Origin story: How Bruce Eichner launched his career 

As a young prosecutor, the future developer saw Park Slope’s potential

Origin Story: How Developer Bruce Eichner Got Started
Ian Bruce Eichner and 40 Montgomery Place (Continuum Company, Google Maps, Getty)

Ian Bruce Eichner’s roots in Brooklyn go back further than his opponents’.

The iconoclastic developer is known to people in the borough mostly for his attempt to build two 39-story towers near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2021. 

That mixed-income rental project was ostensibly killed because of the shadows it would cast on the garden, but that was — as much as anything — a convenient rationale for Crown Heights residents who either didn’t want towers or thought Eichner wasn’t offering enough affordable units.

Eichner should have known better, because he grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, and has been in real estate development since 1973. He was 28 then and had discovered ungentrified Park Slope while working as a prosecutor for the Brooklyn district attorney, where he shared an office with a resident of the neighborhood.

With no capital or industry connections, Eichner and his first wife, Helen, borrowed money and bought a rooming house at 40 Montgomery Place from Florence Fitzpatrick, who lived across the street at 39 Montgomery. Property records show they got a $50,000 mortgage from the seller and a $15,000 mortgage from Joseph Fitzpatrick. Both loans were for eight years at 7.5 percent interest.

To renovate it into a proper rental, Eichner borrowed another $40,000 from a “shylock,” as he put it in a 2011 interview. As you might guess, that loan is not in property records.

Today, Montgomery Place is the most coveted block in one of Brooklyn’s most coveted neighborhoods. The six-bedroom townhouse at 45 Montgomery just sold for $12.6 million. And 40 Montgomery, although it has six units and was built in 1920, does not appear to be rent-stabilized, judging from StreetEasy listings.

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Eichner was right about Park Slope and 40 Montgomery Place, but the magnificent property produced no windfall for him. His marriage ended “in an hour,” he once told TRD, and Helen got the building in 1980. (In 2012 she transferred it to a family-owned LLC, which still owns it.)

But Eichner went on to do lots of projects in New York, including Madison Square Park Tower, City Spire, One Broadway Place, The Manhattan Club, The Royale and 180 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Further afield, he’s built the Continuum South Beach in Miami and the Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. 

The developer, who turns 79 in a month, is now back in the news because he’s taking another crack at developing his plot in Crown Heights, 962 Franklin Avenue.

This time he’s proposing only 14 stories, not just to cast smaller shadows, but because the previous rezoning attempt’s failure canceled his contract to buy the adjacent parcel, 960 Franklin. 

That site was sold to another developer, Yitzchok Schwartz, who plans 300 market-rate condos — which means that the locals who had demanded Eichner increase affordability there will end up with none.

But that’s another story.

Read more

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