BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Irving Bender, who was married to Mollie Bender, sister of William Gottlieb, the late Village real estate magnate, died Oct. 17 in Highland Beach, Florida. He was 91.
At the time of his death in 1999, Bill Gottlieb owned 148 buildings and three restaurants, spread largely over the West Village and Meat Market, but also on the Lower East Side and in Gramercy. The company’s holdings are estimated to be worth from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
After Bill Gottlieb’s death, a fight over his estate ensued between Mollie and her brother Arnold Gottlieb – who had been left out of Bill’s will – with Mollie winning.
She subsequently ran the real estate company, along with Irving and their son, Neil Bender, until her death at age 87 in 2005, since which time Neil has continued to manage the company. Irving’s role in the firm was reportedly not significant, according to a real estate source.
With the proceeds earned in the 1950s and ’60s from Poor Joe’s, a bar and grill in Washington, D.C., Mollie and Irving Bender provided the seed money for Gottlieb to buy his first buildings in Manhattan. Following Mollie’s death, yet another family feud over the Gottlieb estate broke out. In May 2010, a New York appellate court ruled against Mollie’s daughter, Cheryl Dier, who had sought to wrest control of the company from her brother, Neil, claiming he was unfit to run it. Neil claimed Dier was “spiteful” that Mollie’s will left her out of the family inheritance.
Bill Gottlieb was known for not selling his properties and not renovating them much – which led some to hail him as the Village’s leading preservationist. That trend generally continued under his successors, though, in a first, some Gottlieb properties were recently sold.
Bill Gottlieb also was known for letting some of his high-profile buildings sit vacant, and some remain so to this day, such as the Keller Hotel, at Barrow and West Sts., and the historic Northern Dispensary, on Waverly Place.
George Adams, who runs two real estate companies started by his father, Asher Hiesiger, which include Village holdings, said he never knew Irving to be a major operator in the Gottlieb company.
“After Bill passed, Neil and Mollie basically ran the business,” Adams said. Asked if Irving was involved, he said, “Not that I know of.”
“Irving, I met him once,” he recalled. “They used to have this outdoor flea market [in the lot] in front of the office on Hudson St. and Irving was there. This was going way back.”
Irving Bender was buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery, in Flushing, Queens.