Memorial celebration held for broker who helped expand Rockefeller Center

By C. J. Hughes | September 30, 2010 12:00PM

Clinton Willis Blume (Credit: Clinton Blume III)

Clinton Willis Blume Jr., a managing director with ABS Partners Real Estate who helped arrange the deal that allowed for the 1960s expansion of Rockefeller Center, died June 6 from a brain tumor. He was 77.

A celebration of Blume’s life is planned for today at the Union League Club, at 38 East 37th Street in Manhattan, at 5 p.m.

Blume worked as a commercial broker for his entire career, according to his family, including stints with the now-defunct Ely-Cruikshank and later, with Cushman and Wakefield.

It was while at Cushman, in 1983, that he won his first “ingenious deal” award from the Real Estate Board of New York, for working to re-open the Cloud Club on the 66th floor of the Chrysler Building as a private dining room for bankers, although the deal was ultimately scuttled, according to reports.

In 2007, while at ABS, Blume won that same award for relocating a handful of genealogical clubs from their longtime Beaux-Arts home at 122 West 58th Street to 20 West 44th Street, to make way for a synagogue.

That deal involved five law firms and four architectural firms, according to ABS’ website, and the closing took 12 hours.

Those clubs were focused on America’s earliest settlers, which was territory that Blume — a Gramercy Park resident who was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Mayflower Society — knew well, as his family stretched back many generations in the United States.

That family was also involved in New York real estate dating to the Civil War, when a Blume sold a huge parcel that included a family farm, beer gardens and hotels in Flatbush, Brooklyn, according to Blume III, Blume’s son.

In the 1920s, a Blume helped develop the town of Hewlett, N.Y., on Long Island, as well as homes in Westhampton, said the son, adding that his grandfather also helped lease the Empire State Building when it opened.

But the Blume undertaking that perhaps most visibly shaped Manhattan was the assemblage of parcels in the 1960s and 1970s that allowed Rockefeller Center to expand along the western side of Sixth Avenue. Three Blumes — Blume, his brother and Blume III — worked on that deal, which added four high-rise offices with wide plazas, including the Time & Life Building at West 50th Street.

“He was a man of great ethics and convention, and he tried to live his life that way and do business that way,” said Blume’s son, who added that none of his father’s three children will continue the business. “He’s a tough act to follow.”

And, those “ingenious” awards were well-deserved, said Jay Kreisberg, an ABS senior managing director.

“He never stopped looking at the underside of rocks to do something different, and that’s not something you find with someone in business as long as he has been,” Kreisberg said.

Blume lived in the Gramercy Park area and had a summer home in Montauk. In addition to his son, Blume is survived by his companion, Annette Hunt, as well as a daughter Alison Blume and another son, William.