Lewis Rudin, head of a family-owned New York City real estate empire and a well-known civic booster who played significant roles in popularizing the New York Marathon, in keeping the U.S. Tennis Open in the Big Apple, and in helping the city avoid a fiscal disaster when it faced possible bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, has died. He was 74.
Rudin died Thursday of complications of bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan, the center of the family's extensive real estate holdings.
The family real estate empire that Rudin and his brother, Jack, ran consists of 40 buildings valued at $2 billion. Among their holdings are more than 3,500 apartments in 22 buildings and 16 office towers.
The family's initial foray into Manhattan real estate began in 1902, when Rudin's grandfather, a Polish immigrant who had arrived in New York virtually penniless in 1883, bought a building on East 54th Street. The family still owns the structure.
Rudin's father, Samuel, founded Rudin Management Co. in 1924 to manage and collect rents from a couple of tenement apartments he had purchased in midtown Manhattan and the Bronx.
Over the last several decades as the family's holdings and fortune grew, Lewis Rudin earned a reputation as one of New York City's biggest boosters.
"I look upon this city as my city," he once said. "What's good for New York is important to me and to our business. I cannot separate myself from the city any more than we can separate our buildings from New York."
In the early '70s, when the city's crime, poor housing and transportation problems were prompting many big companies to flee to suburbia, Rudin and several other midtown Manhattan property owners started the Assn. for a Better New York to lobby for the city and promote its attractions.
"We recognized the tremendous threat to the entire economy of the city if this exodus continued," Rudin said in 1972.
The association sponsored breakfast forums to discuss the issues facing the city. It began presenting Polished Apple Awards to businesses that were doing a good job and Rotten Apple Awards to businesspeople who weren't, such as shopkeepers who didn't keep their sidewalks free of dirt and litter.
When the city was on the brink of bankruptcy in 1975 and again in 1978, Rudin convinced the city's developers and other major taxpayers to prepay $600 million in real estate taxes to ease New York's cash-flow problems.
In the early '70s, Rudin and his brother played significant roles in moving the New York Marathon from Central Park and onto the streets of the city's five boroughs, which helped increase the ranks of runners from 127 in 1970 to more than 30,000 today.
And in the late '70s, when the U.S. Tennis Assn. was on the verge of moving the U.S. Open from the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens to another city, Rudin, working with Mayor Abraham D. Beame, convinced the association to relocate instead to Flushing Meadows, which is also in Queens.
Rudin was born in the Bronx in 1927 and graduated from the New York University School of Commerce after serving in the Army during World War II.
He and his brother joined the family business after the war and became known for building apartment towers on the Upper East Side. They put up their first Manhattan office building in 1955.
In addition to his brother, Rudin is survived by his wife, Rachel, two children and four grandchildren.