Leonard Litwin, a major New York rental developer who became real estate’s most prolific donor and a symbol of its influence over state politics, died Sunday. He was 102.
Litwin died at his home in Melville, Long Island. Charles Dorego, longtime counsel for Litwin’s Glenwood Management confirmed the death to the New York Times. Steve Witkoff, who knew Litwin since he began representing him as an attorney in 1983, described him as “one of a kind, an incredible human being, immensely charitable.”
Litwin started in the real estate business in 1946, working with his father on developing garden apartments in Long Island. Over the course of his career, he developed more than 8,700 apartments in Manhattan, mostly luxury properties concentrated on the Upper East Side. He remained active at the company well into his nineties, working behind the scenes. And he continued to spend large sums on political donations, bankrolling the likes of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Glenwood’s holdings include the Fairmont, the Lucerne and the Barclay on the Upper East Side, as well as dozens of other rental towers. In 2016, it sold the Hamilton for $150 million to Charles Dayan’s Bonjour Capital. For years, the firm’s lobbying and campaign contribution efforts helped secure the continued renewal of the 421a developer tax exemption, and Glenwood gave generously to upstate politicians who typically supported the Urstadt Law, which restricts New York City’s ability to set its own rent regulations.
A December analysis by The Real Deal and ProPublica found that Glenwood, operating mostly through LLCs, gave at least $9 million to state politicians between 2000 and 2014. Litwin’s giving to Cuomo earned the governor the moniker “Governor Glenwood” from critics. He was also a major donor to former governors Eliot Spitzer and George Pataki.
In a statement, Spitzer said that Litwin “helped build the City of New York. The housing he built contributed to our communities and he defined an era in New York real estate.”
With the help of $1 billion in tax-exempt bonds issued by the state, Glenwood financed the development of a number of New York buildings, according to the Times. These included Liberty Plaza, a 45-story rental tower that became the first new apartment tower built in Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Litwin was for decades a member of the Real Estate Board of New York and was named its lifetime honorary chair in 2012. In a statement, REBNY President John Banks expressed his condolences and remarked that Litwin was “a real estate industry giant and an extraordinary philanthropist who generously participated in many of our city’s civic and charitable organizations.”
In 2015, Litwin was a key figure in the corruption trials of Silver and Skelos. Although Litwin was never charged with any crime in connection to the scandals, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) fined Glenwood $200,000 in December for violating lobbying laws. In turn, Glenwood admitted to employing the services of a law firm with the knowledge that Silver would be paid a kickback, and admitted to not disclosing improper attempts to influence Skelos, such as recommending his son for a job with an environmental technology company.
He is survived by two daughters, including Glenwood president Carole Litwin Pittelman, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.