Tribute to a Giant of Our Industry

Last week, REBNY’s President Emeritus, Steven Spinola delivered a beautiful eulogy for Leonard Litwin.

In case you missed the stirring tribute, I wanted to reprint Steve’s words here:

“October 16, 1914, nearly 103 years ago, God gave us an extraordinary gift. His name was Leonard Litwin. I had the privilege of knowing Lennie these past thirty something years through our work together at the Real Estate Board of New York and on behalf of our great industry.

When an important meeting was scheduled, his colleagues always asked: is Lennie coming to the meeting? When his soft voice was spoken, the room got quiet and the giants of our Industry, along with Elected Officials automatically, showed their respect and listened to every word. I was always in awe of the talent, intelligence, and commitment sitting around the table, but of all the giants of our industry, none stood taller than Mr. Litwin.

The truth is that after just a short time of getting to know Lennie, one realizes there is almost nothing about this man that can be called small.

His beautiful buildings reach into the sky and even his apartment sizes went against all trends and were larger, more livable then others being built.

His dreams knew no limits on what was possible for his industry, City, State and Country. Lennie never understood and therefore rejected the notion that “something was impossible” or that we could not make things better for everyone. One clear and critically important example was when Mr. Litwin decided to build the first new rental apartment building in lower Manhattan after the nine-eleven terrorist attack on our City. He told me that people had to step up and show their support for and confidence in our City’s future. Knowing the serious shortage of decent housing in our city he also decided to focus on building more affordable housing. He played Paul Revere, waking up our elected officials of the threat of the Asian Long-horned Beetle to our beautiful country. Can you picture Lennie in a three cornered hat on a horse trying to yell “the beetles are coming; the Asian Long-horned Beetles are coming”.

His commitment to numerous charities demonstrated his great generosity, his compassion for others and the large heart that lived inside this giant of a man. I guess the only thing that was small about Lennie Litwin was his ego. Imagine, someone in that room filled with real estate giants without an ego.

He never wanted any credit, awards or words of praise. We tried at REBNY to get him to agree to be honored at our annual banquet, and he always refused. Finally we did so without telling him and this little giant’s face turned red with surprise and embarrassment. His long acceptance speech consisted of two words, he whispered into the microphone a simple “Thank You”.

Personally, Lennie was always there for me, no request was too big or too small. He did everything he could to make my job easier. I will be forever grateful.

I know that everyone here and so many others have been blessed by this extraordinary gift from God. Leonard Litwin has helped so many during his extraordinary life and played a major role in changing the future of our city.

I want to thank Carol and the entire Litwin family for sharing this wonderful man with the industry and City that he loved and which loved him in return.