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Paul Milstein (1922–2010) was born in New York City and began his career at Circle Floor Company, Inc., a business founded by his father, Morris. Paul was named president in 1961 and led Circle Floor to become a dominant player in the New York City market, installing floors, ceilings, and drywall construction in many of the city's landmark buildings.
Paul launched the family's real estate development venture in the 50s, and, in partnership with his brother Seymour, created works that helped transform and revive neighborhoods throughout the city with building projects in Lincoln Center, Times Square, Battery Park City, and the Upper East Side.
The Milstein real estate empire bought or built more than 20 million square feet of office space, 8,000 hotel rooms, and 50,000 apartments in New York City during Paul's lifetime. Paul's purchase of a closed hotel in the Times Square area and its reinvention as the Milford Plaza Hotel was viewed by many as the beginning of the renewal of this iconic nerve-center of the city. In 1986, the Milsteins acquired the Emigrant Savings Bank, and built it into the largest privately owned bank in the country.
"Paul Milstein was a man who made a difference in business, in his community, and in education," said Peter Meinig '61, BME '62, former chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees. "We are profoundly grateful for his and Irma's support of Cornell, and for the dedication to civic commitment that they passed on to their children." Paul and Irma Milstein's connection with Cornell has been as parents and grandparents — their children, Howard '73 and Barbara '76, Barbara's husband David Zalaznick '76, and several grandchildren are all alumni. These ties, plus Paul's unique legacy of insight, innovation, and success were instrumental in the family's decision to have the building named for Paul, who attended New York University's School of Architecture.
The Milstein family's charitable legacy in New York City includes the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History; the Milstein Hospital Building of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center; the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School; and the New York Public Library's Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History, and Genealogy.