Crain's New York Business
August 4, 2014
The nonprofit's CEO redirects attention and capital to its core mission of making loans to small and midsize affordable-housing developments.
On July 30, Rafael Cestero, chief executive of the nonprofit Community Preservation Corp., stood beside Mayor Bill de Blasio as he announced that CPC would get a whopping $350 million in public and private capital. The funds will finance new and restored affordable apartments in the city and state, but the shocker was the recipient. About two years ago, CPC had been on the brink of financial collapse, a victim of bad bets on residential condos and an ill-fated project to redevelop the Domino Sugar site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
A rising New York economy helped restore CPC, but so, too, did the 2011 arrival of Mr. Cestero, a former commissioner of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
"We have been able to work out our distressed portfolio and repair our balance sheet," he said. Under Mr. Cestero, CPC has also stayed away from the condo market, in favor of redirecting its attention and capital to its core mission of making loans to small and midsize affordable-housing developments. "The announcement was a big day for CPC—it allowed us to publicly put the past behind us and look to the future," he said.
Mr. Cestero has spent most of his career in the city's affordable-housing world. From 1990 to 2009, he put in stints at housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners and at HPD, before being appointed to head the latter in 2009.
Ironically, while a series of his predecessors in that post had been able to tap CPC to fund affordable projects, Mr. Cestero was not able to do so in his tenure because of CPC's financial fall. That experience made his move to help rescue the troubled nonprofit only natural, if not imperative.
"For me," said the 46-year-old, Cornell-educated CPC boss, "this was an incredible opportunity to continue my life's work, and help an institution that has such a rich history in New York City."