A New York-based thrift, eager to accelerate its growth, has turned to a veteran real estate dealmaker to show it the way.

That sounds eerily like the prescription that many thrifts followed to disaster in the last decade, but New York Federal Savings Bank contends that the parallel doesn't apply.

The three-year-old thrift, with $33 million in assets, named Donald L. Shapiro chief executive officer in April.

Mr. Shapiro, 56, a board member since the founding of the thrift, had been president and CEO of Vector Real Estate Corp., an investment development concern, for the past 17 years.

Thoughts of Diversification

He is running a bank that has specialized in lending to owners of small multifamily properties - a niche that has kept it free of the loan losses that brough down many larger institutions in the 1980s. Now, his thoughts are turning toward diversification away from real estate.

"We want to be known as more than a real estate bank," Mr. Shapiro said. "I will be looking into new areas such as factoring, auto lending, and student loans to see what is most suitable and profitable."

Mr. Shapiro joined a management team that includes John M. Gillen, president and chief operating officer, and Edward Abramson, chairman of the board.

"The real estate business has been an exciting career for me," Mr. Shapiro said. He said he will miss "helping to develop properties and building up equity, but the opportunities in the real estate market have changed tremendously over the years."

"I will be able to relate my experience in the real estate field to my new job, for example, in the handling of mortgage loans from the inside," Mr. Shapiro said.

He has been in real estate and finance since earning an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1961. He began his career with the home builder Levitt & Sons Inc., famous for the Levittown developments, and rose to vice president in charge of land acquisition in seven states and Puerto Rico.

Managed Big Long Island Mall

In 1971, he became executive vice president of Peerage Properties Inc., managing the two-million-square-foot Roosevelt Field shopping mall on Long Island and other major holdings.

Mr. Shapiro co-founded Vector Real Estate three years later. Under his direction, the firm developed or acquired, and then leased and managed, commercial and residential properties in eight eastern states and Texas.

Mr. Shapiro is a director of the Associated Builders and Owners of New York.

He said his biggest challenge will be to take a small institution and make it grow safely, within traditional banking guidelines.

New York Federal already has a strong foundation: Despite its real estate focus, the thrift has virtually no troubled loans and a capital-to-assets ratio of about 16%, said Mr. Shapiro. Roughly 75% of its mortgage loans are in New York City.

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