ATCO Properties’ H. Dale Hemmerdinger dies at 78

Served as MTA chairman during the Great Recession

ATCO Properties’ H. Dale Hemmerdinger
ATCO Properties’ H. Dale Hemmerdinger (The Hemmerdinger Family)

H. Dale Hemmerdinger, chairman of ATCO Properties and one-time chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, died on April 20. He was 78.

Hemmerdinger’s son, Damon, announced on Twitter that his father died after a seven-week battle stemming from complications of post-Covid pneumonia.

In an interview Monday, Damon remembered his father as someone who loved people and “built his own network, his own village, his own community, centered around his family” as well as around friends and colleagues.

Born in 1944, Hemmerdinger was 23 years old when he joined the family firm, ATCO Properties & Management. Hemmerdinger turned ATCO into a prominent player in New York real estate, responsible for the development, ownership and management of millions of square feet in the local market and beyond.

Notable holdings in the ATCO portfolio include the 20-story, 254,000-square-foot office building at 555 Fifth Avenue; luxury rental buildings at 40 Central Park South (where Lady Gaga was a tenant) and 41 West 58th Street on Billionaires’ Row; and the 18-story, 165,000-square-foot office building at 240 West 35th Street.

In December his firm bought out Richard Ruben’s stake at 630 Third Avenue for $98 million.

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Hemmerdinger’s most enduring legacy in New York real estate, according to his son, stemmed from his stint as chairman of the MTA from 2007 to 2009, when the global financial crisis threatened the transit agency’s very existence. The authority set records for on-time performance during his tenure.

“Dale was a very supportive, generous and thoughtful chairman at an extremely difficult time for the MTA,” said Eliot Sander, who ran the agency as Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s appointee. “We had to do fare and toll increases, our budget had melted down, and we were transitioning to a new administration. Dale was a source of stability during that period.”

Hemmerdinger was Spitzer’s choice as chairman, after the governor had been thwarted in an effort to consolidate the role of chairman and executive director. Hemmerdinger presided over the start of construction of East Side Access, a massive project to bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal. After years of delays and spiraling costs, Grand Central Madison opened this year to generally positive reviews.

Hemmerdinger also served as commissioner on the NYC Conciliation and Appeals Board and as a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination. He held roles at the Citizens Budget Commission, the Realty Foundation of New York and the New York City Police Foundation, where he created an award for excellence in the community.

Hemmerdinger served as a trustee of his alma mater, New York University, and was on the board of directors at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Nightingale-Bamford School, the Naval War College. and Harlem Academy. He was a member of various communities, including the Harmonie Club, Beach Point Club, University Club and New York Yacht Club.

Damon described his father as a quiet and self-spoken man who loved taking each of his grandchildren out for breakfast so he could form a more personal relationship with them.

Hemmerdinger is also survived by his wife, Elizabeth, his children, ATCO co-presidents Damon and Kate, daughter-in-law Jacquie and son-in-law Adam Goodman.

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