Downtown Icon John Zuccotti Dies at 78


John Zuccotti, the real estate executive and public servant who boosted Downtown after 9/11, died yesterday. He was 78.

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The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Zuccotti bounced back and forth between the public and private sectors throughout more than 40 years in the real estate business. He was an executive at Brookfield Property Partners, the chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York and a member of the City Planning Commission. Zuccotti worked as an aide to Mayor Abraham Beame, served on a task force established by Mayor Ed Koch and also worked for Gov. Hugh Carey and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

He left his biggest footprint on New York City in Lower Manhattan. While a partner at Brookfield’s predecessor, Olympia & York, Mr. Zuccotti had a role in developing the World Financial Center. Today, the five-building complex is known as Brookfield Place.

The buildings were of the many around the World Trade Center damaged in the 2001 attacks. Following the devastating day that rendered Downtown empty, Zuccotti led a push to ensure there was continued investment in Lower Manhattan.

“John was a great friend and cherished colleague in the real estate industry, as well as one of the great civic leaders of New York City history,” Larry Silverstein, the chairman of Silverstein Properties who is redeveloping the World Trade Center, said in a statement today. “Throughout his career and in all of his civic work, he was always motivated by his love for our great city. Everyone who cares about Lower Manhattan owes him a great deal for what he did to help the neighborhood recover in the aftermath of 9/11. He will be missed.”

For his efforts, Brookfield named a Downtown park that it privately owns after Zuccotti in 2006. Zuccotti Park, which sits outside of One Liberty Plaza, gained notoriety four years ago as the epicenter for the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement.

Zuccotti told The New York Times in 2011 that the coverage of the movement in the park had trickled all the way to his relatives in Italy. “My cousin called and said everyone in Genoa was saying, ‘Is that your relative?’ I’ve become famous,” Zuccotti said.

Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin said Zuccotti was an influential real estate figure who helped push along game-changing projects for Downtown.

“In addition to his myriad other accomplishments in service to our city, he has left an indelible imprint on Lower Manhattan,” Ms. Lappin said in a statement. “We have lost a unique visionary and one-of-a-kind civic champion.”

In the public sector, Zuccotti worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations at the city and state level. He served as deputy mayor under Mr. Beame, a Democrat, from 1975 to 1977, during which the administration weathered the worst financial crisis in city history. Before that, he was appointed to the City Planning Commission by Mayor John Lindsay, a Republican. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement today credited Zuccotti as an influential figure in both the fiscal crisis and the aftermath of 9/11. “John spent his life working to better the lives of others and for that we will always be indebted to him,” the governor said.

More recently, Zuccotti served as the chairman of global operations for Brookfield Asset Management. Zuccotti was the chairman of REBNY from 2004 to 2006. The organization gave him the The Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award in 2003 for his role in the real estate industry, as well as his civic work.

REBNY issued a notice to its members today of Zuccotti’s passing and expressed condolences to his family, as well as Brookfield.

Zuccotti is survived by his wife, Susan Sessions Zuccotti, an author and historian, along with three children and eight grandchildren.