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Real estate developer Roger Rechler dies at 66
[March 14, 2008]

Real estate developer Roger Rechler dies at 66

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 14--The elite club of businessmen and developers who saw in Long Island's agrarian lifestyle the potential to create an independent regional economy has lost a leader who helped set the region's development agenda for four decades.

Real estate developer Roger Rechler, most recently managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners, died Wednesday night from complications related to lung cancer. He was 66.

Over four decades, the Mill Neck resident was ahead of every major trend in commercial building on Long Island, including the development of industrial parks that could accommodate high-tech users and the introduction of amenities like health clubs to multitenant office buildings.

"He understood that top-quality design and matching amenities could reinvent Long Island as a self-empowered economic generator and end its role as a suburban appendage to New York," said developer and longtime associate Ed Blumenfeld.

Former U.S. senator Alfonse D'Amato, another longtime friend, called Rechler "a pioneer" who "left a wonderful imprint on Long Island and helped bring it into the modern era."

Rechler and his brother, Donald, formed Reckson Associates in 1968, having sold their Manhasset gift shop to buy their first piece of real estate. Inspired by their father Bill's work developing the trendsetting Hauppauge Industrial Park, the brothers dived headlong into commercial development, building a 200-acre park in Bohemia that Roger's son Gregg Rechler said "reinvented industrial as something that was attractive" for research and development users.

Roger and Donald Rechler were essential and complementary partners -- "a perfectly-matched pair of handcrafted pistols that could hit their target at 1,000 yards," said developers' lobbyist Desmond Ryan. Their efforts produced the Island's largest commercial real estate portfolio, comprising 100 buildings totaling more than 6 million square feet.

In business, Rechler was known as an effective and tough businessman with an extraordinarily detailed knowledge of construction. Developer Kathy Giamo, who worked for Reckson for 25 years, said, "On the outside, he was a very tough man [who] showed a side people respected and responded to."

But privately, she said, he showed a warmth and generosity that he could not reveal in the rough-and-tumble construction industry. When her husband died in a car crash, she said, Roger offered crucial support that helped see her through the tragedy.

Giamo also credited the Rechlers with enabling her to "learn a field that women were not accepted in" when she joined their company in 1980.

Former Suffolk County Executive John V.N. Klein, who served on the Reckson's board in the 1990s, described Roger as a "quintessential gentleman" who "would inject a sense of reason and restraint into a discussion which had all the potential for becoming heated and destructive."

Rechler was an avid rare book collector and dog breeder.In describing his father's gift for "looking at things differently," Gregg Rechler pointed to Roger's work developing the North Shore Atrium in Syosset in the late 1970s. While touring a former Grumman building that was being marketed as industrial space, Roger peeked above a ceiling tile and recognized that the roof was higher than had been described. That discovery enabled him to acquire the site for relatively little money and redevelop it into one of Long Island's premiere office building.

The conversion of old industrial space into high-rent office buildings has become a mainstay of real estate development here, but Rechler's project was the first.

"My father made people reach down inside of themselves and pull out the best of themselves in ways they never thought they could do," Gregg said.

Rechler's funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Nassau County Museum of Art at 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn. Donations in honor of Rechler's life can be sent to The Dr. Mark Kris Thoracic Research Fund, Room H 1016, 1275 York Ave., New York, New York, 10016.

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