In Memoriam: Nick Beilenson Founder Westchester Residential Opportunities
Real Estate In-Depth | February 24, 2022
A tireless civil rights and housing rights activist, Nick Beilenson passed away on Feb. 22 at the age of 85 due to complications from COVID-19. The White Plains resident founded Westchester Residential Opportunities in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement. He served as WRO’s first executive director and served on the board since 1968, and was the organization’s board chair for many years.
He founded WRO as a nonprofit that was initially focused on pressuring enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act and integrating Westchester County neighborhoods. More than 50 years later, WRO continues to promote equal, affordable and accessible housing opportunities for all residents in our area.
Born on Nov. 6, 1936, he was raised in Mount Vernon and attended AB Davis High School and Andover Academy, before earning a BA and a JD from Harvard University. He married Evelyn Loeb of New York City in 1959 and together they raised three children in Yonkers, New Rochelle, and White Plains.
A graduate of Harvard College and Law School, Beilenson began his career as a corporate lawyer in New York City before founding WRO.
In the early 1970s, he stepped away from WRO (though he served as Chair of the Board for most of his life) and formed Hecker, Sheer and Beilenson, a law firm in White Plains. In 1978, he won the Democratic primary in the race for the Mayor of White Plains, losing in the general election.
In 1981 he took over the family publishing business, Peter Pauper Press, founded by his parents Peter and Edna Beilenson in Fleetwood in 1929. Partnering with Evelyn and ultimately his son, Laurence, he helped transform the struggling small book publishing company into a thriving enterprise.
In retirement, he founded the Center for Public Interest Careers at Harvard College, which creates internship and job opportunities for Harvard students in nonprofit organizations around the country. For his lifetime commitment to the public good, Beilenson received the White Plains Human Rights Commission Award in 2014 and the “Outstanding Supporter of Public Service” award from Harvard in 2015.
A competitive racket athlete throughout his life, he earned the 70+ US National Hardball Squash champion in 2008. He was also an avid birder and hiker, summiting all 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains during his lifetime. With Evelyn, he traveled extensively to six continents and to most of the islands of the Caribbean.
He is survived by his children, John (Wanda), Laurence (Esther), and Suzanne (Robert), and his grandchildren, Sarah, Hannah, Jacob, Jane, Tom and Carly. He was recently pre-deceased in October of last year by Evelyn, after 62 years of marriage.
WRO released a statement in recognition of the organization’s founder.
“Nick wore many hats at WRO and supported WRO in various capacities for over half a century, which included serving as Executive Director and as Chair of the Board of Directors.
Nick founded WRO to address issues of systemic housing discrimination in Westchester. Investigating and addressing issues of fair housing continues to be at the core of WRO’s services. Under Nick’s leadership, WRO expanded its services beyond fair housing to include first-time home buying, eviction and mortgage default prevention & counseling, and independent living for people with mental illness.
Nick was very active in helping WRO until the last weeks of his life. Even though he lost his wife Evelyn in October of 2021, he came to the WRO office on a regular basis to speak with staff, personally sign letters and write notes to support WRO’s fundraising efforts.
It has been said that people remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. Nick cared about people. “He made everyone around him feel comfortable and welcome,” said Marlene Zarfes, WRO’s Executive Director, who worked with Nick for more than 11 years. She added: “Nick was an extraordinary person and will be deeply missed.”
Other HGAR members and WRO Board Directors also offered their thoughts on his passing.
“Nick was brilliant but never made you feel stupid. When you worked with him he made you feel your opinion was important and your contribution to the task was appreciated. I was lucky to have worked with him.”
Debra Budetti, Director of Relocation
Real Estate Associate Broker, ERA Insite Realty Services
“Nick was a kind human being who dedicated his life’s work to advocating for the underserved in housing. As the founder of Westchester Residential Opportunities, he has, over 50 plus years since the organization’s inception, helped thousands secure safe and affordable housing, prevented evictions and helped create homeownership opportunities.”
Producing Manager / Director of Recruiting
Hudson United Mortgage, LLC
If anyone wishes to make a donation in memory of Nick Beilenson, you can do so online at:
or mail a check to:
Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc.
Ref: Real Estate In-Depth/In Memory of Nick Beilenson
470 Mamaroneck Ave. White Plains, NY 10605