Buchbinder & Warren: Their home is our home.
Gene Warren and Norman Buchbinder own buildings
: lots of them. In fact, they own (and work out of) the building that Lantern has its offices in. Now NYC landlords haven't got the most stellar of reputations, and sometimes that's justified. But these guys are a couple of mensches, and they've always been very accommodating to Lantern.
Part of that belief in public spiritedness and support of the little guy might be due to their heritage. Gene Warren was named after Eugene Debs
, the socialist leader and presidential candidate, who often led rallies right outside our offices on Union Square, while Norman Buchbinder was named after Norman Thomas
, the socialist candidate for president from 1926 to 1948.
Warren and Buchbinder began their business in 1958. At that stage Union Square wasn't much to talk about, and despite the efforts to improve the look of the places, the department stores that used to ring the square began to leave in the 1970s, and other buildings were half-empty. At that time the economy of New York City was suffering
, interest rates were high, and the City was virtually bankrupt. Union Square reflected that malaise: it was a dangerous place to be in at night, and you avoided the park unless you were interested in selling or buying drugs.
At that point, Buchbinder and Warren stepped in, with others, to get the park and the Square back. According to Norman and Gene, they knew the place would come back and that the downturn in fortunes for Union Square was just a business cycle playing itself out. Along with others, in the early 1980s they formed a Business Improvement District
and worked to deal with homelessness and drug-dealing in the park, then tried to bring back businesses. The result is that some twenty years later, Union Square is perhaps the hottest location in New York City.
Tomorrow, what Gene and Warren told me about the building Lantern's offices are in and Union Square in the past.