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Lewis Rudin Memorial Service

Central Synagogue, September 24, 2001

Lewis Rudin photo on cover of memorial service program

Lewis Rudin


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.

Lewis Rudin's coffin borne out of Central Synagogue after memorial service

Ushers stand at attention as Lewis Rudin's coffin is borne out of Central Synagogue on Lexington Avenue and 55th Street after memorial service on September 23, 2001

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.

Howard Rubenstein

Howard Rubenstein, the legendary publicist

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.

Preston Robert Tisch Bobby Short

Preston Robert Tisch, left, Bobby Short, right

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.

Andrew Cuomo Governor Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo, left, and his father, the former governor of New York, right

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.

Mayor Koch

Former Mayor Koch

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 rentals.

Congressman Charles Rangel

Congressman Charles Rangel

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.

Senator Schumer and Sidney Poitier

Senator Charles E. Schumer, top, and Sidney Poitier, lower right

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 service.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

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."

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