By Carter B. Horsley
A man is measured by his friends,
those who knew and respected him and those who honor him.
Lewis Rudin was the head, with
his brother Jack, of the Rudin Management Company, one of the
seven great and legendary building families of New York City after
World War II. (The other families are the Tishmans, the Urises,
the Minskoffs, the Fishers, the Kaufmans and the Dursts.) These
families erected most of the city's major office buildings in
the last half of the 20th Century and several of them, including
the Rudins, also built many apartment buildings.
Lewis, who died of cancer September
20, 2001, was best known, however, not for his many building projects,
but as the guiding light and co-founder of the Association for
a Better New York, which is known as ABNY, and for giving out
thousands of golden apple label pins in the "I Love NY"
campaign. He was the point man for the city's real estate industry,
not in waging its perennial wars against rent regulatons, but
in promoting the city. Indeed, he was the city's point man and
many referred to him affectionately as Mr. New York.
A memorial service was held
for Mr. Rudin at the just restored Central Synagogue on Lexington
Avenue and 55th Street, which had suffered a devastating fire
and had only been rededicated recently. The handsome, twin-turreted
synagogue is across the avenue from the building where Mr. Rudin
lived in a penthouse. It was packed with the mighty of the city
who have been busy honoring the city's heroes for the past 13
days since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Mr. Rudin had been ill for
a while but had attended the rededication of the synagogue in
a wheelchair with an oxygen mask and in recent days had reached
out to his many famous friends to say goodbye and to tend to the
business of rebuilding the city in the wake of the horrific attacks.
Mr. Rudin, of course, was no stranger to city
crises and his arduous, relentless campaigning on behalf of the
city blossomed during the fiscal crisis of the early 1970s and
continued through the years. As chairman of ABNY, he was instrumental
in getting his industry to prepay real estate taxes, a plan that
was important in helping to save the city from bankruptcy.
New York City, of course, is not merely the
world's financial capital and the world's great real estate play,
but a fulcrum of healthy competition and Mr. Rudin was an important
backer of the New York City Marathon and the U. S. Tennis Open
as well as a philanthropist to many causes and institutions, such
as Carnegie Hall.
Loving, fond and moving tributes to Mr. Rudin
were made by Gov. Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, former President Clinton,
New York Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodman Clinton,
former Mayors David Dinkins and Edward Koch, Sidney Poitier, and
many others including members of his family and of his favorite
golf club, Deepdale. At the end of the service, the casket passed
out of the synagogue through an allée of raised golf clubs.
The city's real estate industry has long been
a major bulwark of many charitable institutions and it has had
many leading figures. William Zeckendorf and Harry B. Helmsley
and Donald Trump were perhaps its most famous tycoons, and others
like the Rose family have long been prominent supporters of the
arts. Real estate in New York is very much a family affair and
Lewis was fortunate in having his surviving brother, Jack, take
on extra loads while he devoted a great deal of his enormous energies
to city affairs. Like several of the other famous building "families,"
the Rudins were low-key and not flamboyant and did not seek out
"trophy" properties and headlines. Lewis Rudin graduated
from DeWitt Clinton High School and New York University and was
an Army sergeant in Europe in World War II. The Rudin company
had been founded by his father, Samuel, who first built an apartment
building in the Bronx in 1924. The Rudins would build their first
office building in 1955 at 415 Madison Avenue. Their flagship
office building was 345 Park Avenue where they maintained their
offices. That rather bulky and huge building would become one
of the city's most expensive as it overlooked the Seagram Building
that had been built a few years before just to the north and the
low-rise blockfront of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church just
to the south. Rudin office buildings were not very different from
many other speculative towers of the era. Some were good-looking
by themselves, but not in context with their neighbors. 41 Madison
Avenue, for example, was a typical bronze-glass tower variation
on the Seagram Building but it jarringly interrupted the great
palatial ambiance of Madison Square Park where its neighbors included
some great buildings as the Flatiron, Metropolitan Life, Metropolitan
Life Annex, and the New York Life Insurance towers. As time passed,
however, Rudin buildings became much more sensitive to their surroundings.
560 Lexington Avenue, for example, was a fine, elegant and restrained,
red-brick mid-size office building just to the south of the great
Art Deco skyscraper at 570 Lexington and just behind the community
building and gardens of St. Bartholomew's Church. When that church
later planned to build a glass skyscraper on the site of its garden,
which would seriously disrupt views from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
to the south, and the views from 560 Lexington Avenue and 345
Park Avenue, Mr. Rudin joined those who successfully waged a preservation
war and were successful in having the city's Landmarks Preservation
Commission deny permission for the church to build it, one of
the city's most controversial preservation battles. Several years
later, the Rudins erected 1675 Broadway, a very subtle and elegant
mid-size tower that combined a gray-flannel modernism with Art
Deco sensibility and combined a major theater into the project.
The most recent Rudin office tower is the gently curving Reuters
Tower at 3 Times Square on the northwest corner of 42nd Street
and Seventh Avenue, one of the most interesting and more attractive
towers in the remarkable renaissance of Times Square.
The Rudin real estate portfolio also included
22 residential buildings including buildings at 945 Fifth Avenue,
1085 Park Avenue and 211 East 70th Street. The Rudins did not
build to sell and most of their apartment buildings are still
Many of the public officials who attended the
service would later appear at a major prayer ceremony at Yankee
Stadium in the Bronx.for victims of the terrorists' attacks.
One of the speakers remarked that Rudin had
an upholstered pillow that read "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"
and a little later in the service, Mr. Rudin's daughter, Beth
Rudin DeWoody, remarked that her father's head was resting on
that cushion in his coffin draped with an American flag at the
Among the many mourners attending the service
were Congressman Charles Rangel, former Governor Cuomo and his
son, Andrew Cuomo, developers George Klein and William Mack, Preston
Robert Tisch, Bruce Mosler and Bert French of Cushman & Wakefield,
mayoral candidates Herman Badillo and Michael Bloomberg, Marion
Javits, Bobby Short, and Howard Rubenstein, the public relations
advisor to much of the city's real estate industry as well as
many politicians and celebrities.
Lewis Rudin was not a great orator, or jokester.
He was a man of action and great persuasion and very, very deeply
devoted to his city. He attended countless meetings and worked
the phones incessantly, but also had time to take his family for
Sunday brunches at P. J. Clarke's.
"Lew" was not just a great cheerleader,
but also a very great fan of the city and an ideal civic leader
who embodied the city's great spirit of building. At a time when
the city needs to rebuild, his passing is a great loss. In his
comments at the service, former Mayor David Dinkins said that
"The death of Lew Rudin gives us reason to mourn, but so
much to celebrate in his legacy."