Herman Gottfried was landowner ally versus NYC
By Diane Galusha
Herman Gottfried, an attorney who represented hundreds of residents and business owners dispossessed by New York City’s Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoir projects, died April 24, 2010 at the age of 99.
Gottfried, just six months shy of his 100th birthday, passed away at Huntington Hospital in Huntington. He had been in failing health for about six months, spending a short period of time at the Gurwin Jewish Geriatric and Nursing Center in Hauppauge to be close to his family. Prior to that he had lived independently at his homes in Centreville, MA and Palm City, FL.
Mr. Gottfried was well known and respected in the Catskills. He and his wife Margaret “Peggy” O’Neill, were longtime Margaretville residents, contributing to the community and its institutions for many years. Peggy died January 13, 2002.
A Brooklyn native, Mr. Gottfried was born October 8, 1910 to German immigrant banker Morris Gottfried and his wife, Fanny. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature at City College and then graduated from Brooklyn Law School. He went to work for New York City, heading the law department of the comptroller’s office during the tenure of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
Soon after his marriage to Peggy, a court stenographer, he joined the U. S. Navy, serving as an officer aboard the USS Isherwood, a destroyer escort commissioned in April of 1943 and assigned to duty in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The ship took part in the initial landings on Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October of 1944.
Writing in 1991, he recalled, “We were the lead ship. We were fortunate to see Gen. Douglas MacArthur wade ashore and were alarmed when he was greeted by gunfire from snipers in the palm trees on shore. Isherwood loosed all its firepower into the fronds of the palm trees and the snipers dropped like coconuts. The General “returned” to the Philippines unscathed.”
In April of 1945 the Isherwood was attacked by a kamikaze Japanese fighter plane and counted 83 men as killed, injured or missing. Mr. Gottfried survived the attack, and left the Navy later that year with the rank of Commander. A proud veteran, he was a member of the USS Isherwood Association and regularly attended the group’s reunions all over the U.S.
On his return to civilian life, Mr. Gottfried was named Acting Corporation Counsel in charge of the New York City Board of Water Supply office in Kingston. In 1949, he “switched sides” and went into private practice to represent property owners, merchants and workers who were losing land, business and jobs to the city’s reservoirs. An effective advocate for his clients, he won substantial awards for them, becoming a specialist in the area of condemnation law. He later assisted many area property owners affected by state highway construction and other public works projects.
Among his many interests were golf, bridge, reading, politics, music, gardening and travel. Generous to friends and colleagues, and lively members of the community’s social life, the Gottfrieds were also staunch supporters of Margaretville Hospital, Fairview Public Library, the Margaretville Central School Scholarship Fund and Kingston Hospital. They also supported libraries and hospitals in Cape Cod and Florida. In 1998 they donated to the Village of Margaretville the brick building they built on Main Street to house the Gottfried law practice.
Predeceased by sisters Sophie Kramer and Beatrice Waxman, Mr. Gottfried is survived by a third sister, Gladys Meresman of Commack; seven nieces and nephews: Ann (Fred) Grafstein of Dix Hills; Marian (Tom) Curtin of Rochester; Mark (Phyllis) Waxman of Pikesville, MD; Jerry (Karyn) Waxman of Germantown, TN; Robert (Jo-Anne) Kramer of Cranbury, NJ; George Kramer of Brooklyn, and Janet Meresman of Staten Island. Sixteen great nieces and nephews and 12 great-great nieces and nephews also survive.
At Mr. Gottfried’s request, there will be no public service. Memorial contributions may be made to Margaretville or Kingston hospitals, the Fairview Library, or the MCS Scholarship Fund.