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David Rockefeller Dies At 101, Legendary Banker & Philanthropist Was Pioneer In Revitalizing Lower Manhattan

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.

Robert Douglass, Founding Chairman of the Alliance for Downtown New York and Civic Champion, Dies at 85

The Alliance for Downtown New York mourns the loss of Founding Chairman Robert Douglass today. In addition to his seminal role as the Alliance’s Chairman from 1995-2015, Douglass was also a lifetime director and former chair of the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association, and through every role he held was a staunch advocate of Lower Manhattan businesses and residents. He was 85 years old.

In his work with the D-LMA and as Counsel and Secretary to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Douglass played a formative role in shaping downtown New York. His fingerprints were on everything from Battery Park City to the original World Trade Center.

For decades Douglass worked assiduously to make Lower Manhattan a premier global address for businesses, residents and visitors. Working closely with a small group of urban visionaries, Douglass helped reshape the neighborhood as an advocate for the conversion of Downtown’s vacant office space to residential properties and the establishment of a business improvement district.  Following the devastating attacks on 9/11, he became a leading voice on the efforts to rally and rebuild Lower Manhattan into the vibrant community that it is today.

“He was a giant and a gentleman, and it is nearly impossible to overstate his influence on this neighborhood,” said Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin. “For more than 30 years, he championed Lower Manhattan’s growth and played a significant part in its recovery after the 9/11 attacks. As an advocate for businesses and residents, he has helped articulate a compelling vision for a Lower Manhattan for the 21st Century. Lower Manhattan simply would not be what it is today without him.”

After receiving the Liberty Award at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s annual gala in 2012, Douglass described Lower Manhattan’s extraordinary recovery after the 9/11 attacks and added: “I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world to have had the opportunity to play a part in this incredible transformation.”

In 2005, Douglass was appointed by New York Governor George Pataki to the Board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Pataki described Douglass as “a tireless advocate for Lower Manhattan for decades” and a “dynamic, committed leader who brings the vision, experience and expertise to ensure that we realize the Master Site Plan for the World Trade Center and ensure that Lower Manhattan remains the financial capital of the world for generations to come.”

The Downtown Alliance is forever indebted to Robert Douglass for his vision, service, and dedication to making Lower Manhattan what it is today. The city has lost a remarkable civic leader.

U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler Stresses Importance of Securing Lower Manhattan Resiliency

At this morning’s Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D-LMA) annual meeting, Congressman Jerrold Nadler addressed the importance of continued efforts to secure Lower Manhattan’s resiliency and post-Sandy recovery. In speaking to the group of more than 100 Lower Manhattan leaders, the Congressman also spoke about his successful efforts to secure the permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and provide full compensation to survivors and first responders and survivors through the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Congressman Nadler was an advocate for Lower Manhattan’s inclusion in the federal government’s recent National Disaster Resiliency Competition funding, stressing the district’s vulnerability to coastal flooding and rising sea levels and the critical importance of protecting Lower Manhattan against natural disasters.

“It was an honor to join today’s Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association annual meeting and speak with the many community and business leaders who are building and growing Lower Manhattan,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “I am grateful for their efforts and to be working with so many of the members and directors of D-LMA on issues of importance to us all: access to health care, resiliency and protection in the face of impending climate change, and meeting the transportation and infrastructure needs for this thriving neighborhood.”


“It’s been an extraordinary year for Lower Manhattan since the D-LMA last met a year ago,” said Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association President Jessica Lappin. “We’re attracting ever more businesses and are continuing our dynamic growth. As this continues, it becomes even more important to make us more resilient and prepared for climate change than ever before. We’ve made some progress on securing funds to harden our shoreline, but now we have to ensure we are using funding to actually protect the shores of Lower Manhattan. I thank Congressman Nadler for his commitment and leadership on this effort.”



The D-LMA also voted this morning on a new slate of Directors. New Board Members elected today are: Irene Baker of JPMorgan Chase & Company; David Cheikin of Brookfield Properties Corporation; Chanda Gibson of Goldman Sachs; and Joel Steinhaus of Citigroup. Alan M. Scott, recently named the Chair of the Alliance for Downtown New York Board of Directors, was also elected as Chair of the D-LMA Board of Directors today. Robert R. Douglass, former Chairman of both organizations, was appointed lifetime director of the D-LMA at today’s meeting. Photos of the event can be downloaded here.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Pledges His Support for Securing Lower Manhattan Resiliency

At this morning’s Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D-LMA) meeting, Senator Charles Schumer announced his clear, strong commitment for helping Lower Manhattan secure the additional resiliency funding it needs and deserves.

The Senator’s remarks follow the recent announcement of $14.75 million in City and State funding for resiliency investments in Lower Manhattan.

“We must be ever more prepared and resilient in Lower Manhattan and move forward with work that will lead us to long-term, lasting solutions. I’m incredibly honored and excited to hear Senator Schumer championing this incredibly important issue,” said Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association President Jessica Lappin.

In his remarks, Senator Schumer calls for the allocation of additional funding that will allow resiliency efforts to go beyond planning stages and into critical construction stages. Specifically, funding would be allocated from a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) program competition. Under the HUD program, $1 billion in federal funds will be available to cities proposing innovative resiliency and storm hardening plans.

Excerpt from Senator Schumer’s remarks as delivered at the D-LMA annual meeting:

… We have to protect Lower Manhattan from another Sandy-related storm. We have learned the hard way that we are a vulnerable place. We never used to think of New York as vulnerable to floods and even to the elements. We are.

And the HUD Rebuild by Design, which I mentioned, committed $1 billion to resiliency and coastline protection with the most funding of any going to the Big U project to protect Manhattan from 23rd Street to Montgomery Street. That’s a good start, but we need to do more. We need to finish the project going from Montgomery to the Battery and then up the West Side…

So as I said, we need to finish the project and that’s important. [The] second thing I want to say about the future. –

I was pleased to hear that the City of New York recently announced, and they deserve praise for this along with Jessica and your lobbying efforts and the other friends of downtown, a [$14.75] million investment in resiliency for Lower Manhattan.

It works in two steps. The first is an $8 million direct investment in flood protection design and mitigation at Battery Park and then there’s another [$6.75] million for planning and design of a broader flood protection plan from Montgomery Street south to the Battery and up the west side.

The planning comes from city and state funds. They have the money for the planning process, but we need to think about the construction funding now, that’s the big nut.

I believe we have the right source for that funding. At the moment, HUD is conducting a $1 billion national disaster resiliency competition. It’s essentially expanding the Rebuild by Design competition that we had here in New York and downtown got some of the money for, nationally. The funding is only available to areas like New York that have been recently hit by an actual disaster. And they’ll be picking the most innovative resiliency and storm hardening plans.

So I think that resiliency in Lower Manhattan is the perfect fit. We have so much to protect and it makes sense, so I’m here to commit to you that I’m going to make this the top of my list and try to get the HUD CDBG funding from the national competition to fulfill the investment in downtown.

Think about it – where is HUD going to get the most bang for their buck in resiliency if not Lower Manhattan? So that’s a project that I will, that’s going to be one of my high priorities.