Developer presumed dead in crash revamped NY city

AP News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2014 8:23 AM
Developer presumed dead in crash revamped NY city

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A developer presumed dead with his wife in a private plane crash near Jamaica had an "uncanny instinct" for revitalizing properties and an "incalculable" impact on his western New York hometown's resurgence from crumbling industrial center to trendy destination for young professionals, friends and colleagues said.

Laurence Glazer bought up dozens of properties in Rochester, on the shores of Lake Ontario, including landmark buildings belonging to the manufacturing giants Xerox Corp. and Bausch + Lomb. He converted abandoned factories into loft apartments and turned a shuttered hospital into offices.

The 68-year-old developer had a way of "taking properties that were dead and breathing life back into them at a time when people were really skeptical about the ability to do that," Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of Rochester's Downtown Development Corp., said Saturday.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead an investigation into the incident, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the board.

Authorities said Glazer and his wife Jane were on a single-engine turboprop Socata TBM700 that flew on its own for 1,700 miles (2,00 kilometers) before running out of fuel and slamming into the sea off Jamaica's northeast coast on Friday. The couple apparently was incapacitated.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced late Sunday morning that it had ended its search, which it said covered roughly 3,750 square miles (9,710 square kilometers) off Jamaica. Island military crews scoured waters off the northeast coastal town of Port Antonio for a few hours more, but then also decided to call off their search for the couple's single-engine plane.

On Sunday afternoon, the Jamaica Defense Force said its decision was made based on a reassessment of the situation, noting a highly reduced probability of finding any survivors or floating debris. Thunderstorms were churning up white-crested waves and a military spokesman said early Sunday morning that searchers were losing hope of having any success.

"I must admit it looks very discouraging," said Maj. Basil Jarrett early Sunday. "We haven't recovered anything as yet."

The Jamaican military had spotted floating debris Friday roughly 24 miles (39 kilometers) off Port Antonio may have sunk in a stretch where the water is more than a mile (1,500 meters) deep. On Saturday, they announced in a statement that it appeared "consistent with that of a high-impact debris field." But officials said the debris must have sunk because they lost sight of it.

The next steps, if any, for locating the couple's bodies or plane debris are not immediately clear. If wreckage is located on the sea floor, Jamaica civil aviation officials have said French authorities have volunteered help and equipment in raising it from the depths since the plane was made in France.

While the U.S. Coast Guard initially reported three people had been aboard the plane, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said Sunday that the agency had confirmed that there were only two.

Laurence and Jane Glazer, the founder of household-products catalog company QCI Direct, were both experienced pilots. They were flying to Naples, Florida, near where Glazer's development company, Buckingham Properties, also has interests.

"It's beyond tragic here. We're reeling," Zimmer-Meyer said, calling the couple "people who just cannot be replaced."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and Sen. Charles Schumer were among the officials who expressed sorrow for the couple's loss.

Duffy, the former mayor of Rochester, said the Glazers "possessed two of the brightest minds in business."

Air traffic controllers were last able to contact the pilot of the Glazers' plane at 10 a.m., about 75 minutes after it took off from the Greater Rochester International Airport.

U.S. fighter pilots sent to shadow the plane saw its windows frosting over and the pilot slumped over but breathing. One of the fighter pilots speculated that the Socata pilot was suffering from hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

Cases of unresponsive pilots are unusual and often attributed to insufficient cabin pressurization that causes the pilot to pass out, aviation safety expert John Goglia said. A 1999 Learjet crash that killed professional golfer Payne Stewart and five others was attributed to cabin depressurized that caused all aboard to lose consciousness.

Harold Samoff, the lawyer who recruited Glazer to real estate in 1970, said his friend was a "man of many, many, many skills" who had an interest in "practically everything."

"Once he got involved, he knew it," Samoff said.

Glazer and Samoff started with a small apartment building, around the start of the city's long economic decline, and went on to acquire and revitalize more and bigger properties on the periphery of the city's core, reasoning that "just like blight can spread, improvement can spread, also," Samoff said.

"His contribution is actually incalculable because a lot of other people didn't step up" to refurbish buildings as early as he did, Samoff said.

Glazer was also generous with advice to others just starting out, Zimmer-Meyer said. She said she received a call last week from a young real estate entrepreneur who mentioned that Glazer had helped her.

"The one good thing is that he's left an unbelievable legacy," Zimmer-Meyer said. "The difficult thing is that he's gone."

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz reported from New York.