Hero of the Day: Real estate exec gives free rent to pizzeria feeding hospitals

Ben Kraus

With all of the dramatic changes in our lives these days, here’s a little bit of good news our of New York:

Free rent might be a pie in the sky for out-of-work New Yorkers, but this Manhattan landlord is making it a reality for a pizzeria that’s been feeding hospital workers. 

“When times get bad, there’s one thing New Yorkers do, and that’s help each other,” said Ben Kraus, an asset manager at A&E Real Estate Management, which offered at least three months’ free rent for Sauce Pizzeria.

“Deciding to get involved was easy for us. It was very clear that we needed to do this.”

Sauce’s East 12th Street outpost in the East Village is just one of many assets in Kraus’s portfolio, but when he heard owner Adam Elzer was donating thousands of free pies for heroic hospital workers, he said he knew he had to help. 

“There were a variety of financial ways that we can contribute to the effort. We thought that waiving his rent would be a good first gesture,” Kraus, 31, told The Post. 

“It’s easy for people to sit around and be scared right now, but we thought watching Adam and his team deliver pizzas to health-care workers, who are truly heroes right now, gave us hope during this crisis.”  

When the city first started to shut down over the coronavirus about two weeks ago, Elzer and his business partner saw how bad the situation was getting at city hospitals and started donating 20 pizzas a day to infirmaries across Manhattan — even as they scraped by on takeout business. 

“When we put it up on social media, a lot of the nurses and doctors started to write us and tell us their own stories of, ‘Hey, I’m working 18 hours a day and it’s really hard to get food. We can’t get to the cafeteria, we can’t get to the floor, a lot of restaurants are not open.’ So we just started to increase what we were doing,” Elzer, 39, told The Post. 

Four days later, he got a call from Kraus, who said one of the top bosses at A&E, Douglas Eisenberg, heard about what Sauce was doing. Kraus implored A&E to help and soon Eisenberg was calling Elzer with the good news. 

“His immediate thing on that phone call was, ‘I’m going to make sure you’re good with rent. We’re going to give you three months of rent and we’ll work it out if this goes further,’” Elzer recounted to The Post. 

The goal is to have him redeploy what he was going to pay in rent toward operations and making more pizzas,” Kraus added. 

The generosity has been a “humongous help,” Elzer said. 

“It means that we can focus our energy on basically keeping our team employed,” the pizza man explained.  

“If we were also thinking about rent, it becomes very daunting. There’s no possible way to come even close to breaking even or to surviving for however many weeks this goes. It would destroy us.”

Elzer has now closed his shop for regular business and is pushing out nearly 500 pizzas, seven days a week, to 35 hospitals across the city.

His team is averaging a rate of 20 pies, every 30 minutes, for 12 hours a day — all for hospital workers. 

A&E, along with members of the Real Estate Board of New York, has raised $20,000 on top of the free rent for the effort. 

“We’re feeding hundreds of health-care workers every day at multiple hospitals around the city, so we have a great initiative and we’re seeing some success with it, and hopefully we can keep it going the entire quarantine,” Kraus said. 

“The stories that we’ve heard about people walking in, getting a slice and going right back to work, the smiles that are on their faces, it’s unbelievable.”

New York Post
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