Donald Rechler, remembered as a business visionary and one of the biggest names in Long Island real estate, died Thursday in Locust Valley. He was 85.
Rechler, co-founder of Reckson Associates and later Rechler Equity Partners in Plainview, became an iconic name in the world of commercial real estate.
“The thing that he tried to get across to his children, as well as the people that he worked with, was you should do the right thing, be honest and just be straightforward in everything you do,” said son Mitchell Rechler, co-managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners. “Love, generosity, honesty, integrity and the truth; all those overlap with my almost 40-year business relationship and partnership with him.”
Born in Brooklyn on Oct. 10, 1934, to William and Gloria Rechler, Donald grew up in the Bronx before later graduating from Bayside High School in Queens. He would go on to study business at the University of Miami, with a special focus on systems and procedures. In 1957, he enlisted in the United States Army Reserve.
After a stint working as a mortgage broker in the city, Rechler went on to run a retail outfit at the Americana, Manhasset’s high-end shopping center. It was during the 1960s that Rechler and his late brother Roger went on to found developer Reckson Associates.
“He was truly a giant in the real estate industry here on Long Island,” said Desmond Ryan, a veteran lobbyist and the former longtime executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a lobbying group for developers Rechler co-founded.
Describing him as a “hard negotiator but a very fair businessman,” Ryan said that Rechler represented a bygone era of executives who made lasting deals with little more than a handshake and sought to make sure both parties received a fair deal.
“His word was his bond, and his handshake you could take to the bank,” Ryan said.
In addition to his work in business, Rechler was a big supporter of the New York Giants and Mets, and was an avid collector of art, a passion reflected in the architecture and placement of art pieces in his buildings.
Of the many properties the developer brought to Long Island, it’s the Omni Building at Mitchel Field that is seen as one of his crowning achievements, said those who knew him.
“He changed the landscape of very mundane buildings into something that had architectural character,” said developer and hotelier Paul Amoruso.
“Donald Rechler was a game changer,” Amoruso said. When he first met Rechler over 30 years ago, Amoruso was a young office leasing broker and “Don was the icon in the industry on Long Island.”
Through the 1980s, Rechler and his brother Roger developed office space, ultimately creating a portfolio of more than 5.5 million square feet. With financing becoming increasingly difficult, the brothers and their children took the company public.
In 2003, Rechler, his brother, his son Mitchell and nephew Gregg Rechler returned to the private sector, forming Rechler Equity Partners, and they bought more than 6 million square feet of properties from the former public entity for $350 million.
Despite his success, Rechler remained grounded, though proud of his accomplishments, said longtime friend and former business partner Ed Blumenfeld, president and founder of Blumenfeld Development Group in Syosset.
Rechler “was a brother from another mother,” said Blumenfeld, referring to his closest and dearest friend. The late developer was “the fairest, most honest, caring, smart, intuitive human being you could imagine.”
Rechler was involved in a multitude of philanthropic efforts, including service as a board member of the Long Island Philharmonic, a founder of the Schneider Children’s Hospital of the Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center, and as a board member of the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.
Rechler is survived by his wife of 62 years, Judy. In addition to his son Mitchell, he is survived by sons Glenn and Mark, and seven grandchildren.
The funeral was Sunday at the Krasnoff Theater at LIU Post’s Tilles Center in Brookville.