New York real estate is some of the most desirable and expensive in the world, but the ever-fluctuating price of a square foot of space in a given neighborhood is unquestionably dwarfed by the value of human life. This year, the commercial real estate world lost several notable figures and The Commercial Observer would like to take a moment to remember them.
Samuel “Sandy” Lindenbaum, 1935-2012
Samuel Lindenbaum, a counselor at the firm Kramer Levin who was considered one of the city’s leading land use attorneys, succumbed to esophageal cancer this August following a yearlong bout of treatment. Known for his knowledge of the city’s zoning laws and regulations, he was the counsel of choice for major developers—including Donald Trump, Harry Macklowe and the real estate investment trust Vornado—in seeking city approvals for big-time projects.
“Sandy was, by acclamation, an institution in New York real estate,” said Michael T. Sillerman, co-chair of the land use group at Kramer Levin and Mr. Lindenbaum’s colleague for over 30 years.
Mr. Lindenbaum began his career in real estate in the early 1960s after graduating from Harvard Law School. The ins and outs of zoning were not unknown to him, as his father was chairman of the City Planning Commission for a period and was also an attorney.
Some of Mr. Lindenbaum’s more notable deals include securing the rights to raise the Trump World Tower on the East Side in the 1990s, placing the Apple Store under the General Motors Building, and securing Planning Commission and City Council approval for Vornado’s 15 Penn Plaza across from Penn Station. Mr. Lindenbaum represented three generations of the famed Zeckendorf family—the familial dynasty behind such projects as the United Nations in 1947, the Roosevelt Field shopping center on Long Island, the Century City complex in Los Angeles, 515 Park Avenue and 15 Central Park West. “He could literally remember what he did for the grandfather, the father and the son,” said Mr. Sillerman.
“Clients came to him because of his brilliance, his creativity, his economy of advice, his reliability, his long experience,” Mr. Sillerman remembered. “And also—and this is sometimes underestimated—his wit and his humor and his ability to find a successful way out of the darkest or most challenging problem.”
Mr. Lindenbaum is survived by his wife, Linda, and their family.
David Winoker, 1963-2012
David Winoker, principal at Winoker Realty, died tragically before his time this past June while participating in a friend’s birthday skydiving adventure. According to Platteskill Police Chief Joseph Ryan, whose department led the investigation into the accident, Mr. Winoker’s tandem partner in the jump, Aleksandr Chulsky of Brooklyn, an instructor with skydiving outfit Skydive the Ranch, became unconscious or incapacitated during the fall, possibly from the force of the parachute’s deployment. Though the chute properly opened, without Mr. Chulsky handling the controls, the pair entered a violent spin and struck the ground with enough force to take both of their lives.
“He was a very decent human being, very honest,” said Corey J. Abdo, principal of Winoker Realty and an 11-year colleague of Mr. Winoker. “He was the kind of person people relied on because he would tell them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear.” The business he shepherded was based on a philosophy of integrity and sincerity, eschewing needless risk that might endanger the firm. Mr. Winoker never spoke down to or ill of others and never showed despair in the face of adversity, Mr. Abdo said. “There was no darkness in his soul whatsoever,” he added.
Mr. Winoker had found success with his business since assuming control of the company after his father, Sidney, retired over a decade ago. Winoker Realty employed more than a dozen brokers and was known as one of the busiest leasing companies in the city’s bustling Garment District. Last year, he won one of the company’s largest assignments to date, picking up the agency assignment for 1450 Broadway, a 400,000-square-foot office building just south of Times Square.
In a July 2011 sit-down with The Commercial Observer, Mr. Winoker spoke of his company’s strategy of seeking value where it was found, as opposed to staking out and expanding within the neighborhood in which it was strongest. He also spoke of using social networking to further the company’s business. “We’re in the preliminary stages,” Mr. Winoker said. “We’re working on some social media networking, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or another network … We’re looking at different ways to promote, develop and use those search engines as marketing tools.”
He also spoke about his belief in a more hands-on approach to business. “I really believe that at the end of the day the business is really about people, and there’s no substitute for visiting a tenant, going to the building and seeing the things first-hand,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do by just dealing with a BlackBerry and a computer.”
He is survived by his wife, Jillian, and three children.
Irving Schneider, 1919-2012
Irving Schneider was co-chairman and COO of Helmsley-Spear Inc., a company he’d been with for over 50 years.
Along with Alvin Schwartz, Mr. Schneider was one of legendary New York real estate tycoon Harry Helmsley’s top lieutenants and fought a bitter battle for control of the company against the dying Mr. Helmsley’s wife, Leona.
At the time, Helmsley-Spear controlled about 100 Manhattan office buildings, including the Empire State Building and 1 Penn Plaza, and Messrs. Schneider and Schwartz sued Ms. Helmsley in 1996, claiming that she had siphoned as much as $40 million out of Helmsley-Spear and that she owed each of them $5.7 million in back pay, according to a 1997 report by the New York Daily News. Later that year, Messrs. Schneider and Schwartz bought out control of the firm. In a statement, Mr. Schneider said his association with Harry Helmsley was “the most positive business relationship” of his life, according to The L.A. Times.
An active philanthropist, Mr. Schneider was a member of the Brandeis University board of trustees and helped organize Brandeis fund-raising activities in Palm Beach for many years, according to the University. One of Brandeis’s most generous supporters, he funded construction of the $15 million Irving Schneider and Family Building at the Heller School, which opened in 2006. He also established the school’s Schneider Institutes for Health Policy. Brandeis University presented him with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1983.
In addition to Brandeis, his philanthropic affiliations included the Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y., the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, UJA-Federation of New York, City College, the Jewish Communal Fund and United Israel Appeal.