Daniel Neiditch: Five Strategies We Are Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable
Explore Extracurricular Programs — Parents can only do so much. If your child shows an interest in sustainability, encourage them to attend environmentally-minded school clubs and sign them up for sustainability camps or after school programs. Encouraging them to engage with other like-minded young activists will give them the social outlets they need to start making a difference.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Neiditch.
Daniel Neiditch is a real estate mogul, sustainability advocate, and philanthropist in New York City. He is the President of River 2 River Realty, a top-tier real estate firm with a distinguished reputation for serving the city’s residents as a trustworthy brokerage, landlord, property manager, and developer. Neiditch is also recognized for his work as President of The Atelier Condo, a sustainability-forward luxury building in New York City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s funny, I wouldn’t necessarily say that anything brought me into real estate. It’s more that my career path is one I was already walking, even as a kid. The company I founded and now run, River 2 River Realty, was inspired by my grandfather who started his own company in 1940. Real estate has been a cornerstone in my life; I grew up learning the family trade and haven’t looked back since.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
I want to create a new, sustainably-minded standard for upscale living. We have this stereotype of luxury real estate being wasteful in its indulgence — but I know from experience that class and comfort doesn’t need to come at a cost to the environment. People don’t realize that yet, but they should.
Take The Atelier Condo as an example. It’s a prime example of Manhattan luxury living, with amenities that span the gamut from swimming pools to tennis courts, an ice skating rink, movie theater, rooftop lounge, dog park, and fitness offerings. It’s expansive, because we want our tenants to have a genuinely upscale experience — but we’re also cognizant of the need for energy efficiency. We retrofitted the building with environmentally-friendly features such as efficient fluorescent lighting, energy-saving appliances, double-paned windows, and solar energy.
The Atelier Condo is proof that luxury living can coincide with sustainability. I want our offerings to inspire other New York real estate providers to think about what they can do to better serve their planet and their tenants.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Well, like I mentioned earlier, River 2 River has positioned the Atelier as proof that the luxury real estate sector can be environmentally-friendly, and we hope that others will follow our example by making mindful consumption a guiding principle of their real estate endeavors.
If I were to get more specific, I’d point to our solar energy initiative. I’m incredibly proud to share that The Atelier features the nation’s highest residential solar array. Just imagine what we could accomplish if more real estate providers invested in solar energy! We could minimize our reliance on fossil fuels and move towards a greener tomorrow. As a city of eight million people, we need to do better. We consume too much energy not to.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
This is always a point that frustrates me when it comes up. To this day, countless people have a mistaken assumption that building sustainably entails a substantially greater cost than conventional construction. That’s just flat-out wrong, and I actually wrote an article for Forbes about it earlier this year. You know what the cost differential between green and conventional building actually is? Two percent. You can quote the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on that.
When we retrofitted the Atelier, we ended up boosting our bottom line significantly. Since 2015, The Atelier has achieved roughly $120,000 in savings every year and reduced its energy consumption by 15 percent. It’s mind-blowing to me that more people haven’t taken advantage of the cost-saving opportunities that sustainability offers. For a relatively inexpensive choice, it’s given us so much.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
Make it Personal.
I think the biggest problem with a lot of causes — climate change included — is that people don’t have a personal connection to the issue at hand. I know that seeing the impact of homelessness as a child, for example, compelled me to advocate for people experiencing homelessness as an adult. But with climate change, it’s easy to look away from the impact. Parents should show their children what has been lost as a result of global warming — rising seas driving people from their homes in New York, for example, or the polar ice melt. Make the cause personal.
Tackle Tough Questions
Anyone who’s hung out with their nephew or baby cousin for more than a few minutes knows that kids ask some difficult questions. They make you think and force you to consider your choices. It can be uncomfortable to parse — and that’s a good thing. When a kid challenges you to answer hard questions about climate change, you should invite them to figure out the answers with you. The experience will help them practice their research skills and encourage them to think critically about important issues.
Have an “Okay, What’s Next?” Approach
At the end of the day, conversations are only so much talk if they aren’t followed up by action.
Having a tough conversation about global warming and the dangers it poses? Don’t end the conversation at “that’s scary;” instead, make a plan for what you and your child can do to limit excess energy use around the house or volunteer for local sustainability events. Taking an “Okay, what’s next?” approach will teach your child to be proactive with their beliefs.
Demonstrate Support for Independent Action
Does your child want to join the environmental club at school or participate in an environmentalism protest? Show your support by offering to bring them snacks or accompany them on the subway. Even a simple word of encouragement could do wonders.
