Donald Rechler, a prolific real estate developer and philanthropist who founded the Association for a Better Long Island, died on Thursday. He was 85.
Rechler was the second generation in a family of real estate developers. His father, William, after being one of three inventors of aluminum furniture, built New York City’s first planned industrial park in 1950 and also created the Vanderbilt Industrial Park, now the Hauppauge Industrial Park.
After running a retail store in the Americana in Manhasset, at his father’s urging Rechler co-founded Reckson Associates in 1968 with his brother Roger, and their first project was developing the area around MacArthur Airport in Bohemia.
Reckson Associates would be responsible for developing much of Long Island in the years to follow, including areas in Syosset, Hauppauge and the OMNI Building in Uniondale, and would later see growth in Stamford, Connecticut, and Westchester. Rechler’s sons Mitchell and Glenn joined the organization in the 1980s, and took the company public in 1995, naming Rechler as chairman.
Rechler also founded the Association for a Better Long Island, a developers’ lobbying group that examines regional issues such as infrastructure, energy, responsible development, tax burdens and workforce conditions.
Kyle Strober, executive director of the group, said that Rechler’s status as a “driving force” behind the organization was “no surprise.”
“His vision and leadership forever changed the Long Island landscape and will have a lasting impact for generations to come,” Strober said. “He was passionate about good architectural design, great art and his family. His legacy cannot be overstated and his passing leaves a void in Long Island’s ‘corner office.’”
In addition to founding the association, Rechler served on the boards of the Long Island Philharmonic in Melville and the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Brookville. He also co-founded the Schneider Children’s Hospital, now the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, at Northwell Health’s Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens.
A funeral was held Sunday at the Tilles Center. Rechler is survived by his wife of 62 years, Judy; three sons, Mitchell, Glenn and Mark; and seven grandchildren.