David Rockefeller, founder of the Downtown- Lower Manhattan Association, and whose masterful and tireless advocacy helped ensure the rebirth and growth of Lower Manhattan, died at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York. He was 101 years old. Mr. Rockefeller was the chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank and the former chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Group. A businessman, philanthropist and global statesman, he was a role model of civic leadership whose influence extended far beyond Manhattan.
Jessica Lappin President of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association remembered Rockefeller as “a man whose vision was synonymous with the long term. What he saw and helped bring about could be measured in decades and generations, not mere weeks, months or years.”
In 1958, sensing that the Lower Manhattan business district was losing ground to midtown Manhattan, Mr. Rockefeller marshaled the support of downtown business executives and created the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D-LMA). All told, between 1960 and 1972, about 45 new buildings – with more than 32 million square feet of office space – were built in Lower Manhattan. The Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association has been and continues to be a powerful advocate for Lower Manhattan’s most important businesses and institutions.
He is credited with spurring the rebirth of Lower Manhattan more than five decades ago. In the early 1950s, the historic neighborhood where George Washington took the presidential oath was declining. The streets were dark and deserted, and many companies were leaving. That all changed after Mr. Rockefeller, who was leading the effort to build Chase Manhattan Bank’s new headquarters, convinced the board to locate not in midtown, but in the heart of the financial district. 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza opened in 1960, providing a new and sunny public space and improving the overall reputation of Lower Manhattan.
The D-LMA led the charge for many of the significant developments in Lower Manhattan’s recent history, from the building of One Chase Plaza and the World Trade Center to the development of Battery Park City to the initiation of the 1993 Plan for Lower Manhattan and the formation of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District. Most recently, the D-LMA has campaigned for projects and policies which support the post-9/11 rebuilding of Lower Manhattan and have contributed to Lower Manhattan’s remarkable revitalization.
At a ceremony honoring Rockefeller in 2000, the Alliance for Downtown New York’s Chair at the time Robert R. Douglass said that his longtime friend had “done more for Downtown, over a longer period, than anyone… From his time as assistant to Fiorello La Guardia, to his years as head of the Chase and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, David’s vision, perseverance and great skill laid the groundwork for today’s success.”
He is survived by four daughters and two sons. His wife of 55 years, Margaret, died in March, 1996.