In conjunction with its exhibition MILLENNIUM: Lower Manhattan in the 1990s, The Skyscraper Museum presented a panel discussion that reflects on the extraordinary changes, planned and unplanned, that took place in New York’s oldest neighborhood. No place in the mid-1990s was more ripe for reinvention than lower Manhattan – especially the historic Financial District, where, in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash and savings-and-loan crisis, vacancy rates rose to nearly 30 percent. Planning policy, government incentives, Landmarks regulation, new cultural organizations, and eventually a reviving real estate market were beginning to change FiDi’s essential character by the first year of the 21st century. Then unexpected change happened.
A panel of key players responsible for the fate and future of Downtown in the last decade of the millennium came together to reflect on lower Manhattan, then and now: Two past Chairs of the Landmarks Preservation Commission whose tenures spanned the Nineties, Laurie Beckelman and Jennifer Raab; Joe Rose, Chairman of the NYC Planning Commission from 1993-2002 in the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and Carl Weisbrod, who in 1995 left the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), of which he was the first President, to head the new The Alliance for Downtown New York, the business improvement district (BID) established to help address the decline of the Financial District and its 30 million square feet of vacant space. The moderator for the panel was Lynne Sagalyn, Professor Emerita of Real Estate at Columbia Business School and author of Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan (Oxford, 2016).
The video of the program includes an introduction by Museum Director Carol Willis, who gives an overview of the MILLENIUM exhibition, followed by remarks by the panelists Laurie Beckelman, Jennifer Raab, Joe Rose, and Carl Weisbrod. Lynne Sagalyn offered comments and moderated the discussion.