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Paul Milstein’s generosity has made a difference at many important institutions and organizations, including Columbia Business School, where The Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate is home to the top-ranking real estate MBA program.
The Milstein family’s enterprises started with a flooring business, Circle Floor Co., founded by Morris Milstein in 1919. Circle Floor served as a springboard for growth and by the 1950s the family business included Milstein Properties, one of New York City’s leading full-line developers of residential and commercial property. In the late ’60s and ’70s there was a period of rapid expansion through acquisitions and joint ventures. National Kinney acquired Circle Floor in 1968 and Paul Milstein became the President of National Kinney in 1971.
In the next several years, the business expanded further when National Kinney and Starrett Housing Corporation established a joint venture. Over Paul Milstein’s lifetime, 50,000 apartments, thousands of hotel rooms, and over 20 million feet of office space were owned or built by companies and partnerships owned or controlled by the Milstein family. The Milsteins and their partners were known for being long-term holders and their investments served to anchor many burgeoning New York neighborhoods.
“In New York City, neighborhood by neighborhood, Paul Milstein and his family have been instrumental in shaping the urban landscape, creating vibrant residential and cultural areas, and setting the stage for the City’s cultural renaissance.”
— David Skorton, President, Cornell University
Paul Milstein acquired control of United Brands in 1974 and became President and Chief Executive Officer in 1978. United Brands — the parent company of Chiquita Bananas — was the largest employer in seven Latin American countries and included the greatest fleet of refrigerated vessels in the world. The meat packing business was the largest employer in four states. The business was also known for its social responsibility efforts, including fitness, nutrition, and sponsorship of global athletic events such as the Winter Olympics, World Ski Championships, and the Chiquita Cup — a Young Masters Tennis Tournament. United Brands embarked on a joint venture with the government of Costa Rica to develop and revitalize a remote area outside the capital city.
In the mid-1980s, the Milstein family acquired the Emigrant Savings Bank, which is now the largest family-run bank in the country. The bank is led by Howard Milstein, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer.
The Milstein passion for business was complemented by a passion for giving back. Over the years, Paul and his wife, Irma, devoted their time, energy, and resources to philanthropy.
Many New York institutions have benefited from Milstein family generosity, including the Milstein Hospital Building at New York Presbyterian Medical Center; the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the Milstein Hall of Large Mammals at The American Museum of Natural History; the Paul Milstein Pool and Terrace at Lincoln Center; and the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History, and Genealogy at the New York Public Library.
The Milstein family has given decades of active support for New York Presbyterian Medical Center in addition to the Milstein Hospital Building. This includes pioneering medical research in interferon, the Milstein Institute for Surgical Science, and the Milstein Laboratories. The Milstein family is also providing substantial research support to the National Cancer Institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Rockefeller University with the Milstein Medical Research Program.
The Milstein family has been leaders for several generations in giving to UJA-Federation of New York. Paul and Irma Milstein have given generously to the Jewish Theological Seminary, ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and JASA (Jewish Association for Services for the Aged). They sponsored the Milstein Family Jewish Communal Archive Project for the YIVO Institute at the Center for Jewish History and established the Milstein Sanctuary at Temple Israel in Westchester County. The Milstein family has been generous donors at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, naming the Paul and Irma Milstein Heart Institute at the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. In addition, the family has been active supporters of United Jewish Appeal (UJA-Federation), the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League.
Paul Milstein Hall: the Milstein family committed a major gift to Cornell University and the College of Architecture for the construction of a new home for the university’s undergraduate architecture program. Ground was broken in 2009 for the 47,000-square-foot building designed by Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
Paul Milstein passed away on August 9, 2010, and is survived by Irma Milstein and their four children: Roslyn Milstein Meyer, Howard P. Milstein, Barbara Milstein Zalaznick, and Edward L. Milstein.