Samuel Walton, a leading Long Island developer of homes and office space whose landmark lawsuit helped change the way commercial property is taxed in New York, died at his home in Kings Point on Dec. 18, a few days after suffering a stroke. He was 94.
Walton, who built hundreds of single-family homes in Seaford, Wantagh, Dix Hills and Manhasset Hills in the 1950s and 1960s, also built the Bethpage Professional Building on Hempstead Turnpike in 1955 and the 276-apartment Executive Towers in Long Beach in the mid-1960s.
In 1977, Walton was the lead plaintiff in a precedent-setting tax certiorari case known as 860 Executive Towers vs. New York State. The court ruled that commercial properties could no longer be taxed at a higher rate than residential properties, which had been standard practice for years in Nassau and some other municipalities.
"As a result, Nassau was swamped with tax appeals, and that, in turn, led to the state responding with the classification system we have today," said Donald Leistman, the Mineola lawyer for the Walton business. It also led to a huge jump in debt from the county's borrowing to pay refunds.
"My father was a man of principle and fought very hard to defend private property rights when he felt they were being eroded illegally by government," said his son, Stuart Walton of Huntington.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Walton and his son built the 300,000-square-foot Greenway Plaza Park Office buildings at 135, 145 and 155 Pinelawn Rd. in Melville.
Walton, a native of Poland who came to America at age 7, grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and graduated from New York University in 1941 with a degree in accounting. He earned a law degree in 1949 from St. John's University in Queens.
The Walton family still owns and manages its three major building sites.
Walton had been married to his wife, Jean, for 56 years when she died in 1997 from multiple myeloma.
He was a member of the Long Island Builders Institute and was chairman of its Apartment House Council in the 1980s. He was on the board of directors of the Feinstein Research Institute at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and a board member emeritus. In 1997, he founded the Jean Walton Fund for Leukemia and Myeloma Research.
In addition to his son, he is survived by three daughters, Carolyn Fried of Lido Beach, Susan Tomback of Dix Hills, and Janice Genser of Great Neck; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He was buried in Mount Ararat Cemetery in Farmingdale on the day he died.