Eugene Grant, the veteran real estate mogul who headed Eugene M. Grant & Co., died Tuesday at the age of 99.
Grant was most recently known as the long-term owner of the St. John’s Terminal building at 550 Washington Street. He sold his 50.1 percent stake in the 1.28 million-square-foot office building to Fortress Investment Group, Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners for $250 million in 2013.
Grant was born Eugene Martin Greenberg in Hell’s Kitchen in 1918 and grew up in the Bronx. His father, Samuel Greenberg, had immigrated from Russia as a teenager and later became a real estate investor.
After skipping two years in elementary school and graduating high school at age 15, Grant went on to study at City College of New York, the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School. In 1942 he joined the U.S. Army, spending the second half of the war as a bomber escort pilot based in Britain, flying over France, Luxembourg and Germany.
In 1948, he met his future wife, Toronto native Emily Louise Geldsaler, during a ski trip to Quebec. He proposed to her within 48 hours of their first encounter, Grant told Michael Stoler on “The Stoler Report” in 2013. Back in New York, Grant — who had changed his name after the war — and his father began building housing for returning veterans and acquired 88 Central Park West in a joint venture with Lionel Bauman. The deal marked the beginning of a partnership that would last for 34 years.
Grant and Bauman went on to buy several apartment buildings and department stores, including the old Saks building at the corner of 34th Street and Broadway.
His big break came in 1962, when the New York Central Railroad put the St. John’s building up for sale. Grant wasn’t the seller’s first choice, he told Stoler, but still ended up owning it.
“That’s my theory,” he said. “Usually the pioneer in all these acquisitions who visualizes some dream involving real estate, that pioneer doesn’t usually end up with the strawberry shortcake.”
Among other charitable endeavors, Grant served as chairman of the UJA-Federation, the Westchester Holocaust and Human Rights Center, and the Jewish Museum of New York.
A funeral service will be held on Thursday, April 5, at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, New York, according to the death notice in the New York Times.