Gateway’s champion, Linda Belfer, dies at 72

Photo by Maura Lynch Linda Belfer, who founded the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association in 1982, and was the driving force securing rent-stabilization protections for her fellow tenants, passed away at age 72.

Photo by Maura Lynch
Linda Belfer, who founded the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association in 1982, and was the driving force securing rent-stabilization protections for her fellow tenants, passed away at age 72.

BY COLIN MIXSON

Long-time Gateway tenant advocate and the “architect” of the residential complex’s rent-stabilization program, Linda Belfer, passed away on April 15. She was 72.

Belfer is remembered as a fiercely intelligent and passionate defender of Gateway tenants since the earliest days of the sprawling collection of Battery Park City apartment buildings, who matched wills with Gateway’s well-heeled developers and out-talked some of Downtown’s most influential politicians.

“She could wear you down,” said long-time friend and fellow Gateway resident Karlene Wiese. “She would just argue, and argue, and argue, and she was always way ahead of everybody. She was very smart and very quick.”

Belfer, who was fluent in French, Spanish, and Hebrew in addition to English — and who graduated Saint John’s University School of Law at the age of 36 — founded the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association in 1982.

The Gateway tenant advocate went on to envision and model the apartment complex’s long-running, state-authorized rent-stabilization program after New York City’s, and wrangle support from interest groups throughout the neighborhood to see it enacted time and time again.

“She was one of the architects of that program that protected tenants up until this day,” said Gateway Plaza Tenant’s Association President Glenn Plaskin. “She was extremely competent and outspoken — brassy. She could hold her own with the ownership, the politicians, the leadership of Lower Manhattan. A very competent woman.”

In addition to her service to Gateway tenants, Belfer served the larger community as a volunteer on Community Board 1 and as a local Democratic District Leader.

“She was a triple threat, you might say,” Plaskin remarked.

In 2009, Belfer spoke in favor of renewing Gateway’s rent-stabilization program through 2020 at a BPCA board meeting, where she was cheered on by some 3,500 of her fellow tenants.

“This is the first time I’ve heard whistling at one of these meetings,” said then BPCA chairman James Gill following Belfer’s speech. “And that’s a good thing.”

It took about an hour of deliberations for the state-appointed board to acquiesce to the indefatigable Belfer’s demands, and extend the program that would protect the residents of some 1,705 units from facing exorbitant market rates for another 11 years.

“I am ecstatic,” Belfer said after the authority approved the deal. “We’re all very, very happy.”

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2 Responses to Gateway’s champion, Linda Belfer, dies at 72

  1. But Gateway is only treated “as if” it is rent stabilized for rent increases. When it comes to important City programs such as DRIE and SCRIE (disability and senior citizen rent increase exemptions), those protections were not available for Linda. Linda could not even get a Volunteer Lawyer for the Day, since the buildings in reality are not rent stabilized. I continued to be Linda’s friend until the last day, and we learned two important things. First that those protections weren’t there, and that so many of her friends never contacted her once she had to go to a nursing home. I used to tell her about what projects were being completed in the neighborhood and I still talk to her in my mind when I see something new that I want to discuss with her.

    • Dolores D'Agostino

      I don’t know Rick Landman (I don’t think) but everyone needs a friend like Rick Landman. He is a reminder of the quote by a famous writer, “I have had two friends in my lifetime and that is a great number.” Linda Belfer came to my mind several times after she moved to a nursing home, and I wondered which nursing home it was, since as a former nursing home ombudsman, I know what New York City offers (poorly). Linda and I had a sporadic acquaintance and once had lunch together. I did not consider myself to be Linda’s “friend” and I mistakenly believed that those of her inner circle were still visiting her at the nursing home. Nursing homes -like hospitals – are not favorite places to visit, but when Linda was no longer living in BPC the community should have been informed. Our local media seem more fixated on consumerism than neighborliness.

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