Eugene Giscombe, a well-known Harlem real estate investor and broker nicknamed “Mayor of 125th Street,” died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm Sunday. He was 76.
Born and raised in Harlem, he rose to become one of the neighborhood’s most active real estate players of the past decades and played a key role in its economic revival. In 1982, he founded the real estate management, brokerage, consulting and development firm Giscombe Realty Group.
In 2007, the company brokered one of the biggest retail deals in Harlem’s history – a $50 million sale of 16 retail properties along 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard for an average of $1,430 per square foot.
In December 2015, Giscombe sold the 12-story Lee Building at 1825 Park Avenue to Savanna for $48 million. He had bought it for a mere $40,000 in 1979, which he called his best decision “besides marrying my wife.”
In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Giscombe pointed out the positive in Harlem’s recent gentrification. “With the influx of people that have access to higher education, better jobs, they’re going to be more demanding of the services that we provide to them, and that can only help the community,” he said. “It’s going to make the elected officials more responsive.”
Giscombe was the grandson of Lawrence Giscombe, a well-known real estate owner and developer in 1930s and 40s Harlem. He got his start in real estate in 1972 as head of the sales department at Harlem-based real estate firm Webb & Booker, before setting out on his own a decade later.
Although he later moved to the village of Pomona in Rockland County, he remained active in Harlem’s civil society, serving as chair of the 125th Street business improvement district and as a member of the Harlem YMCA’s board of directors, among other appointments. Giscombe was also an avid hunter. In the 2011 interview, he told the Times that he had been on 17 safaris on 5 continents. “I look at hunting as a challenge, and I also know that it has to be done in a responsible manner,” he said.
Giscombe leaves behind his wife Shirley and children Lesley, Susan and Lasalve, brothers Gary and Ronald Giscombe and several nieces and nephews. The family requests that donations in his name can be sent to Harlem Academy, 1330 Fifth Ave NYC 10026 or Harlem Branch YMCA, 5 West 63 St.7th Floor NYC 10023.