Sydney Engel, a developer who built for senior citizens, dies at the age of 98

Sydney Engel, a developer who designed modern senior housing and launched one of the region’s largest real estate development firms, died Saturday at his home in Hewlett Harbor. He was 98.

Hundreds gathered at Pinelawn Cemetery Tuesday to honor the patriarch, who lost both his parents before the age of 20 and continued to build nursing homes and assisted living communities at the helm of Engel Burman, his family said.

Engels’ diligence helped him flourish in the industry, but he was guided by a generous spirit, according to his son-in-law, Michael Weiss, principal at Engel Burman.

“There were over 300 people standing for an hour and a half to show their respect, and video was sent to the island of Jamaica,” Weiss said, noting that Engel was known in the Caribbean nation where he had a cottage to build MoBay Hope hospital. “If you ever really needed him, he would always move up.”

Engel was born in Brooklyn in 1923. His mother died when he was 12, and his father, a vaudeville acrobat, then began doing home improvement assignments, according to Jon Weiss, his grandson and another principal at Engel Burman.

Angel joined the Army Air Force during World War II, but was discharged to take care of his sick father. He and his brother took over their father’s business around 1944 and had foresight to see where ubiquitous insulation and oil burners would be, Jon Weiss said.

Entrepreneurs and banks wanted to work with Engel because he kept his word and stuck to the schedule, the grandson said. This reputation helped him get jobs with prominent families, such as Mellons and Rockefellers, Jon Weiss said.

As Engels’ projects grew, he and his partner, Sol Henkind, acquired shares in the development, Jon Weiss said. They focused on affordable apartments and nursing homes, the family said.

In 1997, a colleague introduced Engel and Jan Burman, who both had an eye on the same property, Jon Weiss said. The two decided to collaborate and built assisted living and condominiums – a plan for their exclusive Bristal Assisted Living brand.

Their partnership grew into Engel Burman, a Jericho-based development, construction and administration firm that employs thousands in the metro area, Jon Weiss said. The company owns more than 27 senior living communities, 5,000 condominiums and apartments and a 95-acre addiction treatment campus, the company said.

“Mr Engel was the epitome of a generation that did not have the word ‘no’ in their vocabulary. Hard work was his response to any obstacle and his legacy is found in communities across the region,” said Kyle Strober, CEO. by the Association for a Better Long Island, a business group.

Engel met his now deceased wife, Sylvia, before his business took off. Angel took her out for drinks, then told her he could not afford another round, Jon Weiss said.

“He said, ‘I promise you one day I’ll afford more drinks,'” Jon Weiss said. “She respected him.”

The couple spent 70 years together and moved from Brooklyn to Lynbrook around 1950 and then to Hewlett Harbor in the late 1960s, Jon Weiss said. Engel sat on the board of the Temple Israel of Lawrence and was involved in the Anti-Defamation League, which fights discrimination, and Hadassah, a Zionist voluntary organization centered around Jewish women, his family said.

When his month-old great-granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer, Engel worked with the baby’s mother, Jamie Weiss, to start Gold Ribbon Riders, which has raised more than $ 2 million for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering, according to Jon Weiss.

Engel leaves behind three children – Robin Rudolph, Cathy Weiss and Dr. Lewis Engel – eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


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