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Abraham Jacob Hirschfeld (December 12, 1919 – August 9, 2005) was a Polish-born New York real estate developer known for his eccentric endeavors, love for publicity, $2 neckties, strong Yiddish accent and a murder-for-hire plot against a former business partner.
Hirschfeld was born in Tarnów, Poland, and immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in the early 1930s. He said most of his extended family stayed and died in the Holocaust. In the 1950s, his family came to the U.S.A.
He made a fortune building semi-enclosed "open-air" parking garages (which he claimed he pioneered—he would say, "Cars don't catch cold!"), and he subsequently funded a number of endeavors.
Throughout his career he waged many failed campaigns for political office, including unsuccessful bids as "Honest Abe" for the U.S. Senate in 1974 (defeated in Democratic primary), for the New York City Council, for Manhattan Borough President in 1997, for Lieutenant Governor of New York, for New York State Comptroller in 1998, and for Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida. He did serve as treasurer for the New York State Democratic Committee in the 1960s and was elected to the City Commission of Miami Beach in 1989. His most recent attempt at running for political office was in 2004, when he ran as a third party candidate for US Senator from New York against Charles Schumer and other challengers. Schumer won 71% of the vote; Hirschfeld garnered less than 1%.
In 1956, he bought the Hudson Theatre, the oldest continuously established Broadway theatre. In 1989, he funded the Broadway show Prince of Central Park and the Jackie Mason show, Love Thy Neighbor. He is also known for his March 1993 two-week takeover of the bankrupt New York Post, firing editor Pete Hamill, but later upon court order reinstating him and kissing his face in a famous picture. After his New York Post failure he founded Open Air PM (along with his daughter Rachel Hirschfeld), an afternoon newspaper, using the motto, "Love thy Neighbor" — it folded within 5 months.
In 1998, he offered $1,000,000 USD to Paula Jones to drop her sexual harassment lawsuit against former US President Bill Clinton. In 1999, he was cleared of charges he owed $3.3 million in back taxes.
In 2000, he was convicted of criminal solicitation for trying to hire a hit man to kill his former business partner Stanley Stahl, with whom he had a "survivor take all" business partnership. Hirschfeld was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served two. When he got out of prison he ran for the U.S. Senate, calling himself "Honest Abe".
In its list of "Builders and Titans", Time magazine included Mr. Hirschfeld among the 100 "most influential business geniuses of the century." In 1964, Hirschfeld purchased a building at 925 Park Avenue in New York City, and made it the first luxury co-op conversion. He hired a promising real estate salesperson named Leona Roberts (later, Leona Helmsley, the future Mrs. Harry Helmsley) to sell the units for him.
Personal life and death
He died at age 85 on August 9, 2005 in Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, of cardiac arrest stemming from complications of a battle with terminal cancer. He was survived by his Alzheimer's-afflicted widow, whom he had married in 1943, Zipora Teicher Hirschfeld (who died on November 25, 2006), and their two children, Rachel Hirschfeld and Elie Hirschfeld. Elie Hirschfeld has been accused of forging Abe's signature on titles to properties worth nearly $1 billion by Abe's business partners and his sister Rachel. Abe may have been abused by Elie in the years leading up to his death and coerced into signing these documents.
- Abe Hirschfeld, Eccentric Tycoon Who Craved Publicity, Dies at 85, Washington Post
- Wealthy eccentrics | 9 | FORTUNE
- Gregorian, Dareh (23 January 2013). "Abe Hirschfeld’s daughter claims her brother swindled $300 million from the late parking lot baron's estate: court papers". New York Daily News. Retrieved 21 May 2013.