This Real Estate Kingpin Maps Out the Path to Megadeals

The best view of New York City might just be in a near-windowless conference room on the 12th floor of a Midtown Manhattan office building.

Splayed across 10 folding tables, a map pieced together with paper, tape and sticky notes details every block and parcel — 27,649 properties — in Manhattan below 96th Street on the East Side and 110th Street on the West Side.

The map is the work of Bob Knakal, who created it by walking every avenue and street during the desolate early months of the pandemic.

Updated regularly, the lots are color-coded with highlighters and sticky notes to show which are for sale (green sticky notes), were recently sold (red sticky notes), are owned by the city (pink highlights) or are under construction (green highlights). Orange highlights means a lot is underutilized — and there is a possible deal to be made.

For four decades, Mr. Knakal has used his obsession with data and creative marketing techniques to achieve rarefied status in the cutthroat world of New York City real estate. He is widely considered by industry professionals to be the top commercial sales broker by number of transactions in the largest commercial market in the country.

“It’s not really the real estate business, it is the information business,” said Mr. Knakal, 61, during a recent tour of what he calls the Map Room, where his cartographic creation lives.

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