Alan Shamah, 61, is the CEO of Shamah Properties, a New Jersey-based real estate company with apartment buildings in Brooklyn.
He was born in grew up in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn, attended public school, and has fond memories of the borough during a time when all of the neighbors knew each other.
Alan’s uncle was the first in his family to go into real estate. Alan recalled, at about age 18, driving his uncle’s car. It had a telephone – which was a novelty in the late 1970s.
“I thought, this is cool. Oh, I want to go into real estate too,” he laughed while reminiscing. “That may not have been the impetus to my career in real estate, but I had early exposure to it.”
Eventually, Alan’s father also became a realtor after a career in electrical engineering. He had one or two buildings when Alan graduated from college – not enough for him to join the company at that point. So, Alan went into the apparel industry as a salesman, intending to do that for a few years. But it turned into a 25-year career.
Eventually, Alan joined Shamah Properties in 2007. By that time, the company had 10 buildings with about 1,000 units. Five of those buildings were in Brooklyn. Alan became the company’s CEO after his father died in 2011. The company was located for about 20 years on Coney Island Avenue in Ditmas Park before moving to New Jersey.
COVID-19 had a devastating impact on Alan’s life. His 87-year-old mother contracted the virus and passed away at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey. A few days later, Alan tested positive for the virus and battled pneumonia.
While fighting for his life in the hospital, he recalled still having to deal with the demands of being a landlord, which the statewide lockdown complicated.
“The City of New York and the city-funded tenant associations were shooting first and asking questions second,” he said.
Although New York banned nonessential workers from doing their job, Alan said he became uncharacteristically angry that the city demanded immediate repairs on “frivolous complaints,” such as loose doorknobs or cracked tiles.
However, he wasn’t surprised because he believes that city policymakers are by-and-large “anti-landlord.” The cancel rent movement during the pandemic heightened that attitude.
He also viewed the pandemic in philosophical ways. One of the impacts has been the loss of “the human experience,” Alan said. The human experience involves interacting with other humans – not machines or through computer screens.
“After the pandemic is over, people will go back to the human experience,” he predicted. “If you’re not going to live the human experience, it’s not worth it.”