Rest In Peace, Charles J. Urstadt (1928–2020)

On Tuesday, real-estate magnate and “Father of Battery Park City” Charles J. Urstadt passed away due to complications from a stroke, according to a release issued by Urstadt Biddle Properties. He was 91.

Urstadt first attracted the public spotlight when Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed him inaugural chair of the Battery Park City Authority in 1968. The following year Rockefeller put him in charge of New York State’s housing commission. Urstadt spearheaded the administration’s efforts to bolster public-housing development and pass reforms to New York City’s rent control under the Urstadt Law. At the time, the provisions were designed to create much-needed updates to the city’s program and revitalize a number of properties.

He continued to embrace the legislation that bore his name during a time of fiscal peril for the city.

“I can’t tell you how many state assembly members and city politicians have come up to me over the years to say, ‘Thank you,’” Urstadt told the New York Observer in 2014. “They don’t want to be responsible for what happens when taxes, water and electricity go up, but the rent doesn’t — and then the buildings go into foreclosure.”

The Bronx native was born into a real-estate family business before ascending in the industry himself. After public service, Urstadt had a successful stint with an interest in Douglas Elliman Properties and, beginning in 1986, served as chairman and director of Urstadt Biddle Properties for three decades.

Urstadt stepped down from his position as BPCA chair in 2010. “This is my swan song,” he said at the time. “It’s been a great gratification to me to see what’s happened since we first started this. I’ve seen tremendous progress.”

photo: Urstadt at the Downtown Alliance’s 20th anniversary celebration, 2015