Lynne Sagalyn Podcast


Demystifying the Politics and Planning of Cities

Ep. 65 - Lynne Sagalyn is an expert in real estate development and finance and author of three books. She is the person for demystifying the politics and planning of cities. She gives us the theory and thinking behind how and why cities exist as they do today. She has been an educator and scholar for over 40 years. She built an innovative and rigorous program of graduate studies in commercial real estate finance and investment strategy at Columbia business school. She explains how cities are built and redeveloped and endeavors to demystify the politics and planning process surrounding large scale development projects and their impacts on the physical fabric of cities. In the corporate world, she serves as the director and chair of the audit committee of Blackstone Mortgage Trust, is a board member of Morgan Stanley's Prime Fund, and the advisory board of Olshan  Properties.

Top Takeaways:

    • The importance of city planning in shaping growth in the cities and the politics of how it happens
    • How large-scale developments create neighborhoods yet are very risky to complete
    • Why young people find it difficult to find a passion in something that fuels them every day
    • The importance of understanding history and how it relates to systemic racism outcry that's currently going on
    • The challenge of slowed economic activity that cities are facing which will lead to fiscal cut back due to COVID-19 pandemic

Listen in to learn the positive and negative impacts of large-scale developments in our cities today.

"Don't go with the herd, figure out who you are, what excites you, and who you want to work with. Do want to work with a big organization or do you like a smaller organization. Are you more entrepreneurial or you like a more structured environment. You have to do your homework." -Lynne B. Sagalyn

Career in Academia

LYNNE B. SAGALYN is the Earle W. Kazis and Benjamin Schore Professor Emerita of Real Estate at Columbia Business School, where she was formerly the director of the MBA Real Estate Program and the founding director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate.

Lynne is an expert in real estate development and finance. She has published extensively on a broad range of issues in the fields of urban development finance, public and private partnerships, and real estate finance. She has also developed many cases for graduate-level teaching of real estate finance and investment strategy and been an innovator in curriculum for real estate study.

Author of Three Books


Lynne is widely known for her research on city building. Her most recent book, Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, has received continuous praise and is regarded as the definitive account of that rebuilding challenge.

Her earlier books on city building include Times Square Roulette: Remaking the City Icon which is the compelling story of the politics, policies, and personalities that made Times Square's revitalization possible. In the book Downtown Inc.: How America Rebuilds Cities,  Pioneering observers of the urban landscape Bernard Frieden and Lynne Sagalyn delve into the inner workings of the exciting new public entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships that have revitalized the downtowns of such cities as Boston, San Diego, Seattle, St. Paul, and Pasadena.

Activities Outside Academia

Professor Sagalyn's activities outside academia are diverse. She serves on the board of UDR (NYSE: UDR), Blackstone Mortgage Trust (NYSE: BXMT) and chairs its audit committee, and the Advisory Board of Morgan Stanley PRIME Property Fund, and Olshan Properties, a family real estate company. In the not-for-profit realm, she is a member of the board of directors of the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and co-chairs its New York Committee, the Skyscraper Museum and serves as vice president, the board of the New York City Trust for Cultural Resources and chairs its audit committee, and a member of the audit and compliance committee of Planned Parenthood New York City.

She has been a litigation expert, a consultant to both private firms and public agencies, and a member of the New York City [Board of Education] Chancellor's Commission on the Capital Plan. She has done extensive executive teaching, particularly for Tishman Speyer Properties and the Urban Land Institute.

You will also learn how racism has impacted neighborhood creation and decisions made in the housing finance sector.

Key Moments:

She explains why and how she became an educator; plus, the impacts she's made for her students and the public-private development sector [2:05]

How the scale of cities development has tremendously grown over the last 20 years creating complexities [4:54]

Lynne explains the positives and negatives of large-scale development of cities [7:48]

She explains how she tells the story by engaging people in charge of decisions and reading related documents [10:24]

The strategic style she uses to interviews people to get the correct information without violating anyone's rights [12:46]

Lynne explains why she believes the people, her books, and the inspiration to work hard is her legacy [15:06]

The economic and community impacts of city justification which has become part of the politics of urban living today [17:48]

How neighborhoods were created by redlining which was caused by racial discrimination and inequities [21:07]

The activism surrounding the housing finance sector and why there's a need for elimination of existing bias [24:11]

The post-COVID economic challenges on cities that will require strong leaders to overcome [25:25]

The dynamic of remote work after COVID and how it's going to change the office space [27:52]

Lynne advises young people to find what they're passionate about and then do it as a career [31:21]


MIT Press Article

YouTube: BSP Lecture

YouTube: Times Square Roulette

YouTube: Saving Cities Panel

YouTube: Power at Ground Zero Book Talk

YouTube: A City Within a City

Encyclopedia Article

Marron Institute of Urban Management

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