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Michael Spector, 79, who ‘changed the face of Long Island,’ dies

Long Island architect Michael Harris Spector, designer of

Long Island architect Michael Harris Spector, designer of RXR Plaza, died Jan. 21, 2018. Credit: Ben Gancsos

It’s difficult to miss the impact architect Michael Harris Spector’s work has had on the landscape of Long Island.

From his design of the 1.2 million-square-foot RXR Plaza in Uniondale, with its glistening glass, oval-shaped towers, to his work on the boat-like structures of Jericho Plaza, visible from the Long Island Expressway, the award-winning designer used his penchant for sleek, ultramodern visuals to shape the environments in which Islanders do business. A 1985 Newsday Magazine article called Spector “the man who’s changing the face of Long Island.”

Spector died Jan. 21 in North Hills after a battle with cancer. He was 79.

Scott Spector, his oldest child and a principal at the family-owned design firm the Spector Group, said his father had a way of “pushing the envelope with good design while understanding the business of architecture and real estate.”

“There just weren’t any design, architect-type folks who had a head for business,” Scott Spector said. “He was teaching the developers how to do it.”

Michael Spector, a graduate of the Syracuse University School of Architecture, grew up in the village of Kensington. The son of an architect himself, Spector launched a one-man design firm out of his Great Neck garage in 1965. Today, the firm has offices in Woodbury, Manhattan, the United Arab Emirates and India, and employs more than 80 in the New York region.

Spector created “a remarkable body of work that really spans the globe,” said son Marc Spector, also a principal at the family firm. “He gave us a tremendous foundation that we continue to launch off of. He set the bar very high.”

The 275 Long Island projects Michael Spector designed include the former regional headquarters of the Allstate Insurance Co. in Farmingville, now the offices of Brookhaven Town, and the data systems computer headquarters for Grumman Corp. in Brookhaven. Spector was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a designation given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the profession.

“Sometimes, new buildings can look brand new, but then look old very quickly,” said John J. Gutleber, president and chief executive of Manhasset-based developer Castagna Realty Co., which worked with Spector on the development of his last design, the Dealertrack Technologies headquarters in North Hills. “His were modern and timeless at the same time.”

Scott Rechler, chief executive of Uniondale-based RXR Realty, called Spector “a leading visionary and someone that was, particularly for Long Island, way ahead of his time.”

Rechler, whose family’s roots in regional development date back to the ’50s, said, “You couldn’t grow up in the business on Long Island and not know Mike Spector.”

“The good news is that Michael Spector is going to live on in the buildings that he’s leaving behind and the family business he’s leaving behind,” Rechler said. “In my mind, Michael Spector is still here.”

Spector is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joan, his two sons, daughter Jolie Slovis of Roslyn, and nine grandchildren. His family has established the Michael Harris Spector Architecture Scholarship at Syracuse University in his honor.

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