Jack Katz, the longtime executive director of the Flatbush Avenue business improvement district, died of natural causes on Thursday, friends and family members said. He was 87.
The Flatbush Avenue fixture led the business improvement district for 22 years overseeing an important period of change on Flatbush Avenue, but merchants will always remember the longtime neighborhood advocate, Community Board 14 member, and East Midwood Jewish Center congregant as a man of the community.
“They broke the mold with Jack,” said Robin Redmond, the executive director of the Flatbush Development Corporation, who worked with Katz for 13 years. “He believed in community — and he believed in Flatbush.”
Many merchants say the business improvement district, with Katz at the helm, helped steer Flatbush Avenue towards better times.
“His stewardship of the Flatbush Avenue business improvement district over the last few decades advanced the economic opportunities and the quality of life in this neighborhood and Brooklyn as a whole,” Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) said in a statement. “Jack was the last of his breed, and he will be missed.”
Katz’s leadership was spotlighted in the New York Times, which noted the so-called “Flatbush renaissance.”
“We have practically no boarded-up businesses,” Katz told the Times in 1996. “We’ve got people shopping the avenue. It’s safer. It’s cleaner. We’ve got the whole package.”
Katz was an old-school business leader who was at his best working with people on Brooklyn’s streets, business improvement district merchants said. He was quicker with a call or a visit than an email or any other form of digital media, they said.
His dedication to his job as executive director was unparalleled, friends said, explaining that as he spent his last few weeks in a hospital bed, he busied himself organizing the business improvement district’s Thanksgiving food drive and upcoming Christmas toy drive.
He gave no quarter to illegal street vendors and peddlers, but was quick with compassion for those he cared about.
Redmond recalled how Katz helped her get a new wedding dress when she bought one that was too large for her before the wedding.
“I ran by his office crying, and Jack came back 20 minutes later saying not to worry about it,” said Redmond. “He got them to make me a dress that was the right size; that’s the kind of guy he was. If he could help you, he would bend over backwards to do so.”
Katz his survived by his wife and three children.