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Charles J. Urstadt, real estate executive and former NY housing commissioner, dies at 91

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Charles J. Urstadt, former chairman and director of Greenwich-based real estate investment trust Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc. and a New York State housing commissioner during Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s administration, died March 3 at the age of 91 following complications related to a recent stroke.

Charles Urstadt real estate
Urstadt

The Bronx-born Urstadt graduated from Dartmouth College, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and Cornell Law School. He joined the New York law firm of Nevius, Brett & Kellogg in 1953. The following year he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a lieutenant for two years on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Bennington.

After his naval service, Urstadt served as vice president and counsel of Zeckendorf Property Corp. He became secretary and counsel of Alcoa Residences, a subsidiary of Alcoa Properties, in 1963 and was promoted to vice president in 1965.

In 1967, Rockefeller appointed Urstadt as deputy commissioner of the state’s division of housing and community renewal, gaining a promotion to commissioner in 1969. In 1968, Rockefeller also named him chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, a state agency focused on developing 92 acres on Manhattan’s southern tip for housing, office space and parks.

Urstadt stepped down as the state’s housing commissioner in 1973 to join four partners in the purchase of the real estate firm of Douglas L. Elliman & Co. He remained as chairman of the Battery Park City Authority through 1979, returning in 1996 for a four-year term as vice chairman and a board member.

Urstadt would later sell his interest in Elliman, and in 1979 he led an investment group in the purchase of the commercial mortgage firm Pearce, Mayer & Greer Inc. He served as the firm’s CEO until its sale in 1987. In 1989, he became CEO and chairman of Hubbard Real Estate Investments, which later changed its name to Urstadt Biddle Properties.

Urstadt stepped down in 2013 as CEO in favor of Willing L. Biddle, the company’s president and his son-in-law. He retired as chairman in 2019 and was succeeded by his son Charles D. Urstadt, taking on the title of chairman emeritus.

Urstadt was an accomplished amateur athlete. In his younger years, he competed for and won multiples titles with the Bronx High School of Science and Dartmouth College swim teams. He returned to the sport later in life, winning the FINA World Masters Championships in the breaststroke for men aged 70 or above, the age-group world title in the 50-meter breast stroke in Munich in 2000 and the age-group world title for the same event in Perth in 2008, setting a still standing world championship meet record in the Perth event.

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