They built New York: Alexander Bing

Developer built three dozen buildings with brother Leo between 1906 and 1921
By Eileen AJ Connelly | October 29, 2015 03:25PM

Working with his brother, Leo, Alexander Bing was the business mind behind the firm Bing & Bing, one of New York City’s most prolific developers. Between 1906 and 1921, the pair built more than three dozen apartment buildings and hotels.

The properties, many of which were designed by prominent architect Emery Roth, featured spacious units in some of the city’s prime neighborhoods and are considered the very definition of “pre-war classic.” Among them were the Alden, at 82nd and Central Park West, The Southgate Apartment Complex On East 52nd Street, 2 Horatio Street in the West Village and the Gramercy Park Hotel.

The Bings “made their names synonymous with stately, spacious apartments in elegantly detailed buildings that often had Art Deco touches,” the New York Times wrote in a 2006 feature on their Upper East Side buildings.

“Sometimes, you’ll find in a real estate ad even now, a ‘Bing & Bing building,’” noted the Museum of the City of New York’s Albrecht.

At 1000 Park Avenue, the two carved figures in medieval dress near the main entrance of their apartment building are said to be “portraits” of the brothers.

But their prolific production for the gentry was just a part of the legacy.

Alexander Bing retired from the family firm in 1921 to get involved in developing lower-income communities. In the early 1920s, he provided funding for the City Housing Corporation of New York City, which built Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, and the planned community of Radburn in New Jersey, which introduced concepts like the cul-de-sac and interior parklands. He was also a patron of the arts and a renowned philanthropist.

Bing & Bing continued to manage many of the founders’ properties until the mid-1980s, when the family’s heirs sold them in several transactions, including a block of 29 buildings that in 1985 went for more than $250 million to a partnership led by real estate firm M.J. Raynes.