Most of the time, Mr. Heuermann made the culturally cosmic leap from his home in Massapequa Park to his Manhattan office on Fifth Avenue, where he could wield idiosyncratic power over people who might spend more money renovating their kitchens than it would cost to buy the ranch he lived in, now in such obvious disrepair. It’s a kind of power peculiar to life in New York, where the challenges of modernizing pre-war housing require time, money and typically the approval of a board charged with ensuring that plans to install a steam room, for example, won’t cause the building to collapse or flood the housing below.
In his role as a consultant, Mr. Heuermann was often the person brought in to make these kinds of determinations. Through his long relationship with management company, AMS, he was well known within the insular universe of Brooklyn Heights co-ops, finding himself in the apartments of investment bankers and lawyers, entertainment people and real estate developers.
Like so many professions, architecture can be punishingly stratified, and Mr. Heuermann, who by all accounts was extremely knowledgeable about the city’s labyrinthine building codes, did not fall on the visionary side of the spectrum. But as a journeyman who held bureaucratic authority, he was able to veto the plans of architects with degrees from Yale and projects in Nantucket, which were held back by clients not used to having their ideas set aside.
Last week a friend called to say that someone had been caught in the Gilgo Beach murders and that, amazingly enough, we both knew him. Mr. Heuermann was in her apartment—deeply aggravating in the moment and intensely frightening in retrospect—and was rude and dismissive when her architect called him out on a miscalculation he had made. I also lived in a building that used Mr. Heuermann and eventually ended the relationship, but it struck me that I could not remember anything about a person accused of such baroque violence, except for my initial, shallow realization that he was not take a look as an architect.
A former board president, Kelly Parisi, who moved across the country several years ago, filled in the gaps about Mr. Heuermann’s time with the building when I contacted her. During her own renovation, she told me, workers discovered some rotting beams between her apartment and the one above, a problem that Mr. Heuermann said needed to be fixed with drawings for the replacements he would produce. This struck the team working on her project as a kind of cheap riot, as the new beams could be installed without the blueprints which would simply cost the building more money.