Irving Bender, a prominent figure in Manhattan real estate who played a vital role in keeping intact the identity and charm of the West Village and the Meatpacking District, died October 17th, at the age of 91, in Boca Raton, Florida, where he lived for the last several years.
Born in Manhattan in 1921, Irving grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. When World War II began, Irving answered the call and joined the Navy. He proudly served on the USS Radford, one of the Navy's most decorated destroyers that received the Presidential Unit Citation for valor, as well as the USS Arkab.
After returning from the war, he married Mollie Gottlieb in 1948. Irving and Mollie moved to Maryland in the 1950s, and opened Poor Joe's, a bar and grill in Washington, D.C. It was here that Irving got the nickname "Bob." With the proceeds earned from Poor Joe's, Mollie and Irving provided the seed money for Bill Gottlieb to buy his first buildings in Manhattan. Over the next four decades, they grew a real estate company that includes properties concentrated in Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, the West Village and the Lower East Side. After Bill Gottlieb's death in 1999, Irving Bender ran the business with Mollie and their son, Neil Bender.
Irving was a well-known, but unpretentious figure in the West Village neighborhood where he and Mollie lived and worked. They worked hard to preserve the character of their neighborhood. Mollie and Irving were strong supporters of the creation of the High Line Park. The Benders were the sole dissenters in an unsuccessful movement to demolish the 1.5 mile elevated railway among a group of 38 adjacent property owners.
"My father was the living personification of `America's greatest generation'," said Neil Bender. "He worked hard all of his life, and always had a smile and a warm handshake for everyone he met. The legacy he created with my mother and my uncle lives on in the wonderful New York neighborhoods they did so much to preserve."
Irving was a long-time member of the Brotherhood Synagogue before moving to Florida in 2009, where he joined Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
Irving is survived by two adult children and three grandchildren.
Rabbi Daniel Alder presided over the funeral at Plaza Jewish Memorial Chapel in Manhattan. Burial was in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens.