Michael Spector’s legacy lives through Long Island buildings, son says

Michael Spector’s legacy lives through Long Island buildings, son says
Michael Harris Spector. (Photo courtesy of Spector Group)

Michael Harris Spector, a longtime Great Neck resident and founder of Spector Group, an architectural group that transformed the landscape of Long Island, died on Jan. 21 after battling cancer, family members said. He was 79.

Spector and Spector Group designed or contributed to hundreds of projects across Long Island and New York City, ranging from RXR Plaza in Jericho to the Dealertrack Technologies Headquarters in New Hyde Park, the last project he had a hand in.

The firm has also left a considerable impact on the North Shore, an analysis of Spector Group’s past and current projects suggests. Spector Group designed North Shore Hebrew Academy, condominiums in Great Neck, additions for several schools in Port Washington, East Williston and Great Neck, as well as several private residences, for example.

It is also eyeing designs for the Center at 3400 in North Hills and Great Neck Marina, according to the group’s website.

“It’s a living legacy because the buildings that he designed where people live and work and pray and play are all still here and all kept beautifully,” Marc Spector, one of Michael Spector’s sons and a principal in the firm, said in an interview.

“He did treat them all equally, but there’s some 275 buildings that have his name on it … You wouldn’t recognize his work from project to project, because they were so individual,” Spector added.

Michael Spector grew up in the Great Neck village of Kensington as the son of an architect, his son said. He then attended Syracuse University, where he got his master’s degree in architecture before opening Spector Group in 1965 – at 27 years old.

“He became the sole practitioner and the rest is history,” Marc Spector said.

Growing up, Spector said, his father would often be the first in the office, sometimes getting there before dawn. They would also visit construction sites on Long Island and keep up with the work, Spector said.

But they never missed a family dinner, Spector said.

“It always was family comes first and work is second, even though my life was intertwined with him between family and work because we worked next to each other 29 years,” Spector said. “It was kind of an ebb and flow.”

“He was always dad first, architecture was always second, believe it or not,” Spector added.

Michael Spector formally retired in 2007 and stepped away from day-to-day operations but “never completely left the business,” Marc Spector said.

Michael Spector’s battle with cancer lasted two years, Marc Spector said, but even then his father put his family and friends first.

“He managed it well,” Marc Spector said. “He never complained, he never said he was in pain, he was only concerned with how everyone else was doing.”

In addition to Marc Spector, he is survived by Joan Spector, his wife of 56 years, another son, Scott Spector, a daughter, Jolie Slovis of Roslyn, and nine grandchildren.

The Michael Harris Spector Architecture Scholarship at Syracuse University has been founded in his honor.

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