John A. Moran Jr., realtor who helped shape Riverdale, dies at 88

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John A. Moran, who died on July 24 in Margate, N.J., “was a devoted Riverdalian with a great love of the neighborhood where he grew up and raised his family,” his son John recalls. In fact, Mr. Moran, known to all as Jack, did a lot to shape his community, both as a real estate broker and as a volunteer.

In 1953, when he joined his father’s firm, John A. Moran and Son, Riverdale was still a semi-rural community with few tall buildings. As that began to change during the community’s first building boom, he arranged the sale of many prime apartment sites.

Perhaps his most famous — and most controversial — sale was to the Soviet Union. In 1972, Mayor John V. Lindsay had his eye on Faraday Woods between Mosholu Avenue and Fieldston Road near West 256th Street. It was one of Riverdale’s last large tracts of undeveloped land and the mayor’s administration wanted it for a “scatter site” low-income housing project.

The owner of the property, Robert Weinberg, had agreed to sell to the city, but community opposition brought the deal to a standstill. Mr. Moran quietly engineered an alternative arrangement for a residential tower to house workers from the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. Despite giving up sovereignty to our Cold War opponent, that was more palatable to the neighbors.

Jack was born in the Bronx in 1925 and raised in Riverdale by John and Gladys Moran. He went to St. Margaret’s School and Manhattan College Preparatory School before attending Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1948.

His service to his community began with his church. A devout Catholic, he was one of the founders of St. Gabriel’s Church where he remained a parishioner until his semi-retirement and move to Southern New Jersey in 2003.

As a realtor and a lifelong Riverdalian, it was natural for him to be concerned that the community remain a safe place with manageable growth, according to a statement from his family. That concern led him to become a board member at a number of local institutions, including 12 years on Community Planning Board 12, the precursor to today’s Community Board 8, where he served on the Land Use Committee.

He was also a long-term board member of Riverdale Neighborhood House and served as its President, and he joined the boards of Francis Schervier Home & Hospital, Schervier Nursing Care Center Housing, the Riverdale Community Council and the 50th Precinct Community Council.

When his son, John, a New York City policeman at the time, saw the need to improve ambulance service in the area, he helped his son's cause by joining the board of the Kingsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Despite a bout with polio as a young child and post-polio syndrome as an adult, Mr. Moran “had a tremendous love of sports,” according to his son. He loved to talk about sports — especially baseball — and he loved being involved with it, the younger Mr. Moran recalls.

He was with the North Riverdale Baseball League for over 25 years, both on its Executive Board and as a team manager.

In 1972, Mr. Moran was named Riverdale Community Council “Man of the Year” and he won the Francis Schervier Award in 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years Mary (Betsy), his daughter Shelley, his sons and their wives John and Karen, Richard and Elizabeth, Christopher and Amy, seven grandchildren and his sister Mary Patricia Baxter.

“Jack loved children and enjoyed watching them grow,” a family e-mail states, “He was very concerned when one of his grandsons was diagnosed with Autism in 2004 and he wanted to do as much as he could to help him.”

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to the Autism Speaks Foundation, online at www.Autismspeaks.org (Click on the link at the top of the page then select the on the left column in the middle of the page then type in John A. Moran Jr. in the box under Tribute Name).

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