Photo courtesy of Howard Kimmel
WHAT WAS YOUR LIFE LIKE GROWING UP
IN BROOKLYN IN THE 1940’S?
We were a large family which included my
parents, Anna and Philip Kimmel, and me and
my siblings, Gladys and Fred. My father had
a wholesale shoe business which went bust
during the Depression. My mother stepped
in to become the family breadwinner. She
pinched, saved and borrowed money to buy
residential real estate. Eventually, she owned
two multiple dwellings on Gates Avenue,
which housed very low income families. They
paid my mother $7 a week rent in the 1930s
and $9 a week in the 1940s. My mother felt
low-income minority families could pay their
rent weekly more easily than monthly. She
I was born with a heart murmur and limited
to activities, while I attended New Utrecht
High School. I was also diagnosed with dyslexia.
Dyslexic children and adults struggle to
read fluently, but can be creative thinkers with
strong reasoning ability. After high school graduation,
I applied for admission to Brooklyn
College. I was rejected, because I couldn’t
read well. Determined to be admitted, I took
a remedial reading course for no credit and ultimately
passed the entrance exam. Interestingly
enough, 70 years later, on September 16, 2018,
I received a Lifetime Achievement Award from
the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.
WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER GETTING YOUR
DEGREE FROM BROOKLYN COLLEGE?
I took a New York State Civil Service test
and was assigned to the Housing Department,
where I served on many levels for 40 years.
During that time, I earned a graduate degree
from Columbia’s School of Architecture. I married
my Brooklyn College sweetheart, Sylvia
Ducker, who was my wife for 67 years. As a
career civil servant for the NYS Division of
Housing and Community Renewal, I devised
and implemented the Shared Housing Option
Program (SHOP), among other projects.
WHERE DID YOU LIVE WITH YOUR FAMILY?
My dream was to live in the Village of
Thomaston, which was in central Great Neck
and more affordable than other Great Neck
communities. By then, we had three children
and were impressed with its excellent schools
and location near the LIRR train station. I
bought an old house in 1957 at 235 Scheck
Avenue. It had a buildable lot next to it. I
ignored the vacant house and built my home
on the adjacent lot for $20,200. Years later, I
rehabilitated the old house and sold it for the
original price of the double lot, plus the cost of
improving it. The resulting cost of the double
lot became $0. Fifty-seven years later, I sold it
for a substantial increase.
WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR ACTIVITIES
WHEN LIVING IN GREAT NECK?
I was a Village Board Trustee for ten years,
and served on the Board of Zoning Appeals for
another ten years. The Village of Thomaston
Civic association was largely my creation.
In my forty professional years at the
Department of Housing, I managed the NYC
Housing Authority, Trump Village, Co-op City
and scores of other developments. I’m most
proud of my final seven years, when I created
and planned the use of the Shared Housing
Option Program (SHOP), which was utilized
by more than 100 New York State agencies.
WHAT IS THE SHOP PROGRAM?
In 1982, I became the NYS official in charge
of all senior citizens housing programs in the
state. In 1984, together with my sister and
brother, we set up the Anna and Philip Kimmel
Foundation (APK), devoted to assisting seniors
in need of affordable housing. Our crowning
achievement was the Apex Senior Citizens
Housing complex. What made it unique
was it included shared units. The shared
units were designed to accommodate two
unrelated seniors, who are matched as living
companions by professional social workers.
This was designed to reduce loneliness and
Apex was built by the Not-For-Profit
APK. Each shared apartment has two large,
180-square-foot bedrooms, and each bedroom
has a 3-fixture private bathroom. In the kitchen,
there are two of everything, including two
refrigerators. There’s also a dining room and
At the outset, I rented these apartments for
$830 per month, with each sharer paying $415
per month. Fifteen years later, they paid $490
per month. It was built in the hamlet of New
Cassel, with a Westbury mailing address. As
one woman living in Apex recalled, “Where I
was living before, I cooked on a hot plate and
washed my dishes in the bathtub. Now, for less
money, I have a full kitchen.”
Apex II was built in 2009 for families, not
single seniors. The Nassau County Police
Department advised me against that area
because of its high crime rate. They did give
me support and the New Cassel area prospered.
More shops opened and it became an area to
go to, not escape from.
I invested 15 years of my life at Apex I and
Apex II without monetary rewards, but with
a great deal of personal satisfaction.
WHAT KEEPS YOU BUSY NOW?
My dear wife Sylvia and I moved into NST in
March 2015. Unfortunately, Sylvia was never
well enough to enjoy the many amenities—
she passed away too soon! I became active
in the Special Projects and Political Action
Committees. A little over a year ago, I had an
operation which slowed me down. But at 93,
I stay active in the wonderful community in
which I now live.
Housing has been Howard Kimmel’s vocation and avocation. He worked at the New
York State Division of Housing for 40 years. He was a consultant to the United Nations.
His book, Basics of Housing Management was translated into seven languages and used
as a training text throughout the world. He also taught housing management at Hofstra,
NYU, Cornell and Queens College, as well as an owner/operator of private real estate from
1948–1994. His proudest accomplishment was, Apex, a shared complex in New Cassel-
Westbury, which mixed affordability and companionship.
4 NORTH SHORE TOWERS COURIER ¢ April 2019