A view through the front door of Rex A. Heuermann's...

A view through the front door of Rex A. Heuermann's Manhattan office, as seen on July 28. Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes

An expert in New York City's Byzantine zoning codes, architect Rex A. Heuermann helped oversee projects costing roughly $68.1 million in the decades before being charged as the Gilgo Beach serial killer, according to city Department of Buildings filings.

His clients included some from Long Island: A Lake Success-headquartered chain of group homes hired him to oversee installing plumbing fixtures, hanging ceilings, constructing partitions and installing HVAC ducts. Heuermann later worked for a related organization in Garden City that helps people with disabilities and autism. For an apartment management company in Mineola, he was involved with roof surface replacement.

It's unclear what he charged, but his fees on those projects and others would likely have been about 10% to 15% of the costs, according to Nicholas DeFelice, an associate professor of architecture at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, Heuermann's alma mater.

While collecting what could have been millions of dollars over the years, Heuermann was living in a Massapequa Park house that appeared rundown, commuting into the city to his office overlooking Fifth Avenue in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Architect Rex A. Heuermann helped oversee projects costing roughly $68.1 million in the decades before being charged as the Gilgo Beach serial killer
  • It's unclear what he charged for the projects, but his fees would likely have been 10% to 15% of the costs, according to Nicholas DeFelice, an associate professor of architecture at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury.
  • At the office, Heuermann was a “big physical presence” who would make small talk, according to Jason Mandelbaum, owner of a jewelry firm on the same floor.

The filings offer a window into the apparent contrasts underpinning the life of a man charged with murdering three women, and suspected in a fourth case, while also being a regular neighborhood presence in the Nassau village and one of the hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders who commute to New York City for work.

Although some of Heuermann’s clients are based on Long Island, his work appears to be almost all for property in the five boroughs of New York City. His business, RH Consultants & Associates Inc., where he employed five people, focused on helping clients navigate the building code in the city, where he worked much of his professional life.

Heuermann a 'big physical presence' around office

In the city, Heuermann's client list spanned global brands and tiny concerns — chain stores, offices, government buildings, apartments, nonprofits, charities, churches, schools, social services facilities and others, according to department filings and his website.

Heuermann helped design a Target store in SoHo, churches in Brooklyn and a Burlington location in Brooklyn. He did work for Catholic Charities USA, according to his website. And he even did work on Donald Trump's Wall Street tower.

One of Heuermann's employees at RH Consultants & Associates Inc., now on the 11th floor of 385 Fifth Ave., was his daughter, Victoria, according to the company's website and her LinkedIn profile. She couldn't be reached for comment.

A visit by Newsday to the office on July 28 showed that almost a dozen envelopes had been slid under the door. Chairs set around a conference table sat empty, while Wrigley's chewing gum tins sat on a shelf. Two boxes addressed to Victoria Heuermann sat unopened on Friday morning outside the locked office, whose lights were off. A day earlier, she, her mother and stepbrother had returned to the family house in Massapequa Park.

Like Heuermann’s firm, about 94% of all private firms in the city are small businesses, with fewer than 50 workers, according to a May report by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

At the office, Heuermann was a “big physical presence” who would make small talk when he saw someone else in the hallway or bathroom, according to Jason Mandelbaum of Roslyn, owner of jewelry and accessory firm Jayden Starr LLC, which is down the hall on the other end of the 11th floor.

But only Heuermann would make small talk. His employees wouldn’t, Mandelbaum said.

“No eye contact with anybody in there," he said. "Everyone was kind of aloof.”

Mandelbaum ballparked that Heuermann's rent was in the high four-figures.

Architect Stan Nack, whose firm moved from downtown Manhattan to Rockville Centre in 2013, said he “almost fell out of his chair” while watching the nightly news and seeing a man he’d worked with for years was under arrest for allegedly being a serial killer. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty.

Nack’s Catania-Nack Architects firm worked with Heuermann for several years in the early 2000s.

Nack said his firm paid Heuermann thousands of dollars for each job to help expedite filings. He recalled a man who was courteous, professional — and massive: “Six-foot-five … He looked powerful to me.” Nack said Heuermann’s “demeanor was extremely courteous, and his dress was always very neat and tidy.”

