Weissmans Put Trust in Yonkers

YONKERS, N.Y. — When Alfred Weissman bought the Herald Statesman building, now One Larkin Plaza in Yonkers, from Gannett Co. some 15 years ago, no one wanted any part of Dock Street in the city's downtown.

Most of the area around the building was commercial space with fight manufacturing companies, and when that reputation didn't fit, its alternate personality was that of a seedy waterfront area infested with crime, poverty and drugs.

On top of that, the building needed to be almost completely renovated. It contained asbestos, inadequate electricity and a huge printing press left over from its newspaper days.

Weissman, who owned properties in the region, was going to fix the building and lease it to a manufacturing company.

But he began to look more closely.

"I saw the Metro-North station and decided that the higher and better use was to convert it to office space," he said from his fourth floor office in the building. "I had confidence the city would reach its potential."

Weissman is now sitting smack in the middle of the citys multimillion dollar waterfront redevelopment program. His company, Alfred Weissman Real Estate, which he runs with his son Alan, owns 20 South Broadway and other properties speckled in the waterfront area. The new $53 million library and headquarters for the Yonkers Board of Education has spruced up the area nicely, and the Weissmans unveiled just last week a 116,000-square-foot building on Nepperhan Avenue slated for biotech development. Westchester business leaders and officials say the county should satisfy the industry's need for new research space.

Alfred Weissman has three children, a daughter who lives in California, a son who works on Wall Street and Alan, who graduated law school and went to work with his father in 1991. He said the secret to their success is to treat everyone like family.

"We walk our properties everyday," the elder Weissman said.

Alan added that some companies contract outside property managers to do repairs or handle other problems with buildings.

"We manage everything ourselves," he said.

Renee Guy, associate dean and director of Westchester Community College's Educational Opportunities Center, said it's an "oxymoron" to have a good landlord.

"They are outstanding," she said. "And socially conscious."

The Weissmans gutted 26 South Broadway where the center is located and with state university and county bond money created the center with Guy's expectations in mind. The center is three floors of computer equipment and office and classroom space and offers vocational programs to lowincome persons.

"We shared a vision," she said, "to bring people with low income and show them the best of everything with the hope that they will enhance the quality of their lives. The impact of the individual will have a ripple effect on the community. The Weissmans understand that."

In 2000, Alfred Weissman was given the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce Humanitarian Award, and every year for the past 30 years, the Weissmans' host Flag Day, each year in a different location.

Each year for Thanksgiving, the Weissmans' tenants can look forward to a gallon of freshly squeezed apple cider.

Alan is president of the Jewish Council of Yonkers. His father sits on the board of St. Joseph's Hospital.

"We try to be as active as we can in the community," he said.

Currently, the Weissmans are renovating 287 Corporate Plaza, the Greenburgh office site that was vacant for more than 10 years. The Weissmans bought a back-up generator large enough to fully supply power to the structure in the event of a blackout.

"Con Edison approached us and offered us money to turn on the generator during their peak summer months to supply the building with electricity," said Alan.

Just last week the Weissmans unveiled their plans to bring biotechnology to Yonkers in the city's Valley Technology section.

They have prospective high-tech and biotech clients for their building at 470 Nepperhan Ave., the former Purdue Pharma building.

The Weissmans are renovating the structure, adding new elevators and an atrium lobby. When they are finished they hope to lease the space to one or several companies and custom design it for individual specs

"There are gas and refrigeration lines," said Alan. "There's enough of a common area and shaft space to fulfill each tenant's requirement. Our goal is to bring biotech to Yonkers."