John J. Breslin Jr., a Huntington-based land use attorney, died May...

John J. Breslin Jr., a Huntington-based land use attorney, died May 22 at age 67. Credit: Breslin Family

Land use attorney John J. Breslin Jr.’s professional influence can be seen throughout the Town of Huntington, his colleagues and family said.

He was instrumental in getting town approval for such projects as the Paramount theater in downtown Huntington, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, eateries such as Shake Shack in Melville and smaller buildings in between that have shaped the town's streetscapes.

Christopher Modelewski, a Suffolk County state Supreme Court justice, former chairman of the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals and a colleague and friend of Breslin for 30 years, said he was a gifted land use attorney, devoted to his family and community and a man of deep faith. He said his vision, insight and drive helped form modern Huntington.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say John helped to build Huntington into the fine town that it now is,” Modelewski said. “He made really important contributions to the township.”

Breslin, of Huntington, died May 22 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He was 67.

A fixture at town board, planning and zoning meetings in Huntington, Breslin’s experience and knowledge of real estate, land use and zoning — and his straight shooting — will be missed, family and friends said.

But family and friends said his biggest legacy will be the way he interacted with them personally — investing time, resources and money, and always willing to help — even sometimes without being asked. That generosity of spirit extended to beyond those who knew him personally.

“He did things rather quietly; he wasn’t the kind of guy who would self-report pro bono hours to the Suffolk County Bar Association,” Modelewski said. “He worked for a lot of marginalized people for low rates, or no rates and he never called attention to that.”

The eldest of six children, Breslin’s legacy to his family will be to be the best person you can, said his youngest sibling Karen Breslin Ventura of Kings Park.

“He was just such a great example of being a good person,” she said. “Always doing for people, being openhearted and kind and generous.”

Raised in Northport, Breslin graduated in 1975 from Holy Family Diocesan High School in South Huntington, which is now St. Anthony’s High School. He attended Siena College, where he was a standout on the basketball team, his family said. After graduation he joined Breslin Appraisal, an appraisal company founded by his father, John J. Breslin Sr.

He met his wife Dolores in 1979 through her sister who also was attending Siena College. The couple married in August 1983.

He earned his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1986, after working full time and attending classes at night. He eventually established his own law firm while maintaining the family appraisal business.

His commitment to his community was evident in his decadeslong volunteer service with the Church of St. Patrick Parish in Huntington and the Huntington YMCA, where he served on the board for more than 30 years.

Eileen Knauer, senior vice president and chief operating officer for YMCA of Long Island, said Breslin was a man who loved his family, friends and community and worked to connect them all. She said during his eulogy the priest remarked that Breslin was still not at his final place in heaven because he was helping so many people along the way.

“I think it captured him beautifully,” Knauer said. “Both professionally and personally, he left a positive imprint on people.”

Besides his wife and his sister Karen, Breslin is survived by his children, Patrick, of New Richmond, Wisconsin, Peter, of Long Beach, and Owen and Madeline Breslin, both of Huntington. He also is survived by his other siblings, Timothy Breslin of Huntington, Mary Beach of Hilton Head, South Carolina, Paul Breslin of Dunwoody, Georgia, and Christine Broadhurst of Sandy Springs, Georgia.

A funeral Mass was held May 29 at the Church of St. Patrick. He was buried at St. Patrick Cemetery in Huntington.

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