Martin Kennedy, a real estate entrepreneur who pioneered transforming derelict factories along New York City’s Brooklyn waterfront into desirable and aesthetically pleasing residential and commercial properties, died peacefully on June 6, 2019, with his family by his side.
An early practitioner of adaptive reuse, Mr. Kennedy favored historic renovation and integrating new construction into older buildings, respectful of a building’s character and the neighborhood’s history. His properties have often been featured as locations in films and television shows.
Mr. Kennedy was also a man of action. He owned and once flew a 1947 Republic Seabee amphibious airplane solo from Miami to New York. He was the navigator on a U.S. Navy AJ-2 atomic bomber based in North Africa during the early years of the Cold War.
After leaving Pennsylvania Military College, he came to New York to make his name and to start a family.
As a young father, he enjoyed hiking and country walking with his sons in the wild Wicklow mountains of Ireland, the country from which his family emigrated.
Several years ago, he and his wife Barbara, who is also a licensed pilot, flew Italian trainee fighter jets in a friendly dogfight against one other.
A mechanical genius, Mr. Kennedy could build or rig anything, be it automotive, aeronautical, locomotive, or a common household device.
His looks were such that he was often accosted by people who thought that he was a young Sean Connery. He started, but never finished, a semi-autobiographical novel about a Soviet fighter jet’s attack on a Korean passenger jetliner.
“He possessed that most uncommon quality of common sense combined with a quiet and unassuming demeanor and a calm inner confidence that radiated friendship, kindness, and optimism,” said his family.
Until he became seriously ill, he and his wife, who have lived in Rye for forty years, were daily communicants at the Church of the Resurrection.
In addition to his wife Barbara (nee O’Keeffe), Mr. Kennedy leaves behind his two sons, Kevin and Brian; his daughter-in-law Jolene; and his granddaughter Astrid.
A mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at Church of the Resurrection on June 15. Mr. Kennedy was buried in the old grounds at Greenwood Union Cemetery.