Pioneer Westchester Commercial RE Developer Robert Weinberg Dies

John Jordan | September 2019

Robert Martin Company Co-founder Robert Weinberg

NEW YORK—While visionary commercial and residential developer Robert Weinberg passed away at his home in Manhattan at the age of 90 on Sept. 3, his legacy in Westchester County and the surrounding suburbs will live on for generations to come.

Weinberg will be best remembered for co-founding Robert Martin Company of Elmsford with partner Martin Berger, who died in 2011. The firm, which began as a residential development firm in 1957, entered the commercial real estate development field in the late 1960s. From then and through the 1980s the company’s investment and development talent helped shape the commercial office and flex markets in Westchester County as one of the big three pioneer commercial development firms at the time along with Schulman Realty Group and Halpern Enterprises.

Robert Martin with Weinberg and Berger at the controls pioneered the development of more than 6 million square feet of office and industrial parks across Westchester and Fairfield (CT) counties, as well as more than 3,000 apartments, condominiums and single-family homes throughout Westchester.

The firm played a leading role in a wide array of major projects, including the creation of expansive suburban office and industrial parks, hotels, retail centers and thousands of housing units. The company was particularly active in the cities of White Plains and Yonkers; the towns of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant; and the villages of Tarrytown, Elmsford and Port Chester in Westchester County.

Robert Martin’s first foray into commercial real estate development began in the late 1960s when the firm acquired a large tract of land on Route 9A in Greenburgh. Weinberg and Berger decided to build an office-warehouse park, the first of its kind in Westchester County. The overwhelming success of the Cross Westchester Executive Park led to a series of transformative mixed-use office and commercial projects that the company developed, including the South Westchester Executive Park in Yonkers; the Mid Westchester Executive Park in Hawthorne; and the Stamford Executive Park in Stamford, CT.

The company was the first major developer to invest in the Urban Renewal of Downtown White Plains. Its work there included the development of 16 projects, culminating in the development of a full city block opposite the White Plains train station known as Westchester Financial Center. Located at 50 Main St., the project included two office towers, an apartment tower, and a common parking garage.

The company also led the way in the redevelopment of Downtown Port Chester and constructed more than 1,000 apartments in Elmsford and Greenburgh.

Today, the company’s diverse portfolio includes more than six million square feet of multi-family, office, retail and industrial properties as well as over 200 acres of developable land in Westchester, Connecticut and Florida.

Earlier this year, Robert Martin, led today by executives Tim Jones and Greg Berger, completed the acquisition of a 3.1 million square-foot office/flex portfolio, consisting mostly of properties originally developed by Weinberg and Berger decades before. The $487.5 million purchase from Mack-Cali Realty Corp. was the largest commercial real estate transaction in Westchester County history.

Richard Haggerty, chief executive officer of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said of Weinberg: “Sometimes terms like visionary are tossed about too casually—that is not the case with Bob Weinberg who truly envisioned a roadmap of commercial development and economic growth for Westchester County long before anyone else did. He was a true pioneer who was passionate about finding solutions to challenging problems with a focus on sustainable communities.”

Haggerty added. “He encouraged everyone to get outside of their comfort zones, roll up their sleeves, and contribute to building a better Westchester.”

Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, said, “Westchester County would not be the center of economic activity that it is today if it weren’t for the foresight, innovation and leadership of Bob and his life-long business partner, Martin Berger. Together, these two pioneers founded the Robert Martin Company in 1957 and went on to transform the landscape and economy of our county.”

Gordon noted Weinberg’s talents not only as an entrepreneur, but also his passion and uncanny ability to tackle difficult projects and champion new concepts.

“I was so honored to not only have a professional relationship with Bob, but to call him my personal friend. It was my privilege to be part of his EXPO group, which explored so many issues affecting positive growth in Westchester,” Gordon said. “Throughout these years, I learned so much from him, admired his intellect and his vision, and became infused with his sincere passion for Westchester. We also had some great lunches, a few good laughs and lots of sage advice. There will not be another person like Bob Weinberg and his legacy will certainly continue to impact our community into the future.”

