The subject of this week’s One on 1 with Budd Mishkin may not be as well known to the general public as some of his real estate counterparts, like Donald Trump or Larry Silverstein, but among the city's power brokers, Bill Rudin is considered a leader for his family company's long history, his philanthropy and quiet public service.
I'm about to become part of a small, exclusive club: Getting pinned by a Rudin. OK, maybe not that small, and definitely not exclusive. Thousands of people have received the Big Apple pin from Bill Rudin. As with almost everything in his life, there is some history here — rich history. His father Lew created the idea of pinning people as part of the battle against the negative perception of New York in the Î70's.
"I gave a gentleman an apple who just moved his law firm from Houston to New York. The other night I gave him the apple and he lit up like a Christmas tree,” says Rudin. “He was so proud to have that apple and he understood the meaning of it and the symbolism of it and he was honored."
It would be hard to find a scenario where the expression "like father like son" is more appropriate. Lew Rudin went into and expanded his family's real estate business. So too his son.
The father helped create ABNY, the Association for a Better New York, in the Î70's and became the emcee of its breakfasts. Now the son has the role.
The father was prominent in seeing New York through the fiscal crisis of the Î70's. Now the son is behind the push to revitalize downtown in the aftermath of 9/11.
"I think that's the way, you know, my whole family is,” says Rudin. “We're not Pollyana-ish, but I think you have to look at things and say, ÎOK, if there's a problem, how do we solve it?’ We're not running away from the problem, because what happened in the 70's was people said, ÎNew York's dirty and it’s not safe, well we're going to go to the suburbs.’ And they found out that the suburbs weren't the answer. They found out the answer was right here in New York City."
ABNY's monthly get together might be New York's ultimate power breakfast. Business and political leaders gather to promote the city and discuss its problems. Partisan politics may predominate on the outside, but it's not among the invited guests inside, where Rudin displays a comfort with all political types.
"I think it's something, you know, innate and my nature, it's something I've watched my father and uncle do all their lives,” says Rudin. “New York is the most important point for them and whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, Independent, if you are helping New York and doing the right thing by New York then we're going to help you and support you."
Rudin is not as well known to the general public as some of his real estate counterparts, like Donald Trump, the epitome of New York's celebrity culture or Larry Silverstein, in the middle of the World Trade Center controversy.
But among the city's power brokers, Rudin is considered a leader for his company's long history and his quiet civic service, in particular as the chairman of ABNY.
"I think our industry sometimes gets a bad wrap for the perception of who some of the developers are, but they're all committed to New York City,” says Rudin. “They're all philanthropic, they're all, you know, trying to do the right thing."
The Rudin style was even the inspiration for a documentary that aired at the TriBeCa film festival entitled The Lew Rudin Way. Bill Rudin says he's never thought of legacy as a burden. But the influences of his father and grandfather are always there.
Even the son's work in revitalizing the area around the southern tip of Manhattan also has a family connection. Before Ellis Island opened, millions of immigrants came through Castle Clinton, including Bill Rudin's great grandparents, Rachel and Lewis Rudinsky.
One of the early symbols of the Rudin's success, One Battery Park Plaza, is only a few hundred yards away.
"Walking with my grandfather to the top of the building to the top of the office — that was one of his favorite views,” says Rudin. “We'd walk in, it's his building and there's Mr. Rudin and he would look out at Liberty Park and the statue and the harbor and he would think that was the greatest view in the world."
Bill Rudin was born into one of the most successful real estate families in New York. He watched his father mix with business and political leaders, and accompanied him to dinner at Gracie Mansion a few times. But he says he wasn't pressured to go into the family business.
"I worked at summers for the company and there was no pressure,” says Rudin. “Although my grandfather would always say, Îdon't go to college. Put a desk in my office and you'll learn more’ and it was sort of the one thing I regretted that I didn't take him up on that."
He went to the University of Arizona for two years, missed New York, came back and finished up at NYU. The only other industry that held some allure for Rudin was the film business. He was in Los Angeles working on a movie during the events in New York commemorating the bicentennial in 1976.
"I remember watching on TV and I was like, ÎI can't believe I'm in California and I'm missing one of the great events,’ and I really I felt terrible," says Rudin.
That was it. Rudin came home for good and started working for the family business.
At the time, his father Lew Rudin was credited with helping to save the city from bankruptcy by getting companies to prepay their taxes. But the son also saw how the fiscal crisis had a terrible effect on his grandfather, Samuel Rudin.
"He opened a building on 26th and Madison in the mid-70s, 100 percent empty and he died a year later. He literally thought he had broken the family because we had to restructure some loans,” says Rudin. “Today it's in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city in Madison Square Park. So my grandfather was a visionary. He was just a little bit ahead of his time on that particular sight, but he really thought he had really harmed the family and it hurt him internally and it may have caused him to have his heart attack."
Among the traits that Rudin says he picked up from the men who came before him: Never panic and overreact to a situation. It’s a quality that served him well when the real estate market was in trouble in the early 90s.
"You had 30 million feet of vacant space downtown. You'd wake up and go how are we going to rent an empty building at 55 Broad Street?" says Rudin.
A few years later, Rudin turned 55 Broad Street into a technology smart building, helping to create New York's silicon alley. This past summer the building celebrated its 10th anniversary.
"During the storm, you may feel like you're never going to get through it, but you know, we get through it. We're long-term players and long-term holders and that’s our philosophy,” says Rudin. "If we have to you know carry a building for a while, you know, New York is resilient. It's proven itself to be resilient and we go along with that. We go along with New York."
Rudin is 51, married with two grown children. He's president of the company, sits on several boards of directors, is prominently involved in philanthropy and public discourse about the city, and has great seats at the garden for knick games.
Just one important part of his life is missing. His father died one week after 911.
"He gave us the rallying cry. He told Senator Clinton on his deathbed — he grabbed her hand and said — help my family rebuild this city. It was very emotional to be there but it was also inspirational," says Rudin. "I talk to him every day. I think he'd be unbelievably impressed with what's going on. He was always a believer in thinking long-term.”
Like father, like son.
— Budd Mishkin