In memoriam: A look back at real estate players the industry lost this year

Tamir Sapir, Bernard Spitzer and Glenn Markman among deaths in 2014

New York /
Dec.December 19, 2014 02:20 PM

New York’s real estate community said goodbye in 2014 to several pioneering developers and agents who helped to shape the city’s skyline. But the year started with the kidnapping and grisly murder of a little-known Brooklyn landlord, and every twist and turn of his dramatic case was closely followed by the industry.

Developers and landlords

Menachem Stark, a 39-year-old landlord whose real estate portfolio included about 1,000 apartments in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area was kidnapped outside his Williamsburg office on Jan. 2. His body was discovered in a dumpster in Great Neck the next day.

Construction worker Kendel Felix was charged with the homicide in April.


Others who died in 2014 were members of prominent real estate families – Zeckendorf, Spitzer, Safra and Sapir.


In February, developer William Zeckendorf Jr., who had a hand in Building Worldwide Plaza and the Zeckendorf Towers overlooking Union Square, died at age 84.

He was the son of William Zeckendorf Sr., who assembled the site for the United Nations building. His sons, William Lie and Arthur Zeckendorf, developed 15 Central Park West and 50 United Nations Plaza.


Moise Safra, the wealthy Brazilian banker and real estate investors, died in June at age 79.

Born into a Syrian Jewish banking family in Aleppo, Safra was a member of Brazil’s second-richest family; last summer, the family paid $1.4 billion last summer for a 40 percent stake in the General Motors building along with Chinese real estate developer Zhang Xin.


Mack-Cali Realty Corporation co-founder John Cali, died in February.

The New Jersey-based real estate investment trust went public in 1994 and owns about 280 buildings. Cali retired in 2003.


In August, Arthur Cohen, who helped rehabilitate Times Square by investing in an office tower and Crowne Plaza hotel, died at 84.

Cohen created the nation’s largest publicly held real estate company after taking his Arlen Realty and Development Corporation public in 1971.


Tamir Sapir, a Soviet émigré who invested in New York City commercial real estate during the early 1990s, died in September after a long illness.

The founder of the Sapir Organization, who made his fortune bartering fertilizer and oil in the 1980s, counts the 26-story Trump Soho condo-hotel among his major projects. Son Alex Sapir was appointed president and chairman of the firm in 2006.


Real estate investor and philanthropist Bernard Spitzer, who had been battling Parkinson’s disease, died at age 90 in November.

The father of former Governor Eliot Spitzer – who has taken the lead at his family’s firm — developed numerous residential and commercial buildings, Including 150 East 57th Street, 800 Fifth Avenue, 730 Fifth Avenue, 350 West Broadway and the Corinthian, between 37th and 38th Streets on First Avenue.


Also in November, Victor Elmaleh, founder of World Wide Group, died at age 95.

The Moroccan-born developer, along with his brothers, developed more than $7 billion of real estate, including Worldwide Plaza on Manhattan’s West Side. Elmaleh was also an accomplished painter and squash champion.


Architects and planners


William Ronan, the MTA’s first chairman, died in October at age 101.

Ronan, who was appointed chairman in 1965 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, is credited with creating Metro-North, buying the Long Island Rail Road and launching construction of the Second Avenue Subway.


Architect Paul Katz, who designed major projects in Japan, China, London and New York, died in November at 57.

The South African-born president and managing principal of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, who also played competitive chess, was involved in the master plan for Hudson Yards, including KPF’s 5 million square feet of commercial space there.



Architect Frederic Schwartz, who is credited with the creation of Sept. 11 memorials in New Jersey and Westchester, died in May at age 63.

Schwartz was also involved in designing the new Whitehall Ferry Terminal, and developed low-income housing in post-Katrina New Orleans.



In January, veteran Cushman & Wakefield broker Matthew Stacom died at 95.

The father of “Queen of the skyscrapers” Darcy Stacom of CBRE and Tara Stacom of Cushman, his career highlights included spearheading the sale of Chicago’s Sears Tower site in 1962.


Rebecca Daniels, a Brown Harris Stevens agent in Greenwich Village, died in October.

BHS also lost Gordon Stanton, an agent in the firm’s East Side office, who died in October at age 55.


In November, the commercial brokerage community lost Glenn Markman, a 28-year industry veteran who negotiated leases on behalf of Spike Lee and the Brooklyn Nets.

Born in Brooklyn, the Cushman & Wakefield agent became a heavyweight dealmaker in Brooklyn, and an advocate for the borough. He was 52.


That same month, the residential real estate world lost Abby Gellert, a longtime sales director at Halstead Property’s West Side office, who died at 67.

Gellert worked at Halstead for 29 years and helped to open the firm’s Harlem office in 2006.

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