Saturday, February 7, 2015
RIP Ralph Feldman
[Image via Facebook]
Ralph Feldman, a longtime East Village resident and a former FDNY fire marshal, died Thursday morning in his East Eighth Street home. He was 79.
Feldman, a Bronx native who retired from the FDNY after 27 years in 1985, had been battling lung cancer and emphysema and used an oxygen tank, which didn't slow him down from smoking. He was a familiar figure on East Eighth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C, where he lived in a building that he bought in 1969.
According to a feature obituary in today's Daily News, Feldman began buying up distressed buildings in the East Village, Lower East Side and Williamsburg in the late 1960s.
"To him it was a labor of love, taking a building that was going to be torn down and turning it into something people could live in," his longtime friend John Knox told the Daily News. "He's a Lower East Side icon. People know him for the good things he did, bringing the neighborhood back."
One of his tenants told us that he owns up to 40 properties in these areas … that he never raised the rents.
As far as relatives, the tenant was only aware of one niece.
Feldman was also a prolific artist, and his sculpture of the firefighters who died in the 23rd Street Fire on Oct. 17, 1966, is on permanent display at the Cathedral Church of Saint John The Divine.
Feldman took thousands of photos of neighborhood fires in the 1970s and 1980s. He shared a few dozen with us this past fall, mostly of fires on East Eighth Street between Avenue B and Avenue D. We'll sort through those and post them at a later time.
This post also barely scratches the surface of Feldman's involvement in the neighborhood. We hope to collect some anecdotes and share them here. You may leave some in the comments as well.