Long Island clients hired Heuermann

The owners of properties Heuermann worked on were based in the city and beyond. The Long Island clients included, according to department filings:

  • WORC, of Lake Success, which in 2000 had Heuermann file with the city for a permit for the construction of interior partitions, hanging of ceilings and installation of plumbing fixtures in the Laurelton, Queens, area.
  • Life’s WORC of Garden City, which in 2013 had him file to legalize an alarm system for a house in Jamaica, Queens.
  • Seaview Towers 2006 L.P. of Mineola, which in 2007 had him file for the replacement of a roof surface in the Rockaways. The organization had him file again in 2015 for the removal and replacement of doors, finishes and plumbing fixtures. The latter work was disapproved. It’s not clear what exactly happened.
  • For Amcojor Realty Corp of Old Westbury, Heuermann in 2012 and 2013 had filed to remove and replace interior partitions, do plumbing and toilet modifications, install new roof membrane, construct new bulkhead and replace slab and steel beams in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
  • For City Urban Management of Great Neck, Heuermann was hired for a 2008 job at an eating-and-drinking establishment in the East Village. He was tasked with constructing interior partitions, hanging ceilings and installing plumbing fixtures, as well as doing mechanical HVAC ductwork. The work was disapproved. It's unclear what exactly happened.

The property owners either couldn't be reached for comment or didn't return messages seeking comment. The project estimates don't account for unforeseen costs, savings, delays, changes in plans, or others' work. Nor would the estimates include work for which a filing was not made with the city or when someone else filed plans for a project also involving Heuermann. In some cases, Heuermann would work on parts of larger projects, with other architects and designers doing the balance.

In addition to reviewing New York City building filings, Newsday asked officials at each of Long Island’s towns and cities to check building department records to determine whether Heuermann, 59, had done work in any of those municipalities. Most said that they had no record of Heuermann doing work there, while the rest did not respond to requests for comment or advised Newsday to file a public records request.

During the pandemic, RH Consultants & Associates Inc. got two Paycheck Protection Program loans — the cornerstone of the federal government's relief effort to keep small businesses alive during the worst of the coronavirus crisis. The loans totaled about $150,000 and were later forgiven, as was standard.

The business survived. 

Working on escalators at Target, Burlington

At the SoHo Target, he was involved in designing new escalators and elevators for the building, which was built in 1884, as well as restructuring multiple floors and new entrances to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to his website. He also got the certificate of occupancy for the building, as he did for the Burlington location, where he retrofitted new escalators and did other work, the website says.

And for the Trump building, in 2018, Heuermann was hired to do a $200,000 job at the 72-story tower on Wall Street. The job was to renovate office space on the 17th floor to include minor partition and plumbing changes, according to a Department of Buildings filing, on which Trump's vice president for property management, Steve Lafiosca, is listed.

Trump spokeswoman Kimberly Benza told Newsday it is “incorrect and inaccurate” to say that Heuermann did work for The Trump Organization.

“Mr. Heuermann has never worked for The Trump Organization in any capacity. According to our records, he was hired by a third-party tenant, who vacated years ago, to perform minor architectural work in their individual space," she said.

Kevin Brennan, a spokesman for Catholic Charities USA, said the group is a national membership organization of 167 independent agencies, “so it’s not clear which agency he worked with — or if he did at all.”

Douglas Auer, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, one of Heuermann’s listed clients, said in an email: “Best you speak with Suffolk County authorities.”

Most of Heuermann's other listed clients couldn't be reached for comment or declined to comment.

As the sex workers Heuermann is accused of killing would go missing on Long Island, Heuermann continued his day job, apparently uninterrupted in Manhattan.

For example, on July 10, 2009, two days before the disappearance of Melissa Barthelemy, one of the women Heuermann is accused of killing and dumping at Gilgo, he filed an application for a building on West 21st Street in Manhattan. Heuermann proposed to remove non-load-bearing partitions, install glass panels for office space and do general plumbing and mechanical modifications.

Almost 14 years later, the month before his arrest, Heuermann sent a proposal to a co-op building in the city, bidding to replace the boiler, according to the letter that was posted by the writer Anna Peele, who lives there.

Given the lead time with the city government, Heuermann wrote, “I would recommend that you start the design and Approval process this summer.”

Gilgo Beach serial killings

More than a decade after the remains of 10 victims were found off Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach, Rex A. Heuermann has been charged with murder in three cases and is a prime suspect in a fourth.

Who is Rex Heuermann? The Massapequa Park architect lived in a rundown house and had strained interactions with neighbors. His second wife filed for divorce days after his arrest.

The victims: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello were young women who were sex workers. Their bodies were discovered after another woman, Shannan Gilbert, made a frantic 911 call from the area that set off a police search.

The case: Investigators used DNA from pizza crust and stray hairs to tie the victims to Heuermann; burner cellphone data and a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche also are key evidence in the investigation. 

The search: Police retrieved more than 200 guns from Heuermann's home and searched two Amityville storage facilities for evidence, including evidence connected to the victims.

Timeline: Key moments in the investigation, from the discovery of several sets of remains in 2010 to Heuermann’s arrest.

Full coverage of the Gilgo Beach serial killings

With Robert Brodsky and Nicholas Spangler

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