Real Estate Industry Deaths in 2021

Top row: David Barclay, Gene Martinez, Ben Lambert, Steven Goodstein. Middle row: Arne Sorensen, Eugene H. Webbs, Bill Lee, Eli Broad. Bottom row: Sol Arker, Sylvia Deutsch, Gene “Taxi King” Friedman Donald Elliott

As the year draws to a close, it is time to remember some of the titans and icons of real estate who will not be with us in the next.

This annual in memoriam is organized by date of death and includes links to the obituaries published in The Real Deal.

David Barclay, behemoth of the British hospitality industry, died Jan. 13 following a short illness. He was 86. Barclay and his twin, Frederick Barclay, own The Telegraph, Ritz Hotel and other real estate investments. The two got their start in the 1960s converting former boarding houses into hotels and went on to dominate the sector.

Gene Martinez, sales manager and early Compass recruit, died suddenly on Jan. 19 of a stroke at 60. Martinez’s move from rival brokerage Corcoran to the then-scrappy upstart Compass was a turning point in the two firms’ tug-of-war for talent.

Ben Lambert, who brought Wall Street to real estate, died Jan. 30 at 82. The Eastdil founder wrangled with the unruly stepchild of dealmaking that was commercial real estate before the 1970s. The art student-turned-fabric salesman-turned-investment banker is just one example of the many walks of life from which real estate’s newly departed came.

Steven Goodstein, a developer largely responsible for building up Battery Park City in the 1980s, died Feb. 13 from pneumonia in his South Florida home at 81. Goodstein’s parents immigrated to the city from Poland and started a construction company that grew into a dynastic presence in New York City real estate. Among the most notable developments during his tenure is the Fifth Avenue Tower near Bryant Park.

Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, died Feb. 15 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 62. Marriott executive chairman J.W. Marriott Jr. described Sorenson as “an exceptional executive — but more than that, he was an exceptional human being.” He was responsible for the hotel chain’s expansion, notably its $13 million acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Eugene H. Webbs, an industry leader who spearheaded the redevelopment of Harlem, died April 7. He was 102 years old. In 1968 Webbs co-founded Webb & Brooker, the brokerage that would become one of the most successful in the uptown neighborhood. Among the firm’s most significant projects was Renaissance Plaza. Debs was also involved in founding Carver Federal Savings Bank, which remains one of the largest Black-owned banks in the country.

Bill Lee, founder of commercial real estate behemoth Lee & Associates, died April 5 at 78 following a long battle with cancer. Lee founded his eponymous firm, known for its unique profit-sharing model, in the late 1970s and grew it into the nationwide company it is today.

Eli Broad, the billionaire developer, philanthropist and founder of KB Home, died April 30 at 87. Broad started the Detroit-focused homebuilding company that would become KB Home in the 1950s. The New York City native went on to forge some of Southern California’s most famous developments, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti called Broad the city’s “most influential private citizen of his generation.” Throughout his life, the developer gave nearly a third of his $7 billion fortune to an array of causes.

Sol Arker, head of Arker Companies, died from cancer May 17 at 73. Vicki Been, the New York City deputy mayor of housing and economic development, called Arker “a visionary leader and tireless advocate for affordable housing.” Arker founded his firm with his father, Holocaust survivor Aron Arker, in 1949. The firm now has upwards of 10,000 affordable units throughout the city.

Sylvia Deutsche, the first woman to lead the New York City Planning Commission, died June 21 in Monroe Township, New Jersey. She was 96. Deutsche was critical to the reimagining of Times Square as the world knows it today.

Ronald Goerler Sr., founder of Jamesport Vineyards and plumbing supplier Crest/Good Manufacturing Company, died Aug. 30 at 95. Of the dozens of wineries along Long Island’s North Fork, Jamesport Vineyards was the fifth.

Gene “Taxi King” Friedman, the Russian-born entrepreneur who became the most prolific holder of New York City taxi medallions before a dramatic downfall, died after a heart attack Oct. 24. He was 50 years old. Freidman used some of his taxi wealth to assemble a substantial real estate portfolio.

Alexander Garvin, urban planner and key figure in the reconstruction of Ground Zero, died Dec. 17. He was 80 years old. The Yale professor was a native New Yorker who was also responsible for the Atlanta Beltline and the cultural changes it ushered in.

Richard Rogers, the visionary architect whose work shaped the cityscapes of Paris and London, died Dec. 18. He was 88. His work has been described as a “unique interpretation of the Modern Movement’s fascination with the building as a machine.”

Donald Elliott, who chaired the City Planning Commission from 1966 to 1973, died Dec. 23 at 89. His legacy as an urban planner includes dividing the city into community districts to localize and promote civic engagement. Elliott was described as “a realist who believed in making a more livable city.”

Contact Raji Pandya

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