Ross Pepe, president and CEO of The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., said, “I first met Bob when I joined the Builders Institute staff in 1972. Dynamic is a word that best describes his career and great success. He and Marty Berger changed Westchester County with their campus style corporate parks that drew hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to the suburbs. Their multi-family housing projects modernized communities and created excitement where otherwise dull housing designs existed for decades. I don’t believe anyone will ever replicate what this dynamic duo accomplished.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer agreed with Haggerty, Gordon and Pepe that Weinberg and partner Berger helped shape the commercial real estate sector in Westchester County and accommodated the influx of businesses from New York City and elsewhere that led to the growth of the county as a viable suburban New York City business location.

Latimer said that Weinberg had a quality that only a select few in business possess—a concern for how his development projects would impact the community.

“He was obviously successful, but he always had in his heart a concern for Westchester,” Latimer said. “He didn’t just develop things and didn’t care what the aftermath was of them. He cared about how they fit in the community around him. And that may be old school. I don’t know if that will be the case in future years, particularly with REITS and out-of-state owners and developers that come in and get a piece of land and develop it. Bob did it and did it profitably, but he did it with a community-minded method. It’s going to be a long time before we see somebody again like a Bob Weinberg.”

Weinberg was born in Manhattan on Sept. 20, 1928, to his mother Ray Greenbaum and father Alexander Weinberg. He grew up in New York City, although he and his parents spent time in Elmsford when he was recovering from scarlet fever as a young boy.

Weinberg earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from New York University, a Master’s of Science Degree in Building Engineering & Construction from M.I.T. and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.

Weinberg was particularly fond of a group he formed and chaired for more than 40 years, the Outreach Committee on Orderly Growth in Westchester, also known as Expo. The group, which grew to include more than 40 members, meets for lunch seven times a year with Weinberg personally setting the agenda for “off-the-record” discussions of a wide range of issues pertinent to Westchester’s future including transportation, housing, planning and zoning.

In addition to operating Robert Martin, he was also deeply involved in business, civic and philanthropic positions throughout the community. These included serving as a Director of the Mack-Cali Real Estate Investment Trust; Chairman of the Westchester Public Issues Institute; Director of the Westchester County Association; President of the Builders Institute of Westchester & Putnam Counties; Director of the publicly-traded Sequa Corporation; Commissioner of the Westchester County Utility Agency; Member of the Westchester County Advisory Committee on Housing Policy; Chairman of the UJA/Federation, Westchester Real Estate & Builder’s Division; Trustee of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York; and Chairman of the Associated YM-YWHA’s of Greater New York; Director of the City & Suburban Financial Corporation; Board Member of SUNY Purchase; Member of the Design Task Force for the TZB/Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and co-founder of City and Suburban Savings Bank, among other involvements.

He maintained homes in White Plains, Manhattan and Palm Beach, FL. He was a long-time member of the Metropolis Country Club in Greenburgh and served on its Board of Directors, and also was a member of the Beach Point Club in Mamaroneck, the Harmonie Club and the Doubles Club in Manhattan, and the Palm Beach Country Club in Florida.

Weinberg was predeceased by his parents, his wife of 53 years, Marilyn, in 2012, and his daughter, Eileen W. Toulouse, in 2016. He is survived by his grandchildren Stacy Lynn Reilly and her husband Sam, and Scott Alexander Hesse and his wife Whitney, and his great grandchildren Jake Ethan Reilly, Cameron Michael Reilly and William Robert Hesse.

A memorial service was scheduled for Friday, September 6, at 9:30 a.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave, New York. Further arrangements are being made for the family to receive friends in both Westchester and New York City.

The family suggest, in lieu of flowers, that memorials be made in his memory to the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers or the Ranachqua Foundation, which supports Boy Scouts activities and college scholarships in the Bronx.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth