Migdol making it happen as business savvy pays off.
A native New Yorker, Migdol, who as a student was swept up by the '60s counterculture of peace, love and social awareness, is glad to have come full circle in his career so that he is able to give back as much as he has. And he plans on doing more in the future.
"I now have the resources to affect change," he said. "In Harlem and East Harlem there are not enough residents that find success and come back to share that success with others."
Migdol attended Queens College as a psychology major during the social and political turmoil of the 1960s. Getting "involved in the movement of change," particularly the civil rights movement, he would take breaks from college in order to live his life and try to "make some change happen." Having grown up the son of a plumber, Migdol was well versed in the building trades, he worked as a carpenter during these breaks.
Then he realized that what he did for a living could impact how much change he could affect. So nine years after he first attended Queens College, in 1976, he graduated with a B.A. in psychology and went on to attend Benjamin Cardozo Law School. He graduated from there in 1979.
Upon graduating, he started working in construction with his father. The duo began to buy real estate together, seeking out distressed properties in areas they felt would be developed. "Essentially, we looked for the worst buildings on the best blocks in areas that we felt would change," Migdol said. This was how Migdol Realty was born.
They first started buying and rehabbing buildings in the Lower East Side, moving to areas such as Alphabet City, the Lower West Side, Chinatown and Little Italy in the early 1980s, playing a part in the process of developing areas that today are incredibly popular and trendy. "I always had a sense for real estate," he said. "Right away, I had a knack for it."
However, when the market crashed in the late 1980s, Migdol suffered with it. He was forced to shut down his company in 1990. He went to work for GFI Realty, developing properties for them as the head of their real estate division.
Then, in the mid-'90s he began buying buildings again, this time in Harlem because he was attracted to the beauty of the area, particularly to the neighborhood's wealth of brownstones. "I was just trying to buy ahead of the curve," Migdol said. "I saw great potential there and [knew the] area would come back with proper development."
He continued to work for GFI until 2002, when he formed the Migdol Organization in East Harlem. Today the Migdol Organization encompasses five companies: Migdol Realty Management, Migdol Realty, Tower Construction, The Law Office of Jerry Migdol and the Migdol Family Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation founded in 2004.
Migdol formed the Family Foundation because he realized he was finally in a position where he could really give back to the community. "Now that we've made some money, we're giving back," he said. "I always wanted to give back; I just wasn't sure I'd be successful enough to do it."
He added, "I realized I really wanted to help people and I have the resources to go out and do it. It's much more meaningful and involved and now I can really impact positively the lives of people [in the community.]"
The Migdol Family Foundation holds annual holiday parties, giving out gifts and essential items to local families, holds an annual senior food drive and has started a scholarship program for local public schools. One of the foundation's latest endeavors is an asthma prevention program. One in four children in Harlem has asthma, the highest number in the nation. The foundation will help 100 families with children that have asthma by helping to pay for doctor's visits, arming them with the proper cleaning and medical supplies and offering them training on how to alleviate triggers of asthma in the home.
Migdol is also an advocate of low and middle income housing, which he feels there should be more of in the area. Because he felt there wasn't enough affordable housing for civil service workers, such as police officers, firefighters and teachers, in the district he has offered a discount officers, firefighters and teachers, in the district he has offered a discount on residential buildings that he owns to these workers.
The passion for Harlem and good deeds has stayed within the family as well. His wife and daughter help out with the foundation. He also has two sons who work for the company. One will be joining the Law Office of Jerry Migdol when he graduates from Benjamin Cardozo Law School, changing the name of the firm to Migdol & Migdol. The other son is involved in the real estate aspect of the company.
Migdol also recently had a building renovated at 134th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. Not only will there be more office space for him to expand his company, offering more pro bono work through his law firm and expanding the not-for-profit foundation to an entire floor, but there will also be residential space where his entire family will live.
"I think I can help more people the way I do it-through business," he said. "I can help people much better in my position. We're a real friend to the community. I love Harlem ... I think it's one of the most important places in the world, a place where people of diverse religions, cultures, races and ethnicities can live together in harmony."
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|Title Annotation:||PROFILE OF THE WEEK: Jerry Midgol, founder & president, Migdol Organization|
|Publication:||Real Estate Weekly|
|Date:||May 10, 2006|
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