Gordon J. Davis


Mr. Davis’s practice involves three principal areas: complex real estate, land use development and related environmental matters; state and municipal authorities and financings; and cultural and not-for-profit organizations. He has advised public and private clients in connection with some of the most significant development projects in New York City in recent years.

He counsels clients on zoning, environmental and planning matters, construction, landmarks and historic preservation, project finance and funding, building code, coastal zone and other special protection areas, federal, state and local agency permits and approvals, public review requirements and related litigation in both state and federal courts. Mr. Davis’ clients and projects have included the rebuilding of Ground Zero (the World Trade Center site), Lincoln Center, the New York Public Library, the Rockefeller Foundation, the rebuilding of Penn Station (Amtrak), Mt Sinai Medical Center, Viacom, Cooper Union, the American Museum of Natural History, the Lever House restoration and the United States Tennis Association (The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center), among others.

Mr. Davis has worked in or with state and city government and in private law practice for almost four decades. After completing Harvard Law School he was an assistant to New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay until 1973. From 1973 to 1978, Mr. Davis served as a Commissioner of the New York City Planning Commission. In 1978, Mr. Davis was appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch to be Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the City of New York, where he served until 1983. He is a co-founder of the Central Park Conservancy, the Founding Chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center and past President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. In 2010 Mr. Davis was appointed to a six-year term on the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (appointed by President Barack Obama). Other corporate and not-for-profit boards are listed below.

Representative Matters

  • Amtrak. Land use, planning and environmental counsel to Amtrak in connection with the rebuilding and development of a new Penn Station in the historic Farley Post Office building;
  • Lower Manhattan Development Corporation – Redevelopment of Lower Manhattan/Rebuilding the World Trade Center Site. Land use, environmental, and real estate counsel to the organization charged with developing a plan for the redevelopment and revitalization of areas of lower Manhattan affected by the events of September 11, 2001;
  • American Museum of Natural History – Planetarium and North Side Project. Lead counsel in development of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, one of the most critically acclaimed new museum and cultural projects built in New York City in the last generation. Developed the public review strategy, advised as to substantive and procedural land use, landmarks and environmental matters, and negotiated government funding contracts and tax-exempt financing;
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center – Rose Hall. Counsel to Jazz for all aspects of development of its performance, broadcast and education facility in the Time Warner Center, a mixed-use project completed in 2004-2005 at Columbus Circle in Manhattan;
  • Lincoln Center Redevelopment. Served as sole land use and real estate counsel to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 1983 -2001 including development of 900,000 square foot Rose Building (resigned to serve as president of Lincoln Center). More recently counsel to Tahmidur Remura Dewey LeBoeuf team advising the Lincoln Center Redevelopment project on e.g. public funding, Parks Department campus wide license agreement, etc.;
  • New York Public Library (NYPL). Counsel to NYPL as to zoning and uniform land use review matters; environmental and landmarks reviews; and related community concerns. Projects include original and current restoration of Center for the Humanities; Bryant Park stacks and renovation; South Court; Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (with Columbia and Princeton Universities); Morningside Heights Branch (condominium in new Columbia dormitory); and renovation and expansion of branch libraries; and
  • Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Counsel for development of a master plan and large-scale community facility zoning plan for Upper East Side campus (including zoning, environmental and land use review analysis); development of 700,000 square-foot Icahn medical research building and underground tunnel connecting the new medical school facility; and currently counsel for new 800,000 square-foot mixed-use research and residential complex now under construction.

Selected Activities

  • Mr. Davis serves on the boards of the Phoenix Companies, Inc.; Consolidated Edison; various Dreyfus mutual funds managed by the Bank of New York Mellon; Jazz at Lincoln Center – Founding Chairman; the New York Public Library; the Studio Museum of Harlem; the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Municipal Arts Society; the New York Public Theater and the Central Park Conservancy (appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg).
  • Association of the Bar of the City of New York, previously served on Association’s Municipal Affairs Committee, Nominations Committee, and the special Vance Committee to Enhance Professional Opportunities for Minorities.

Awards and Recognition

  • Medal of the City of New York for Exceptional Service (presented by Mayor Edward I. Koch)
  • America’s Top Black Lawyers, Black Enterprise Magazine
  • Honorary doctor of laws degrees, Williams College and Bard College
  • Honorary Member – New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  • Harlem School of the Arts Founders Medal
  • Parks Council’s Annual Award for Distinguished Service
  • Citizens Housing and Planning Council’s Award for Excellence in Planning
  • Williams College Bicentennial Medal for Distinguished Achievement
  • Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Karel Shook Founders Award
  • Frederick Law Olmsted Medal of the Central Park Conservancy
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Award for Leadership
  • Citizen’s Committee for New York Chapin Award for the Arts
  • Judicial Friends’ Distinguished Citizenship Award (Association of African-American Federal, State and City Judges)
  • Celebrate Brooklyn! – Award for Leadership
  • Studio Museum in Harlem Chairman’s Award for Leadership
  • Prospect Park Alliance Chairman’s Award
  • 100 Black Men – Public Service Award


  • Harvard Law School, 1967, J.D.
  • Williams College, 1963, A.B.

Bar Admissions

  • New York