Harnessing the Hudson: Master Builder Martin Ginsburg
In the mighty river, master builder Martin Ginsburg sees a revenue stream for waterfront towns
“Isn’t that something?” master builder Martin Ginsburg asks as we momentarily pause on a mid-January stroll through his Harbors at Haverstraw residential community (off Route 9W), en route to check out its new neighbor and his newest project, Admirals Cove.
Positioned at the widest point of the Hudson River, our gaze tracks his, peering southward as we take in the happy harmony of skyscraping sculpture, nature and waterfront living. The man clearly enjoys being in his element and guiding us through it, not surprising since the environment is of his own making.
Calling the indefatigable Ginsburg a developer and leaving it at that is like calling Elon Musk a tinkerer. The 87-year-old founder and principal of Ginsburg Development Corporation (GDC) first and foremost prides himself on being an architect.
Add to all those credentials Ginsburg’s avocation of aesthete, as in ardent admirer and patron of fine art, attested by the sculptures and paintings that ornament the visual language of his properties.
Admirals Cove, which recently started leasing its 240 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units, is the latest manifestation of Ginsburg’s high-concept model for luxury rentals. Monthly rates range from under $2,000 to more than $6,000.
Together with the Harbors, built almost two decades ago, the twin communities populate a picturesque peninsula that was “desolate” and now is a vibrant and verdant and intimate waterfront playground. It artfully blends a sense of being away from it all with a chill vibe that welcomes non-residents to partake of its pleasures. Most of the marina members live elsewhere, while street parking, trail walking and other features are open to the public.
After earning his degree in architecture, Martin Ginsburg was perfectly content plying his trade in New York City, when he was recruited by brother Jerome to join him in starting GDC in the early Sixties. At that point, not unlike that other New York-bred developer of note, they, too, were the beneficiaries of a loan from their father–totaling $6,000.
As fledgling developers, the brothers made their bones by taking on what Ginsburg called “the most difficult, rotten, hilly sites.” In that way, “we were able to acquire properties no other developer would build, for a very reasonable price.”
He is not deterred by the occasional project that is a money-loser, which he accepts as an occupational hazard. “My focus is always on the vision for what’s the best possible project to create in that area,” a GDC practice he calls placemaking. “You’re buying into a lifestyle.”
Amenities at Admirals Cove and Harbors range from a cafe, marina, and swimming pools to a kayak launch lagoon and a forthcoming multi-level restaurant on the property’s northeast point, with expansive river views in three directions. Another major feature is the waterfront promenade.
For commuters headed to Manhattan or stops along the way, a New York Waterway ferry is docked on the premises, across from the marina, for the 15-minute shuttle to Metro-North’s Ossining train station.
“The major thing we’re trying to accomplish,” said Ginsburg, who speaks softly and carries big ideas, “is presentation on the entire waterfront, with an estuary built out at the southern end and then a walkable waterfront and sculpture trail, with a bridge over the marina and a playground.”
He envisions the trail connecting directly to downtown Haverstraw, about a mile north, where the town has contracted with a Long Island developer to gentrify the area, thanks to a $4 million grant from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).
Two Westchester municipalities also bequeathed $10 million each in DRI funding by the state are Ossining (where Ginsburg has Harbor Square) and Peekskill (home to his high-end Abbey Inn and Spa perched aerie-like high above the Hudson).
Invoking the term “rainmaker,” Ginsburg is not shy about suggesting it is no coincidence that the state’s coveted DRI millions went to three River Towns where GDC already had upped the ante by creating high-profile, mixed-use waterfront showplaces. The DRI money was earmarked to “enhance walkability and connectivity to the waterfront and public places, increase arts and cultural amenities and expand business and housing opportunities,” which also happens to describe the GDC formula.
“We’re very passionate about the Hudson River,” he said, adding, “It has to become a major asset” for River Towns. They have to realize the river has to become a front door. Tourism is a very clean, attractive industry. The cities and towns haven’t focused on making that important.”
Ginsburg proposes nature trails dotting each of the Hudson River ports where the ships would stop, while the art lover in him favors installing sculptures within natural settings, as he already has done on his properties, creating gateways for hikers and other visitors to our Hudson Valley shores.
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of Rivertown Magazine.
PHOTOS BY HOWARD COPELAND