At the desk of: Laurie Zucker

The Zucker Organization vice chair on knitting “pussyhats,” finding historical documents under floorboards and her father’s love of Winnie-the-Pooh

Dec.December 01, 2017 11:00 AM

Laurie Zucker (Photos by Michael McWeeney)

Laurie Zucker, 61, serves as vice chair of the Zucker Organization and its property management arm Manhattan Skyline, where she oversees 2,200 apartments in New York City and more than 200 commercial properties across the country. The company — which her father, Donald Zucker, founded in 1961 — began as a mortgage brokerage but went on to build roughly 30 ground-up residential and commercial projects and acquire thousands of apartments over the years. When Zucker joined the family business in 1977, the real estate industry wasn’t exactly welcoming to women and she was often the only female in the room. That’s no longer the case, she noted, especially since the daughters of other real estate magnates have begun to take the reins of their fathers’ firms. Donald, 86, is still involved in the company’s day-to-day operations, though, and has been actively buying triple-net-leased properties along the East Coast. Laurie Zucker’s office, which is cluttered with carpet and tile samples, as well as half a dozen colorful paperweights, is on the second floor of a prewar apartment building at 101 West 55th Street, known as Claridge’s, owned by the Zucker Organization. She grew up on Long Island as the oldest of three children and now has four stepsiblings from her father’s second marriage and two from her mother’s. Zucker majored in piano at Ithaca College but realized she hated performing and didn’t want to teach. After trying her hand at interior design and finding that vocation didn’t suit her either, she helped her father create the property management arm for his development firm. Zucker lives with her husband, David Lederman, on the Upper West Side. They have two adult children and a four-month-old granddaughter. Their son, Daniel, oversees a separate portfolio that was once managed by Zucker’s maternal grandfather, William Marx.

Candy jars

Donald used to call his daughter “Hershey bar Laurie.” The nickname sprung from her fondness for milk chocolate, which turned into a love of dark chocolate when she grew older. Jars of candy are scattered around her office — though nuts are also available for the health-conscious. Zucker said the sweets give people an excuse to stop by her office. “We’ve always had an open-door policy,” she noted. She has two Jonathan Adler jars filled with candy: One is labeled “Calories” and the other “Prozac.” The latter contains peppermint LifeSavers.

Fairy-tale book

As part of a marketing campaign for 36 East 22nd Street, a nine-story condo property in the Flatiron District dubbed the Story House, Zucker decided to make the building the subject of a fairy tale. The idea was inspired by the fact that the property used to be home to Beatrix Potter‘s publisher, Frederick Warne & Company. Potter wrote children’s books, including “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” In fact, many of the Zucker Organization’s LLCs are named after fictional characters — such as Pooh Bear 59 — because Donald has a soft spot for the absent-minded bear. He’s also a big “Star Wars” fan, which is why another LLC goes by Yoda Construction Corp.

Calligraphy pens

A few years ago, Zucker took a calligraphy course at the New School on a whim. “Whenever I find something interesting that I want to learn or do, I just take a course,” she said. She occasionally uses her calligraphy skills at work — on marketing materials, mostly  and keeps both the traditional pens (those that require an inkwell) and the more modern marker-like pens in her office.

Pussyhat

Zucker also knits blankets and clothing for her relatives — especially her granddaughter — and even knitted roughly a dozen pink “pussyhats” to protest President Donald Trump. Hundreds of thousands of women from around the country donned such hats at the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration. “I am probably at odds with a lot of people in the industry, but I am a very strong believer in women’s rights,” she said. “I’m definitely very vocal.”

1800s document

A framed piece of paper signed and dated Sept. 29 and 30, 1899, hangs on Zucker’s wall. The document was discovered nearly 40 years ago during the renovation of a townhouse at 127 East 34th Street in Murray Hill. The plain sheet of paper is signed by the workers who helped build the house and was discovered under its floorboards. “You never know what you’re going find when you open up walls and floors,” she said.

Red chair 

Zucker has had this red chair behind her desk for at least 20 years. Her father hated it from the beginning. “Who would sit in a red chair?” she recalled him saying. Zucker noted that her Zodiac sign is Aries, whose color is red to represent energy. She added that her father is color blind.


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