Saturday, November 28, 2015

R.I.P. | John E. Zuccotti (1937-2015)

John Zuccotti, former NYC Deputy Mayor.
Photo by Jin Lee.
John E[ugene] Zuccotti was former Deputy Mayor of New York City and subsequently Chairman of Brookfield Properties. Zuccotti Park was named in his honor.

He was born in Greenwich Village on June 23, 1937 to Angelo and Gemma Zuccotti. Angelo Zuccotti was an Italian immigrant to the United States who became well known in New York City as the longtime maitre d' of El Morocco. Angelo died in 1998.

John Zuccotti attended St. Joseph's Academy on Washington Square Park and LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale, Long Island. He graduated in 1959 from Princeton University with a bachelor's degree. He served as an officer inn the U.S. Army and then earned a JD degree from Yale Law School in 1962. He met his wife Susan Sessions during a summer internship at the office of Sen. Jacob Javits; they were married in 1963.

He started his career as an urban consultant in Venezuela, then worked as assistant to the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. During the administration of Mayor John Lindsay he was a commissioner of the New York City Planning Commission and became its Chairman. In 1975 he served as First Deputy Mayor under Mayor Abraham Beame.

In 1978 he became a founding member of Tufo, Johnston & Zuccotti, partnering with  Peter Tufo, who had been a fellow student at Yale Law School and then a colleague in the Lindsay Administration. Their firm was merged with a larger firm to form Brown & Wood in 1983. Zuccotti has also worked as Senior Counsel with Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

He served as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, and as a member of the board of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Zuccotti was active in both Democratic and Republican politics on both the local and national level, serving at various times on the National Republican Congressional Committee and Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

After leaving political office he became a partner in Olympia & York, and was the U.S. chairman of Brookfield Properties and then Chairman of Global Operations at the time of his death.

He was a keen consumer of movies and liked to frequent Chelsea's Alan's Alley, which Alan Sklar operated at 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue for a quarter century until 2014, offering a huge collection of rare and foreign movies for rent and sale.

Zuccotti died of a heart attack on November 19, 2015, aged 78. He is survived by his wife Susan Sessions Zuccotti, their three children and their spouses – Gianna and David Weinstock; Andrew and Margaret Mauran; and Milena and Jason Merwin – and eight grandchildren: Sophie, Noa and Lia Weinstock; Nicholas, Emma and Robert Zuccotti; and Cassie and Lily Merwin. He is also survived by his brother Andrew, a lawyer in Seattle, and his wife Trish and their children.

Susan Zuccotti is the author of several award-winning books on the Holocaust – those who resisted, those who looked away, and those who collaborated – and its survivors.

The family will be celebrating John Zuccotti's life at a memorial service on Monday, Dec. 7, at 10:30 am at the David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center in New York City. A reception will follow at the same hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., the New York Blood Center, or the Group for the East End/Accabonac Protection Committee in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Personal Comment

Before there were simpler devices for showing movies at home, John Zuccotti used to set up a movie projector and bring home reels of movies in metal cans, with breaks for reloading the way we old-timers remember it was done when we first watched movies.

Alice and I and our children were beneficiaries of this Saturday night custom, as we became regulars. His secretary, also a movie buff, would suggest movies and we saw some great ones.

The movie nights were a beautiful experience for our children, curled up in sleeping bags or quilts in front. We all loved them. We even had the cartoons first. The classic movies brought good old-fashioned moral lessons and fun for the children. We are grateful for being included.

John was a true family man. He did the father and grandfather thing right – taking youngsters out fishing and for walks in the neighborhood.

No one was more attuned to the times we lived in. He lived life to the brim. I think his success in life came not just from his legal and communication skills but from his decency. He was trusted because he was fair.