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Commissioner Ethel Griffin, New York City public administrator, dies

5/22/2015, 5:16 p.m.
Ethel J. Griffin ESQ was the first African-American and longest serving public administrator of the county of New York City ...
Ethel Griffith

Ethel J. Griffin ESQ was the first African-American and longest serving public administrator of the county of New York City since being appointed to this position in 1988. The position is responsible for managing the estates of individuals who die without a last will and testament and where the closest relatives cannot be identified or located. Her office has sold millions of dollars worth of cooperative and condominium apartments, other real estate, collectible art and furnishing. Her office conducted the first public auction of a multimillion-dollar lottery ticket, negotiated musical royalty rights and raised millions of dollars in revenue for the city of New York. Some of the notable estates administered during her tenure included copper heiress Huguette Clark, actress Gloria Foster, musician Peter Tosh and screenwriter Harry Bates.

Griffin credited her success to the mentoring support of Assemblyman Denny Farrell and Brooklyn Councilman Al Vann. The commissioner battled cancer for more than 10 years but continued to serve the citizens of New York until her passing. She was born in Austin, Texas, in 1944, attended college at the University of Denver, where she received a Bachelor of Arts. She also received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan and Juris Doctor degree at New York University.

Griffin was a resident for more than 30 years of Park West Village on New York City’s West Side. She also spent time with friends and family at Sag Harbor, Long Island.

She leaves her 95-year-old mother, her sister, nephew and a host of friends throughout the country to mourn her passing. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Funeral services were held in the Washington, D.C., area, at the Ft. Lincoln Funeral Home in Brentwood, Md., Tuesday, May 19. A memorial service for Griffin will take place in New York City in the next couple of months.