Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Samuel Jayson LeFrak

Samuel Jayson LeFrak - Chairman of The Lefrak Organization (Housing Development); Political Centipede

Samuel J. LeFrak (1918- April 16, 2003) was a noted housing developer who chaired a private building firm, The LeFrak Organization, which had revenues of $2.8 billion, as of 1999. The LeFrak Organization was also ranked 45th on the Forbes list of top 500 private companies.[1] The development firm is best known for major development projects in Battery Park City, Lefrak City in Queens, and Newport, Jersey City. The LeFrak Organization was founded in 1883 in France, by Samuel J. LeFrak's grandfather, Maurice.[1]

LeFrak grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Erasmus Hall High School.[2] He attended the University of Maryland, College Park, from which he graduated in 1940,[3] with the University's LeFrak Hall named for him. In 1988, LeFrak was honored by the United Nations along with former President Jimmy Carter, for their global contributions through "Habitat International."


Samuel J. LeFrak (1918- April 16, 2003) was a noted housing developer who chaired a private
Samuel J. LeFrak '40
Inducted April 22, 1995
As chairman of The LeFrak Organization, Samuel LeFrak presided over one of the world’s largest private building firms. Its development projects include New York’s LeFrak City, Battery Park City, Gateway Plaza and the $10 billion Newport City Complex in New Jersey—one of the world’s largest planned communities. The company also pursues global gas and oil exploration, international financing, publishing and entertainment. LeFrak counseled all levels of government, foreign and domestic, on urban planning and housing tech-nology issues. He received many awards for his work, including knighthood, the John F. Kennedy Peace Award and numerous honorary doctorates. LeFrak's son Richard now heads the company.

Samuel J. LeFrak, chairman of The Lefrak Organization, passed away on April 16 after a long illness. Along with William Levitt and Fred Trump, LeFrak was an early champion of affordable middle-class housing after World War II.

The son of immigrant builders, LeFrak accomplishments include Lefrak City, Battery Park City, and Newport in the New York Metropolitan area.

Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler told Real Estate Weekly, "He was a visionary who put his money where his dreams were. He saw Jersey City's potential long before any others in the real estate community. And he made a larger commitment to the city than any other person in the real estate community. And this is just one illustration of why he's been so singularly successful. In the same way that he touched this community, he rejuvinated and brought new life to urban areas all throughout the metropolitan area. Jersey City feels tremendous gratitute for his believing in us."

Mitchell Hersh, CEO of Mack-Cali echoed those thoughts. "Sam was a man of great vision. His developments in New York City. and Jersey City were cutting edge. Newport 'City not only changed the skyline of Jersey City, but in many senses was the first step in creating the 'Gold Coast'."

LeFrak was a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum; an advisory director of the Metropolitan Opera; a member of the Board of Trustees of the Queens College Foundation; and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School. A graduate of the University of Maryland, LeFrak pursued postgraduate studies at Columbia and Harvard Universities; and has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Pratt Institute, New York Law School, Colgate University, Michigan State University, Queens College, St. John's University and the University of Maryland.

LeFrak had served six presidents, seven governors and eight New York City mayors, in various capacities, including United States delegate to the International Conference on Housing and Urban Development in Geneva; as a special consultant for the State Department; and as a member of the United States National Energy Council. He served New York State and New York City as commissioner of the Saratoga Springs Commission; as Landmarks Preservation Commissioner of New York; commissioner of the Interstate Sanitation Commission for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut; as a member of the New York Task Force on Housing; the New York City Industrial Development Corporation; and the Executive Committee on the Citizens Committee for New York City.

He also was a founder of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Due to LeFrak's long-term, dedicated service to New York State and City, Governor George Pataki honored him by having Nov. 19 set aside as "Samuel J. LeFrak Day," and created a special automobile license plate for LeFrak" "Commissioner Emeritus 1."

Among LeFrak's many awards were recognition and honors from a spectrum of international societies, philanthropies, and cultural and educational institutions, such as being Knighted a Knight Commander by the King of Norway and receiving that Nation's Royal Order of Merit; being Knighted a Knight Commander by the King of Sweden and receiving Sweden's Royal Order of the North Star; being Knighted a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government; and being presented the Medal of Parliament and the Order of the Lion from the President of Finland; the Jerusalem 3000 Medal from the State of Israel Bond; the Knights of Malta Cross of Merit and Honor; the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Italy; the John F. Kennedy Peace Award; Man of the Year Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Man of the Year Award from Queens College; Annual Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews; The Flame of Truth Award from the Fund for Higher Education; and elected to th e Hall of Fame of the National Sales Executive Club.

LeFrak's long-term affiliation and support of the United Nations, moreover, earned him a number of distinguished awards and recognitions. In 1988, LeFrak and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter were honored by the United Nations because of their world-wide work with "Habitat International." The same year, LeFrak presented an address on "Planning for Urbanization in the 21st Century" at the United Nations. The "Distinguished Citizens of the World" award was presented to Mr. and Mrs. LeFrak at a special United Nations Ambassador's Ball in 1994. In 1994, LeFrak also was appointed by the Secretary General, Boutros BoutrosGhali as New York's representative and member of the Advisory Group for the 1995 50th Anniversary Celebration of the United Nations.

At Michigan State University, a new school -- the LeFrak Forum -- has been established to foster studies supporting Western civilization and culture, democratic political principles, and American free enterprise business systems and strategies. In 2002, the American Museum of Natural History marked the 100th Anniversary of the Lefrak Organization by naming the refurbished IMAX Theatre the LeFrak Theatre.

LeFrak is survived by his wife Ethel Stone LeFrak, and children Denise LeFrak Calicchio, Richard LeFrak, Francine LeFrak Friedberg, and Jacqueline LeFrak Kosinski; his grandchildren Harrison, James, Allison, Jennifer, and Dylan; and great grandchildren Cameron and Julia.

Services were held April 18 at Temple Emanu-El. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Samuel J. LeFrak's name can be made to: Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave Levy Place, Box 1049, New York, New York 10029.

Sir Samuel J. LeFrak, the business card he readily proffers proclaims in elegant script, displaying no less than six heraldic coats of arms, ranging from the Knights of Malta Cross to the Order of the Lion of Finland, in raised goldleaf.

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