A police source said the victim was a 70-year-old white male who lived alone. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner has ruled his death a suicide.
One neighbor who asked for anonymity identified the man as Ellis Jaffe, a quiet man she had shared a floor with for over 20 years, but did not know well. Police confirmed the man’s identity.
“He was a recluse; he didn't go out much and he told me most of his meals were delivered,” said the neighbor. “He was the nicest, nicest man. Oh my god, I can't believe this.”
She added that he was a graduate of NYU and that he was a retired city employee.
Another neighbor who identified himself as John said that when he moved into the building five months earlier, Jaffe brought him up to speed on how things worked, such as where the laundry room was located and how garbage collection operated. He also shared that he was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Despite several casual conversations, John did not know Jaffe by name.
“He came across as a friendly guy,” he said. “He didn't seem like he was thinking of taking his own life.”
Joseph Policari, who lived next door to Jaffe for 48 years, said the apartment had belonged to Jaffe's parents. He described Jaffe - who looked like Santa Claus because of his heavy build and white beard - as a loner.
“He didn't talk to nobody,” said Policari. “He didn't like anyone going in his place.”
Despite neighbors’ descriptions of Jaffe as a hermit, he was an active member of Jewish War Veterans (JWV) of the USA #673 in Maspeth, where he held the office of junior vice commander. Post Commander Sheldon Bogen, who has known Jaffe for about 13 years, said he maintained excellent attendance at the meetings, and enjoyed seeing foreign films in Manhattan.
“He was a happy, cheerful guy,” said Bogen. “If he was depressed, he held it in very well.”
Because Jaffe had no living immediate family, Bogen and an executive officer of Post #673 were the ones who arrived to identify the body on Friday morning.
Bogen said Jaffe lived at home in order to take care of his parents in their old age. He never married; Bogen said if asked why, Jaffe would respond that he never found the right one, and leave it at that.
“He was so busy taking care of his parents he probably never thought about leaving them to get married,” said Bogen. “He never complained about anything, never wanted anything.”
Bogen said Jaffe retired about two or three years ago, about the time his mother passed away, putting on weight and growing out a beard.
“It might have been too much for him,” he said, “but by talking to him you’d never think he’d just jump out a window.”
In fact, when Bogen heard about the incident, he assumed the overweight Jaffe had tripped and fallen out of the window because he could not believe that his jokester friend could have been in such a dark place.
Bogen, 70, recalls that when Jaffe turned 70 years old earlier this year, he joked he had finally caught up to him, never letting on that he was contemplating suicide.
“I can’t picture him doing what he did,” said Bogen. He added, “He was a good person; that’s why it’s so sad that he’s gone.”