Police: Developer killed in East End crash

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A Sagaponack developer who specialized in retail was killed in a two-car accident in East Hampton Village when an oncoming driver crossed the center lane and struck his Prius head-on.

Gregg Saunders, 55, who in May opened a Whole Foods pop-up farm-stand market inside a former Ford dealership in Wainscott, was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital after the crash on Thursday.

The other driver, Benjamin Rechler, 19, of Brookville, told officers that his surfboard had become loose in the backseat of his Audi and he was reaching to adjust it when he drifted across the double yellow line on Montauk Highway, said East Hampton Village Police Chief Gerard Larsen Jr. The crash happened just east of Green Hollow Road shortly before noon, police said.

Rechler is the son of prominent Long Island developer Mitchell Rechler, managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners, which has a portfolio of 100 properties that provides 7 million square feet of space.

Mitchell Rechler issued a statement, saying: "Our family is heartbroken by this horrific tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family."

The younger Rechler, who was treated and released at Southampton Hospital, was given two tickets, for crossing a pavement marking and failure to keep right.

Saunders was a longtime executive in retail development at Manhattan-based Phillips International, a commercial property owner and management business. He and the company constructed several shopping centers on the Island, and in the mid-1990s, when the economy was down, he helped bring Walgreens, T.J. Maxx and other chains to New York City neighborhoods by lowering rent in return for a higher percentage of their sales.

A few years ago, Saunders brought his Wainscott Ford site idea to Isidore Mayrock and Louis Fortunoff, the family that owned the famed Fortunoff retail giant.

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"He could kick the dirt and know whether it was a good site," Mayrock said.

Saunders had a knack for charming people, from mayors to residents, Mayrock said; unlike other executives, he wore T-shirts instead of suits.

"He had this charismatic, free-spirited character," Mayrock said.

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Services for Saunders were held Friday at the Star of David Memorial Chapel in Babylon. Burial was at Mount Ararat Cemetery in East Farmingdale. He is survived by his widow, Alla; and his father, Jules, of Jericho.

With Ellen Yan

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