational programs also have changed out of necessity. The days of getting someone in a car and saying, “Here are some buildings,” wasn’t enough. Brokers needed to be more financially savvy.
Because of those changes, CIBS’ educational programs had taken on more significance. They also helped generate camaraderie within the industry, which in turn, promoted friendlier deal making.
Also, in 2013, CIBS adopted a comprehensive code of ethics which is prominently displayed on the organization’s website.
Golf, meanwhile, also had become an integral part of CIBS’ program, beginning in 1996 with the first annual golf outing at the Hempstead Country Club, a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. Largely as a result of the efforts over the years of John LaRuffa, of NAI Long Island, the golf outing sells out annually and has raised funds for many charities, among them Big Brothers & Big Sisters, a Hofstra University scholarship honoring founding general counsel Larry Feldman, the March of Dimes, the Center for Developmental Disabilities, Independent Group Home Living Program, the Interfaith Nutrition Network, the League for Animal Protection and the American Cancer Society.
In recent years, a revived CIBS breakfast program, through the efforts of now-former president David Chinitz and current president Kyle Burkhardt, brought headline making guest speakers before the group, including United States Senator Charles Schumer, County Executives Steve Levy and Edward Mangano, Representatives Peter King and Kathleen Rice, former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and a host of others. The programs, including panel discussions featuring leading brokers, landlords and lawyers, have garnered both print and television media attention. “Our events have remained fresh, fun and invaluable for networking,” said Chinitz.
And CIBS began recognizing industry rising stars with awards to encourage their participation. One of those recipients was Burkhardt, who joined the CIBS board and eventually rose through the ranks to be the organization’s president. The group also handed out awards to highly involved associates members.
Newer programs, geared to the industry’s younger members and dubbed CIBS Future Generation, have brought together novices and experienced brokers in unique social settings, such as the Founders Room at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, Whale’s Tale in Centerport and Simple in Huntington.
CIBS’ leaders are newly committed to boosting awareness of the group and promoting the brokerage industry, as well as Long Island business, by undertaking advertising, public relations, and social media efforts.
Now, a quarter of a century after CIBS’ founding, Blumenfeld looking back at CIBS’ accomplishments said: “It’s been beneficial for everybody.”
Added Schacker: “I see CIBS continuing to perpetuate itself, and weave itself more productively into the fabric of Long Island’s commercial and industrial real estate and economic future.”
This article originally appeared in the CIBS 25th Anniversary Journal
CIBS, born amid adversity, flourishing after 25 years
By Alan J. Wax