REBNY 2015 Honoree William Rudin

William Rudin. (Illustration by Russ Tudor)
William Rudin. (Illustration by Russ Tudor)


Life in the real estate industry started at birth for William Rudin, who grew up in one of his family’s buildings on the Upper East Side. The Rudins have owned properties in New York for more than a century. “It is part of my DNA,” said the chief execuutive officer and vice chairman of Rudin Management Company. “I was intrigued at an early age watching my grandfather, father and uncle influence the landscape of the city we love.”

Fittingly, Mr. Rudin is the recipient of this year’s Real Estate Board of New York Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award. 

“Bernie was a role model, a mentor, a friend and neighbor, and he redefined what it meant to be chairman of REBNY,” Mr. Rudin said. “I used to see Bernie [who was chairman of the Mendik Company] and Jerry Speyer [a founding partner of Tishman Speyer] early every morning in Central Park while they were running and I was rollerblading. I was so impressed with their friendship, even though they were competitors in business.”

Role models, it seems, appeared at every turn for the man whose full-time career began in the late 1970s, when New York was still recovering from near-bankruptcy.

“Despite the fear and uncertainty in the market, my father and uncle were able to see that the city was primed for a recovery,” Mr. Rudin said. They started the zoning process to develop 560 Lexington Avenue. The original brochure for the building—one of the city’s first new builds in years—proclaimed, “We Believe in New York!” Today, the company is completing lobby enhancements and other upgrades, including a new staircase entry to the 51st Street subway station. “It’s a great example of transit-oriented development, and continues to be one of the key assets in our portfolio today,” Mr. Rudin said.

Watching his father and uncle strive to make the city a better place to live, work and visit, he said, had a major impact on him. His father helped create the Association for a Better New York, encouraging leaders from all industries and walks of life to come together to share ideas and address the issues facing the city. “It was amazing to see their vision take hold, and I learned many lessons from them about the importance of being patient, of taking the long view, and believing in the power of New York.”

Mr. Rudin’s sister Beth and their cousins are the third generation owning and managing their family’s New York City portfolio. His children, Samantha and Michael, represent generation four, helping to manage the family’s existing portfolio and plan and execute new developments.

This year, with the help of a larger team, every one of them had a hand in the firm’s biggest and most complex project: The Greenwich Lane, one of the city’s largest adaptive reuse projects. It took seven years and more than 200 public meetings to get landmarks and zoning approvals to move forward with the development, Mr. Rudin said of the effort. “It’s great to see the fourth generation engaged in our business and bringing their creativity, thoughtfulness and innovative spirit.”

And they’re paving the way for future generations of tenants with innovations like Di-BOSS, a digital building operating system that employs machine-learning algorithms and predictive analytics to optimize efficiency and increase cost savings.

“We have always collected data on our buildings’ operations, but for the first time the buildings are able to remember and learn from the data we collect,” Mr. Rudin said. Installing Di-BOSS at 345 Park Avenue and 560 Lexington resulted in energy savings near $1.2 million in 12 months. “It’s gratifying to be part of creating a new business and an operating system that’s at the forefront of innovation and having concrete, lasting positive impacts on our industry.”

One lifetime might not be enough for the man who spent early summers in Rudin’s mail rooms, rental offices and construction sites. “It’s a brave new world of collaboration, engagement and energy that’s driving today’s economy and understanding that momentum and figuring out how we can service it is an ongoing challenge that keeps me engaged,” Mr. Rudin said.

Here’s to hoping more challenges come his way.

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