Howard B. Kimmel, housing expert, dies at 95

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Howard Kimmel, a man who was instrumental in developing affordable housing throughout New York, died at 95 years old. (Photo courtesy of Linda Kimmel Engle)

Howard B. Kimmel, 95, longtime resident of Great Neck, died peacefully at his home on Friday, Feb. 5.

He was a cherished son of the late Philip and Anna Kimmel, loving husband of the late Sylvia D. Kimmel, and adored brother of late siblings, Fred D. Kimmel and Gladys Hymanson. He was a devoted father of his three children: Linda Kimmel Engle, Debra Kimmel Kresch, and Lawrence Michael Kimmel, and proud grandfather of his six grandchildren: Michael and Darrell Engle, Rachelle and Jolie Kresch, and Ava and Mark Kimmel. There was a small graveside service at Mount Hebron Cemetery, officiated by Rabbi Robert S. Widom of Temple Emanuel of Great Neck.

Howard was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he met his beloved wife, Sylvia, while roller skating. Their friendship led to 67 wonderful years of marriage.

Wartime military service interrupted his education, but he returned to graduate from Brooklyn College and to marry in 1948. The newlyweds rented space in the home of a couple who became their best friends, and inspired Howard’s professional interest in shared housing. Early in their marriage, Howard worked as a photographer for their aptly-named company, Sylard. Years later, he earned a Master’s degree in Housing and City Planning from Columbia Graduate School of Architecture. Howard proudly returned to Brooklyn College in 2018, seventy years after graduating, to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Howard and Sylvia moved to Queens and then to Great Neck, where they became active in the community.

Ever focused and hardworking, Howard served as a career civil servant for the state Department of Housing and Urban Renewal for 40 years. For the government, he devised and implemented a Shared Housing Opportunities Program.

For his Village of Thomaston in Great Neck, he developed and upgraded Northern Boulevard, via urban planning, strategic zoning and new parks, building the community and the tax base. He was instrumental in creating the “Autumn Housing” on the former Arrandale School site, which has provided affordable housing for seniors in Great Neck.

In their own autumn years, Howard and Sylvia moved from their Great Neck home of fifty-eight years, to a co-op apartment, where Howard shared his expertise within a new community.

Kimmel was a visionary leader in the field of housing and urban development, locally and globally. He served the: President of the Village of Thomaston Civic Association, Chairman of the Thomaston Planning Board, member of the Thomaston Zoning Board of Appeals, Trustee of the Village of Thomaston, resident of NAHRO for the tri-state NY-NJ-CT region, and more. He was also a teacher, a mentor, and a builder of better homes and communities. He taught courses in housing management at NYU, Cornell, Hofstra, and Queens College.

He served as a consultant and keynote speaker for the United Nations, wrote a manual that they translated into seven languages to use as a textbook, and worked as a Program Evaluator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Kimmel remained a zealous advocate of affordable housing throughout his life. After his retirement from civil service, he founded the Kimmel Housing Development Foundation, from which he inspired local, county, state, and federal agencies to collaborate with his architects, builders, attorneys, and financiers. Together, they secured a site in New Cassel/Westbury, and constructed two buildings for low-income families.

This award-winning project vastly improved the area. Howard oversaw the property until 2013, when KHDF partnered with Selfhelp, merging their similar missions.

Kimmel’s passionate leadership, limitless energy, and dedication will be greatly missed by his family, friends, coworkers, and all those whose lives he touched.

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