This month’s FM spotlight features Gary Fescine, Global Director of Facilities Building Operations at the global investment management corporation, BlackRock. Gary is a recipient of multiple accolades including being the IFMA NYC President from January 2003 to June 2005.
“I’ve known Gary for many years and feel I can speak to him from three perspectives, (1) a business associate; (2) a family man; and (3) a former IFMA NYC Chapter President. One common thread for all perspectives is that Gary embraces ‘change’. As someone that hopes to promote positive change in my personal and professional life, I admire this quality about Gary.” - James Camille, Current IFMA NYC President and Managing Director, Corporate Real Estate Services – BlackRock
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I never gave up my dream. I sang in an acapella group for many years and was on stage at the Meadowlands and Nassau Coliseum when I was 50 years old. It was the best time I’ve ever had.”
How did you get into the facilities field?
“I started my career in Residential Property Management, managing residential rental apartments on the Upper West Side of New York with a degree in Business Administration from Fordham University. I was involved in the conversion process from rentals to co-ops and then condominiums in the early 80’s, planning, construction, change management and day-to-day operations. I later switched to commercial property management to better manage my work / life balance. I managed an office building for Fairchild Publications (later bought by ABC), subsequently moving on to manage properties owned by Barneys NY, acquiring exposure to national retail facilities management and high-end, high touch, Facilities Management. I developed a strong desire for FM, so I went to NYU and took the FMA and RPA courses giving me designations as Facilities Management Administrator and Real Property Administrator.
I joined IFMA NYC to network with other FM’s and then served on the IFMA Board of Directors. I believed in the professionalism of Facilities Management and wanted to help to get the industry recognized. Then came a great opportunity to work near my home in Queens which would be a challenge - Industrial FM. I decided to take the risk. I became Director of Facilities for the New York Times at their plant in Whitestone, Queens. This experience with Industrial Facilities Management was very interesting and taught me how important process and technology is in Facilities Management. I then went on to work for the New York Post in the same capacity, building that plant from the ground up in the Bronx. As a result of my IFMA networking, I was then offered a job to head up Facilities in NY at BlackRock from my dear friends and fellow IFMA board members Brian Ostrowe and James Camille. I am currently Director of Global Building Operations for BlackRock, the largest asset management company in the world. We have 76 occupied sites located in 33 countries around the world.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“I’ve had many highlights including the Barneys store on 61st Street, The New York Post plant in the Bronx, earning the Certificate of Occupancy for The New York Times plant in Queens, and planning and rolling out a single technology platform for operations in BlackRock. I was also fortunate to work with many special people including Ray Pezzuti to develop a shared services FM business model for BlackRock. However, my best project was strategically planning and utilizing one of the best teams in FM management including Brian Ostrowe, Frank Lazzarro, J. Strong, Steve LaValley and Carol Farren, together winning the IFMA Chapter of the Year Award for New York in 2005.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“I have had many challenges and obstacles during my career. What I feel was one of the biggest challenges however, was that I did not believe in myself. I always had reservations, thinking that I wasn’t really good enough. However, I managed to act as if I could do it and make it happen. The key was surrounding myself with people who were experienced, capable and smart, continuously learning from their knowledge and emulating them. I was determined to advance and improve through education and new experiences. If I ever needed an answer, I knew that I had a seasoned network and expert sources where I could get answers. Most of these sources were in IFMA. This gave me the incentive to branch out into industries that I had little knowledge of, and quite frankly, it was extremely intimidating. I remember walking into The New York Times plant and seeing robots, miles of conveyor belts, huge paper rolls and very large printing presses, as well as offices and conference rooms, a café, nurses offices, and a credit union office. There were trucks, parking lots and a gas station, massive grounds, wet lands and geese. outside of the offices, café and conference rooms. This was all new to me.
I dedicated myself to keeping everything running smoothly and efficiently, preventing any major catastrophes. The newspaper ran every day and I took great pride in helping accomplish efficient production. Largely, I credit the fundamentals I learned through BOMA and all of the finishes I learned through IFMA associate members to help overcome the various challenges faced throughout my career. All in all, ‘I got by with a little help from my friends.’”
What learning experience would you pass on to future FM’s?
“Love what you do. Get involved in professional associations early on. Volunteer for committees and get on the board of directors to build networks. Don’t sit on the sidelines - the more dedication to your profession, the better. Build a trustworthy brand and do not entertain unethical business practices. Get as much education as possible and surround yourself with the best. Seek to constantly improve and strive to work for the best companies possible. Lastly, research, research, research and always think strategically.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.