Explore Extracurricular Programs
Parents can only do so much. If your child shows an interest in sustainability, encourage them to attend environmentally-minded school clubs and sign them up for sustainability camps or after school programs. Encouraging them to engage with other like-minded young activists will give them the social outlets they need to start making a difference.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Don’t be afraid to take risks.- Before I took over the family real estate business, my grandfather and father both tended to play things pretty safe. They only bought properties in the Bronx, where my grandfather had grown up, and even then only complexes with a specific number of units. They were strongly opposed to leveraging debt or taking risks.
It was a valid perspective, but one that I found limiting. By taking well-considered risks, I’ve been able to extend our brand across New York City, Westchester, and the Hamptons.
Being in business doesn’t chain you to your office. — I know a lot of people whose lives revolve around their work. I admire their dedication, but personally, I’ve always felt that I could do a lot of good beyond the bounds of real estate, particularly in the nonprofit sector. I have taken a major role in community organizing and fundraising for causes I believe in, especially those centered on empowering underprivileged children in New York.
The right conversation can change the world. — I’ve always been a big believer in the power of conversation. I can’t help it; I’m a people person. I’m fortunate in that my day job allows me to connect with influential people, particularly those in celebrity circles. I’ve been able to leverage my contacts to do a lot of good.
In 2019, I organized a celebrity boxing match with heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield that took place atop one of my buildings. We auctioned off Evander’s signed gloves and the event raised over $100,000 for autism awareness.
Or — to give a more recent example — I collaborated with Jeff Koons earlier this year to organize an event on behalf of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. We ended up raising $500,000 to support the KHCC in its mission to advance the education and well-being of Bronx residents. Both events were incredibly successful and never would have taken place without a few casual but meaningful conversations.
Most people don’t realize how much influence a few conversations with the right people can do. They’re priceless.
Focus on consistency. — If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time as a CEO, it would be that consistency is critical to good leadership. More than anything else, being consistent and even-keeled convinces people to trust you. Who’s going to trust someone who’s constantly changing their mind? No one; nothing tears down trust and confidence from your staff and clients more than an inability to commit to a path.
Today, I practice due diligence in everything I do, but particularly my business. I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be able to lead anything, let alone a successful business, if I weren’t consistent.
Never stop learning. — Don’t ever think that you’re done learning. Everyone in business needs to keep seeking out knowledge about their market, industry, and whatever else they might do. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t study trends. As Warren Buffet says, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Growing up in the Bronx was hard sometimes, but it made me who I am and taught me to balance my emotional strength with compassion. As a kid, I knew countless people in my neighborhood — good people — were struggling financially. I think if I had to point to one person whose experiences shaped my worldview, it would have to be James.
James was a homeless veteran I knew as a kid. He used to walk me to school, and we’d talk. He had come back from the service only to lose his job and later his apartment. He was always so determined to break the cycle; he’d dress up in his worn suit and go to interviews with his head held high. He was a good friend, and a model for what constructive persistence should look like.
But one day, he didn’t show up for our usual walk. I searched for him after school, checked all of his old haunts, and eventually found that he had passed away during a subzero night in the city. It was shocking for me — this incredible guy, just gone like that for no reason other than bad circumstances and freezing temperatures.
Knowing James made me want to help people. If I’m being honest, it’s probably one of the formative experiences that made me want to get into community organizing. Since then, I’ve helped people experiencing homelessness find jobs and apartments and have become an advocate for homelessness initiatives. I believe that nonprofits and the government can come together on this issue; rather than the City of New York paying a grand a night to put someone up in a hotel, we can give them a job, a place to stay, and the chance to break the cycle.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I guess I would say that any movement I’d want to spark would fall under the umbrella of community. The idea of supporting one’s neighbors is something that connects to everything I do. We should save the planet for our families, friends, neighbors, and the strangers we share the globe with, because we need to live on Earth together. We should fight to eradicate homelessness because no one would want their mother, brother, or best friend struggling on the street. We should uphold child literacy because everyone should have the right to an education.
All of it comes down to one point: supporting your neighbors.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett
The way I see it, if you’ve done your homework, paid your dues, and stuck to your gut, you’re not taking a risk so much as executing an experience-backed decision. I can justify my decisions because the success I’ve seen proves that I’ve made good choices and taken the right risks.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
Philanthropy Website: http://danneiditch.org/
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!