A Thanksgiving Remembrance, 2000
As this holiday season approaches, I am moved by many things. These last two Thanksgivings particularly, I find myself remembering my friend and brownstone preservationist, Austin Haldenstein. Perhaps you knew him as well.
Austin passed away in September 1999, having lived a full and inspiring life, rich with family and friends. As President of the West Side Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Brownstone Revival Coalition, Austin in the ’60s and early ’70s helped to sway West Side urban renewal projects and convince banks to loan money for restoring grand old brownstones along the side streets.
It’s no surprise, given his insights into the marketplace, that by the 1980s, Austin’s company had grown to be the leading Realtor on the West Side. He sold it and, in 1993, came to our company here at Vandenberg, to serve as our Senior Vice President. His mentoring helped position Vandenberg as an important presence on the West Side.
One of my many pleasures of working with Austin was going out to lunch with him. It was there, in the neighborhood restaurants (where he always knew the owner), that Austin served up heaping portions of wisdom – The big picture of what had been and what was yet to be; the decades of movement we’d seen in the neighborhoods; being trustworthy, and the nuances of negotiating sales. Austin had this way of paying strict attention to details without being overbearing. The sagacious questions Austin asked over dessert could sometimes lop off a year or more of tracking in the wrong direction.
Those of us lucky enough to meet mentors in our chosen fields are fortunate. We have been given the gift of their experience. I consider myself blessed to have been friends with Austin. I am also thankful to work in a select real estate market where I come in contact with so many families as they grow and change. As a broker, I play a vital role in their decision-making; this role and these relationships continually renew and gratify me. Each sale becomes a victory and a celebration – not only for them and their families, but for my Vandenberg family and me. (And we are a “family,” founded by my wife Jane van den Berg Ordway and me more than 10 years ago.)
We find renewed faith in the West Side for all its beauty and diversity and unstoppable energy. It’s something Austin taught us – he had faith in the Upper West Side when it was run down and derelict. He always thought highly of people and understood very well that we all have flaws; he encouraged people to see what was possible in others. And he taught us to do the same with neighborhoods and buildings. So, thanks again, Austin.
– Dexter Guerrieri, President, Vandenberg Real Estate, 2000