By Madina Toure
Jerome Belson, alumnus, benefactor and trustee emeritus of St. John’s University’s School of Law died Sept. 17 at the age of 90. Faculty, friends and family remembered him as generous, friendly and committed.
Belson, who graduated from the law school in 1948, was elected to the university’s board of trustees in 1986. Because of his contribution, the university was able to renovate and expand Belson Hall.
Belson Hall and Finley Hall—both of which contain the law school—have offices, classrooms and other facilities.
Belson and his late wife, Maxine, also provided the main funding for the Belson Moot Court Room. The Belson Soccer Stadium, which was built in 2003, is used by St. John’s NCAA men’s and women’s soccer teams.
Michael Simons, the law school’s dean, called Belson a “great friend” of the law school.
When Simons was a young lawyer in the early 1990s, he was working for a law firm which had Belson as a client. At the time, Belson was doing work in building and managing publicly subsidized housing.
“Jerry had a remarkable career and was an important player in the New York City real estate scene and in particular the development of affordable housing for New York,” Simons said in a telephone interview. “Jerry did very well and also understood that the blessings that he had been given gave him an obligation to give back to others.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Belson attended Lafayette HS and Brooklyn College, before earning his J.D. from St. John’s School of Law.
He started his career in law as assistant corporation counsel for the city before founding his firm, Belson, Connolly & Belson.
As chairman of Jerome Belson Enterprises, a real estate and management company, Belson created more than 50,000 residential units for low- and moderate-income families in New York.
In March 2005, he became president of the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York and was inducted into the New York State Builders Association Hall of Fame in 2003. He was the first person from New York City to receive the recognition.
He also served as chairman of United Cerebral Palsy of New York City and was on the board of the National Jewish Fund. He was the past chairman and director of Amrep Corp., a real estate and media company.
“With the passing of Jerome Belson, our university has lost a tireless and visionary benefactor,” St. John’s University President Conrad Gempesaw said in a statement. “He has served as an example of excellence and civic commitment for St. John’s, New York City, and our nation. Our prayers and sympathies are with the entire Belson family.”
Jerry Belson was predeceased by his wife Maxine and son Michael. He is survived by his son Tad, daughter Brianne, brother Victor, his five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour