Harlem’s leading real estate broker Eugene Webb dies at 102

Eugene H. Webb, who was raised in racially segregated Alabama with modest ambitions, but who after relocating to Harlem created what has become the nation’s largest black-owned property management company, died April 5 at his home in Mount Vernon, NY was 102.

His passing was confirmed by Webb & Brooker, the New York-based management, rental and sales company he founded with George M. Brooker in 1968, which oversaw thousands of apartments generating tens of millions of dollars. rent dollars.

In addition to his role with the company, where he became president emeritus, Mr. Webb was a founding member of the Carver Federal Savings Bank and the Freedom National Bank (which closed in 1990 during a recession). Both banks gained reputations for lending to potential black and Hispanic buyers in neighborhoods like Harlem, where applicants had been reflexively rejected by other banks.

Mr Webb has also been instrumental in the controversial Harlem redevelopment story, when new projects have often raised fears that old Harlemites will be evicted. He was part of the team that built the $ 60 million Renaissance Plaza on West 116th Street in the late 1990s, which includes 240 co-op apartments and over 60,000 square feet of retail space.

“Eugene was a pioneer whose impact on diversity in this industry is largely unknown,” New York Real Estate Board chairman James Whelan and chairman Douglas Durst said in a statement.

Eugene Henry Webb, the great-grandson of a slave, was born on November 18, 1918 in Red Level, a town in southern Alabama, to Eddie Webb, whom he never knew, and of Docia (Foster) Webb, who worked as a cook at a local cafe. She raised him in an area of ​​Greater Birmingham aptly named Sandy Bottom.

He grew up in a shotgun house, a style common in the south, barely 12 feet wide with butt pieces. He was heated by lumps of coal that he and his brothers grabbed from passing trains.

“We rented. We didn’t own any land. We didn’t own anything,” Mr. Webb said. the HistoryMakers Digital archive in 2004.

He dropped out of Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama to get married and work in a coal mine before eventually landing his dream job at a steel mill. After a little over a year, he decided he had higher aspirations and it was time to move on.

He moved to California, where he served on tables in a hotel. He then worked as a dining car waiter for the New York Central Railways and Seaboard Air Line.

He enlisted in the Navy around 1941 and was deployed for most of World War II in the Marshall Islands.

He was released to New York, where a friend suggested he consider a career in real estate. He earned a bachelor’s degree after taking courses at the Pohs Institute in Lower Manhattan and, after building a professional reputation, succeeded by making connections with established companies that referred him business.

“The things they didn’t want were like a piece of cake to me,” he said. “They didn’t need it,” they say, “Give it to Webb.”

In Mr. Webb’s case, a relationship was also established through Daniel L. Burrows, founder of United Mutual Life Insurance Company. Mr. Burrows was a Democratic powerhouse in Harlem and the stepfather and mentor of future Mayor David N. Dinkins. Mr. Webb later became president of the insurance company.

More straightforward than political, Mr. Webb was a registered Republican, although he said he proudly voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

New York State hired Webb & Brooker in 1970 to manage the properties taken over for the Times Square redevelopment. By 1976, the company managed 6,000 apartments at 20 properties in Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

“In Harlem, we have pooled about $ 20 million in rent,” Mr. Webb told The New York Times that year. “Do you realize what it means if this money is funneled into local businesses to hire black plumbers, painters and contractors?”

He and Mr. Brooker founded the Harlem Real Estate Board, of which Mr. Webb served as chairman. Following Mr. Brooker’s death in 1993, Mr. Webb assumed a policy-making role within the real estate company and handed operational control to Bernard Warren, who remains Chairman.

Mr. Webb was an administrator of Miles College and Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

His survivors include his third wife, Danna (Wood) Webb, a lawyer, whom he married in 1999; his daughter, Brenda; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.

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