Jerome Belson, former president of the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York and a New York State Builders Association Hall of Famer, died on September 17. He was 90-years-old.
Hailed as a builder, lawyer, philanthropist, visionary, sportsman, devoted friend, loving family man and larger than life personality, Mr Belson was a central figure in the private management of subsidized New York City housing.
In the mid-70s and 80s, he worked with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to train community groups in housing management so they could acquire and run their own properties.
He even traveled to South America at the behest of his friend, President John F. Kennedy, to create non-profit housing there.
“Jerry defined ‘larger than lifeʼ. ˮ said Dan Marguiles, executive director of the ABO. “He managed tens of thousands of apartments, chaired industry and charitable associations, and still managed to find time for his close-knit and loving family.
“He was involved with Associated Builders and Owners for more than 40 years, bringing local developers into the National Association of Homebuilders and helping create the industry’s biggest annual trade show.
“Everyone in real estate knew Jerry and will remember his energy, humor, and insight into business and politics.ˮ
John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of NEw York, said, “Jerome Belson was an important member of the industry, in the 1980’s he saw the need and heeded the call to build affordable housing. REBNY mourns his loss and we extend our condolences to his family.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mr Belson graduated from Lafayette High School and enrolled in Brooklyn College.
After a stint in the U.S. Army during and after World War II, he graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1948. Working as an assistant corporation counsel for the city, he helped prosecute racketeers. In his spare time, he worked with the Knights Before Christmas to help underprivileged children, built clubhouses for the Boys’ Club, helped war veterans and was director of an old age home.
After entering private practice — at the behest of his father, Joseph, who became the president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of America — he worked in real estate and founded the firm of Belson, Connolly & Belson.
His first development, in Brooklyn in 1952, was affordable housing for soldiers returning home. He went on to create 25,000 more apartments in the city, all non- profit co-ops. From 1955 to 2005, Mr Belson managed 50,000 apartments through Jerome Belson Associates.
His relationships with members of federal, state and city agencies led to his involvement in Mitchell-Lama housing and projects such as Roosevelt Island in Queens, Concourse Village in the Bronx and Jamie Towers, named after his son, Jamie Tad.
Because of his friendship with President John F. Kennedy, Mr Belson went on five mission trips with the American Institute for Free Labor Development to Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil and Columbia to create non-profit housing there.
He worked for decades with the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York, Inc., eventually becoming and winning the Fred C. Trump Award for lifetime achievement. In 1984, he was awarded the HUD Service award by President Reagan.
He was the first person from New York City to be inducted into the New York State Builders Association Hall of Fame.
He started We Media, a magazine devoted to people with disabilities, built a bakery that employed the disabled in Maine, and traveled to Rome with the St. John’s 1996 NCAA champion soccer team to meet His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.
When honored by Rome as affiliates of the Vincentian community, Mr Belson and his late wife and Maxine said they wanted their legacy to be simple: “That we cared.ˮ
Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., president of St. John’s University, said, “With the passing of Jerome Belson, our University has lost a tireless and visionary benefactor. He has served as an example of excellence and civic commitment for St. John’s, New York City, and our nation. Our prayers and sympathy are with the entire Belson family.”
Predeceased by Maxine and son Michael (Kathy), Mr Belson is survived by his son Tad, daughter Brianne (Sanford), brother Victor and grandchildren Matthew (Jodi), Joshua (Katy), Jaclyn, Toby, and Jonathan, and three great grandchildren Noah, Ariel, and Paisley, and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Donations in his memory can be made to New Hope Community, Inc., a home for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.