By David Brand
Justice Seymour Boyers, a lifelong Queens leader who served on the bench, in the state Assembly and in the City Council, died Monday. Boyers was 92.
Boyers is remembered for his many contributions to the legal community, to Queens and to New York City history.
“Judge Seymour Boyers was a legendary figure in Queens County public life, both in elected and judicial office,” said Councilmember Barry S. Grodenchik. “I will always remember his gentle way and the warm friendly smile with which he always greeted me. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Boyers was elected to represent Queens’ Fifth City Council District in 1961. In 1963, he was elected to an at-large council seat. Boyers was later elected to the State Assembly.
As a council member, Boyers notably co-sponsored the Landmarks Preservation Bill of 1965, which has saved hundreds of New York City treasures.
To pass the bill, Boyers — the chairman of the Codes Committee —took on the responsibility of assuaging construction unions and developers that the new law would not have a major effect on development and, thus, jobs.
“We were able to convey to them that this would not impact on construction to any great degree,” Boyers said in a 2006 interview with the New York Preservation Archive Project. “Of course, they were under the impression, originally, that once you start putting areas and districts that they can’t destroy and not build, that it would be a problem, [but] we were able to indicate to them that, if anything, it would be beneficial because many of these areas would want to have reconstruction of the buildings to meet the requirements of the Landmarks Law. Although originally reluctant, we ultimately persuaded them that they could live with the Landmarks Preservation Law.”
New York Preservation Archive Project Executive Director Brad Vogel recognized Boyers’ contributions to the city.
"We mourn the passing of Seymour Boyers, one of the indispensable stewards of New York City's landmarks law at its very outset,” Vogel told the Eagle. “We view his preservation efforts as an inspiration. Without the astute efforts of Boyers and other city council members in the 1960s, New York City may have lost even more of its finest historic landmarks and neighborhoods."
Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff also praised Boyers for his forward-mindedness and for shepherding a bill that “shaped the face of New York.”
“The law was a realization that history belonged to all New Yorkers and the heritage of our city was something to build upon and not erase,” Bancroft told the Eagle. “Imagine what we could have lost.”
Boyers was born in Queens in 1926. He graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in 1945, and served in the U.S. Army, from 1945-47. Boyers earned his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and attended Columbia University Teachers College.. He earned his law degree New York University School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1954.
After serving in the City Council and the state Assembly, Boyers served as Justice of the Civil Court and the Supreme Court of Queens County before he was designated Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department in 1982. He stepped down from the bench in 1985.
“Besides his well-known contributions to the legal profession and his long, distinguished career in public service, he was always present and available for any attorney that needed a word or advice,” said Queens County Bar Association President-elect Marie-Eleana First.
After retiring from the judiciary, Boyers joined the law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman and Mackauf.
In a statement to members, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association remembered Boyers’ many contributions to the legal profession.
“Since leaving the bench and returning to private practice, he has made an even greater impact as an advocate, negotiator and mediator, particularly in cases involving medical malpractice and general negligence,” the Association said. “Committed to the public interest and training young lawyers, he has been a lecturer and panelist at Emory Law School continuing legal education programs for the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, among others.”
Boyers was appointed as a member of Commission on Fiduciary Appointments from 2000-2004 by Chief Judge Kaye as was a member of the Board of Directors of the Supreme Court Justices Association of the City of New York.
Boyers lectured at Emory Law School and at continuing legal education programs for the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Funeral services will take place on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 9:45 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel located at 180 West 76th St in Manhattan.