Tribute For Baruch Haviv, Pilot, Landlord and Opera Fan, Dies at 82


This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Baruch Haviv, a pilot, operaphile and New York City landlord, pursued his loves with a mathematician’s specificity.

He arranged his flight routes around European opera schedules. He bought apartment buildings in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood because it was near Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera House.

And he loved his red 1964 Ford Falcon just the way it was, which is to say, not exactly mint. When his daughter Elana complained that the brakes took their time about stopping the car, he told her: “Elana, think of it like an airplane. You hit the runway and ease the breaks to slow it down.”

That vehicle appeared in the HBO series “The Deuce,” set during Times Square’s seedier days in the 1970s and ’80s. The car, his four children agreed, will outlive them all.

In recent years Mr. Haviv took up piano lessons and was preparing for a June recital when the city went into lockdown. He died on May 24 at his home in Manhattan after being ill with the coronavirus for two months, his children said. He was 82.

He was born Baruch Chybovsky on Nov. 7, 1937, in the city of Haifa in what was then Palestine and now Israel, the first of two children of Shoshana and Aaron Chybovsky, who had fled Poland ahead of the Holocaust. His father, a merchant marine, died at sea when Baruch was 4, leaving the family destitute.

He lived on a kibbutz until he was kicked out at age 7 or 8 for teaching the other boys how to smoke cigarettes; he was moved to an orphanage. Unable to afford high school, he worked as a mechanic and then joined the Israeli military, becoming a fighter pilot and flight instructor.

He changed his surname in the military, later offering various explanations, including that Chybovsky belonged to the feudal landowners on whose property his ancestors had worked.

Mr. Haviv left for the United States in 1962 — “to live the American dream,” his daughter Talia said — losing much of what little money he had in a bridge game during a layover in France. Arriving in Harlem, he worked as a painter and carpenter, earning a high school equivalency diploma and enrolling at Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He was on his way.

Drawing on his military experience, Mr. Haviv took a job giving flight lessons at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, then became an international pilot for American Airlines. At one point he turned down an opportunity to fly to Japan because it conflicted with his opera outings, on which he often treated the whole flight crew, his children said.

Music filled his dreams. He would wake up humming newly invented tunes to his wife, Suzanne, a speech therapist and teacher — they had met on a blind date — until she bought him a tape recorder to preserve his melodies.

Nothing became of these songs, said his daughter Tamar, a singer-songwriter.

Mr. Haviv, who lived for years with his wife in a home in Demarest, N.J., began his forays into Hell’s Kitchen real estate in 1979, when the neighborhood lived up to its name. His first building, at 431 West 45th Street, was occupied by unsavory characters whom he paid to leave, his son Ron said.

Mr. Haviv eventually owned or co-owned five buildings in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, now also known as the Clinton section. And until age 75, Barry Haviv, as many knew him, continued to do some minor building work himself.

“He said, ‘You can bury me in 431,’” Tamar Haviv said.

“But we didn’t,” said her brother.



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