ULI New York Blog

Recap: YLG Secrets of Success with Jessica Lappin


By: Saba Carmel Meidany

On Friday, May 11th, Jessica Lappin, President of the Downtown Alliance, met with ULI New York’s Young Leaders Group to share her ‘Secrets of Success’ regarding her prestigious and accomplished career in New York City.

Ms. Lappin, a native New Yorker, grew up in the City’s Upper East Side. As a young adult, the experience of taking part in a political march awakened her interests in social and political issues. This passion led her to work in Washington D.C. for Senator Moynihan of New York. After a brief career on The Hill, Ms. Lappin moved back to New York City to work in the private sector – a role that she was not very interested in nor excited about. Looking to return to government and politics, she started to work as a secretary assistant to a New York City Council member. After managing the speakership campaign of her councilor, she spent some time working at City Hall as his advisor. In her words, ‘this was a good way to learn the city’ as well as its people and its various neighborhoods.

Eventually, Ms. Lappin ran for office herself and represented a portion of the Upper East Side. After running unsuccessfully for Borough President, she took a step away from her career and reassessed her aspirations and direction. Despite the setback of losing the election, Ms. Lappin mentioned that she was glad to have taken the risk to run for office, as it was a valuable learning experience that helped her develop other capacities. A combination of these experiences, her earned skillsets, and self-reflection while taking some time off, led to Ms. Lappin to submit her application to lead the Downtown Alliance in Lower Manhattan.

The Downtown Alliance, the largest BID (Business Improvement District) in New York City in terms of expenses and revenues, is a public-private partnership (PPP) that works with both the public and private sides of urban governance, public services, and economic development in Lower Manhattan. Ms. Lappin explained how her role involves translating and liaising between public civic entities and the private sector – especially in areas prone to disagreement or mistrust between the two sides. She pointed out that while the private sector needs to be more constructive and less critical of perceived inefficiencies in the public sector, the public sector should be willing to admit any of its mistakes and be prepared to revisit issues that have not been approached successfully.

The Secrets of Success gathering concluded with an engaging Q&A session that made evident Ms. Lappin’s devotion to the betterment of the City of New York through her leadership of the Downtown Alliance. Ms. Lappin has achieved – and continues to achieve – success via the talent and expertise she shared with our YLG group.

Saba Carmel Meidany, is a Project Manager and Senior Designer at Magnusson Architecture and Planning where he is involved in the planning, design, and construction of mixed-use multifamily housing developments in New York City.

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