Lappin named Downtown Alliance’s new president

BY SAM SPOKONY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEB. 6, 2014  |Seven months after the death of former President Liz Berger, the Downtown Alliance announced today that it has named Jessica Lappin, a former Upper East Side City Councilmember, to lead the organization.

Jessica Lappin, who was named president of the Downtown Alliance Feb. 3, 2014.
Jessica Lappin, who was named president of the Downtown Alliance Feb. 3, 2014.

Lappin will officially take over as president of the Alliance on Feb. 10.

“I see this is an incredible opportunity for me,” Lappin told Downtown Express Monday. “To be able to take the helm at this moment, when there is so much momentum building in Lower Manhattan, and to take part in this transformation of the area, is really exciting.”

The Alliance manages the city’s largest business improvement district, which covers nearly all of Lower Manhattan below Chambers St.

Lappin, like previous Alliance presidents, will also serve as president of the Alliance’s sister organization, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, which also advocates for the growth of local businesses below Canal St.

Before running unsuccessfully for the office of Manhattan borough president in 2013, Lappin had represented the City Council’s Fifth District since 2006. During her time there, she chaired the Council’s Land Use Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses.

Reacting to the announcement, Community Board 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes praised the Alliance’s decision, citing Lappin’s family life as a positive factor.

“It’s a terrific appointment, and it’s great to have a mother with young children heading the Downtown Alliance,” Hughes told Downtown Express. “It really reflects the demographics changes in the Financial District and Lower Manhattan as a whole, highlighting the needs and services of a growing residential population.”

Hughes added that she will soon be setting up a meeting with Lappin, to discuss plans and goals for the future of the area.

Lappin also noted the changing nature of Downtown’s residential neighborhoods, adding that a focus on those shifts will be central to overall growth.

“The diversification that’s taking place here is great, and it’s a big positive to have this growing mixed-use, live-and-work community, because it adds to the dynamic, 24/7 feel of the area,” she said.

When asked why she chose this path rather than trying to get back into elected office, the former councilmember said she believes she can make the same kind of “meaningful contribution to the city” as the head of the Alliance.

“After I had my first interview with them last November, the more I learned about [the Alliance], the more I liked it,” said Lappin.

In the announcement press release, Lappin said “the transformation unfolding in Lower Manhattan is inspiring. Few places anywhere can boast of the constellation of game changing projects underway and nearing fruition,” in apparent references to the scheduled openings of the 9/11 Museum, the Freedom Tower and the Fulton Center transit hub.

In the same press release, Robert Douglass, the Alliance’s chairperson praised “Jessica’s energy, policy acumen, skills as a persuasive advocate and track record of substantial accomplishments in public service.”

And in a statement released today, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also cheered Lappin’s appointment.

“Jessica is a smart, talented and dedicated public servant who has spent many years delivering results for the people of our city,” said Silver. “I look forward to working closely with her as we pursue our shared priorities of ensuring that Lower Manhattan remains the greatest neighborhood in the world to live, work and raise a family.”

At this early stage, Lappin declined to share any elements of her agenda for the organization.

“I’ll hold off on that until I’ve actually taken the office,” she said.