Jessica Lappin, 42, is the president of the Downtown Alliance, which manages one of New York City’s largest business improvement districts. The organization spent $20 million last year — the most out of any of the city’s 73 BIDs — on services such as public safety, sanitation, marketing and capital improvements in Lower Manhattan. Lappin’s office is located on the 33rd floor of the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway, with views of One Wall Street, the pyramid-like roof of 14 Wall Street and glimpses of the East River. At first glance, she seemingly keeps a picture of herself hanging on the wall of her office near the door. The photo is actually of her mother, Joan Berger, wearing long white gloves and holding a cigar. It appeared as part of an ad for Berger’s company at the time, Equity Research Associates, and bears the headline: “What’s a nice girl like Joan doing on Broad Street?” Lappin saw the ad hanging in her mother’s apartment and asked to borrow the photo when she was hired to run the Alliance in 2014. Her mother worked on 55 Broad Street, a five-minute walk from the organization’s headquarters. As part of her job, Lappin often meets with developers and landlords, and sometimes helps them find tenants for their buildings. It’s a quasi-political role that extends her 19-year career in public service. Before joining the Alliance, the Georgetown University graduate served two terms as a City Council member representing Manhattan’s Fifth district. In 2013, Lappin ran an unsuccessful campaign for Manhattan Borough president. “As a legislator, you’re always telling everybody else what to do, but you can’t really do anything,” she said. “So it’s nice to be on the other side, where you can say, ‘We run a public-safety department, we run a sanitation department.’ ” Lappin is a lifelong city dweller and grew up in an apartment on 19th Street between 3rd Avenue and Irving Place. She now lives on 55th Street in Midtown with her husband, Andrew Wuertele, and their two sons, Miles, 6, and Lucas, 10.
Last March, Silverstein Properties invited 50 street artists to the 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center to graffiti the walls, floors and windows. During a showcase of the artists’ work, Lappin was struck by a mural done by Joohee Park, a Brooklyn-based artist who goes by the name Stickymonger. Lappin met Park and ended up buying a painting featuring one of the artist’s signature “cosmic girls” — a large-eyed girl whose pupils are freckled with stars. The painting was part of a collaboration with Japanese artist Akinori Oishi. “It’s the first piece of art I’ve ever bought for myself,” Lappin said. “I saw that piece and I had to have it.”
Lappin is very particular about hot sauce. She prefers Crystal, a brand made in Louisiana that she buys every year in New Orleans. She keeps a small bottle at her desk and a giant one at home. “It’s hot and flavorful, not just spicy. Hot sauces like Tabasco are just heat but no flavor,” she said. With the exception of the two years she gave birth to her sons, Lappin has attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ever year. While she and her husband enjoy the variety of music that is offered at the festival, they are particularly fond of local performer Trombone Shorty.
Lappin is a Mets fan. Not because she’s “a glutton for punishment” — though she’s a Jets fan, too — but because of her mother. “My mother grew up in Brooklyn and was a Dodgers fan, so there was no way we could root for the Yankees,” she said. In 1999, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller received a baseball signed by Yankee pitcher David Cone, who formerly played for the Mets and briefly rejoined the team before retiring in 2003. Miller gave it to Lappin, who was working as his chief of staff at the time. She was OK with the fact that Cone was a Yankee at the time. “To paraphrase from a famous musical, when you’re a Met you’re a Met all the way,” she said.
Not every 6-year-old has his own bobblehead. But Lappin’s son Miles made one at school and presented it to his mother. He pasted a picture of his face onto a blank ceramic figurine and painted on his hair and clothing. “I love that he thinks he’s blond,” she said. “He’s rapidly becoming a brunet.”
Wall Street sign
More than 100 street signs from Lower Manhattan are stored in an Alliance-rented garage on Washington Street. The signs are put there if they are damaged or replaced with new LED ones, which the Alliance installed on Broadway, Water Street and Greenwich Street. Lappin said her organization — which is responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the signs — periodically gives them to city officials as going-away presents (former City Planning Commission chairman Carl Weisbrod got one when he retired last year). For now, though, she’s not sure what do to with the bulk of them.
Lappin usually keeps a pair of black Adidas sneakers under her desk or in her bag so that she can run to meetings comfortably. The sneakers are lightly worn from use around the neighborhood. “This is a job where I’m on my feet, running around a lot,” she said. “I can’t do that in heels.”