Downtown Magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine that aspires to capture the heart and attitude of the lavishly diverse downtown community in New York City. The magazine is a glossy publication that reports stylish coverage about things, places, people, and events catering to lower Manhattan as well as a number of general interest stories.
Downtown Magazine was established by New York resident Grace A. Capobianco. Grace has been working in the field of media for decades and founded her first publication—Tropical Publishing—when she was only 27 years of age. Darren Paltrowitz is the Digital Managing Editor of the publication who has over 15 years of experience in the music and entertainment industry. Recently, both Grace and Darren discussed their experiences working on Downtown Magazine and what is in store for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to start Downtown Magazine and when was it launched?
Grace A. Capobianco (GC): Watching this area go through 9/11 was not only devastating to this community and its families, but also to the rest of the world. The world was and still to this day is watching and rooting for the people and community to come back. Living in this area was a different experience than viewing it from afar. Many things frustrated me back then about the stories coming out about this area. One of the most vivid was the news about this area — it was not positive, only the negative seemed to be of interest to the media. People and companies were moving out of Lower Manhattan, and they said they will never come back downtown. How will they ever recover from such a tragedy, the neighborhood closes up at 4:00 p.m. when the stock market closes. There’s nothing to do downtown, why would anyone choose to live there?
This got me thinking. I live in the greatest area in New York City, and those people don’t know how truly incredible it is to live downtown. In the beginning of 2002, I started doing research, looking at the statistics of residents and business, taking stock of what other publications that were out there writing about this area and what was missing from the other long-lived, successful and much-loved publications. What was missing was a guide of what is taking place downtown, and more so stories about the people who make up Battery Park, where I myself live. So, I started working on a prototype called Battery Park Today. After much consideration and a lot of hard work, I felt that the hearts of many were not yet healed. More time was needed and Battery Park Today would have to be shelved. I went on to help launch another truly inspiring publication.
A few years later, I had a severe injury which required surgery and a 15-month recovery. No walking or weight-baring activity. How does one do this? I was not able to put any weight on my legs which also meant I could not walk. Only option was a wheelchair. Quickly I realized New York City was not an easy city to navigate a wheelchair, well at least not for me! So, I decided to close my New York apartment and move out to Connecticut to convalesce. Fifteen months to the day, I was able to walk with a cane and ride my bike, and I wanted to come home.
I’ll never forget when I came back in January of 2010. The first thing I did was jump on my bike to see what had changed in my community. What was then my means of transportation allowed me to really see the progress that had taken place during my absence. I quickly went looking for my Battery Park Today prototype, back to research, talking to lots of different people. And most importantly, I wanted to get the blessing of Elizabeth Berger of the Downtown Alliance, who we sadly lost in 2013.
Working for close to another six months, I realized that the magazine should be called Downtown — The Heart of Every City. A magazine for the people of this area, showcasing and educating those outside of this area about this incredible resurgence which was taking place right here in my backyard. The history, the growth and what was to come, Downtown truly is the heart of New York City.
Lower Manhattan needed and had to have a luxury brand to showcase this area, which was quickly developing into the destination it is today. Also, I wanted to talk about its history and how it was born, but also people like Larry Silverstein who were rebuilding our great area. I wanted to make a magazine which would resemble the luxury of what was to come here to this astonishing and strong area, that I’m lucky enough to call home. In November of 2010, Downtown was born. For the first year, I gave it away for free, delivering it like a papergirl on my bike. I wanted to say thank you to this community and its residents for making downtown the greatest place to live!
MM: What have your experiences running a publication/website been like?
GC: Interesting to say the least with a very big learning curve. I come from a small town in South Florida, Boca, where I started my first magazine at the age of 27. Back then, I was a big fish in a small pond. Anything and everything I wanted, I simply would ask. A small business loan, business lease etc., all on a handshake with the paperwork to follow of course. Business was not cutthroat, it was honest and straight forward. If you had a quality brand, great content, and distribution, then you had the support of the commerce, retail, real estate and businesses in general. I like professionalism, but friendly and respectful competition. If you support a brand they, in turn, support you. I believe if you do good work you should be rewarded.
Darren Paltrowitz (DP): I first started writing for Downtown two years ago, contributing interview features to the website. About a year ago, I became the Digital Managing Editor; before that, I had edited some other New York-based publications like Long Island Entertainment and The Improper Magazine. Even though I have been a freelance writer and editor for almost 20 years — I started in high school, almost like the movie Almost Famous — Downtown is truly distinct. I have never gotten as much feedback from a readership as I do with Downtown. There is never a shortage of things to write about for Downtown because what happens in Lower Manhattan truly affects the whole world on a daily basis.
MM: Where do you hope the magazine will be in ten years?
GC: Downtown will be in every downtown in every city which has a “downtown,” the heart of any city.
DP: Downtown is Grace’s creation, and as usual, she’s right on the money!
MM: How do you envision the magazine expanding over the next few years?
GC: We will grow nationally. In print, digitally, and with unique and extraordinary events. Maybe even a TV show. Downtown is the heartbeat that keeps every city alive.
DP: In addition to what Grace said, the key is staying active with both print and digital outlets. Social media has helped grow Downtown so that a substantial amount of its online readership isn’t even living or working in Lower Manhattan. The saying “think locally, act globally” comes to mind, yet there is no reason that every major city can’t have its own Downtown.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the publishing and/or web-publishing industry?
GC: Never use your life savings, but do plan on doing things you could never see yourself doing. Be prepared, because not everyone will love you. Hire those with the same passion as yourself. And take the word pride out of your vocabulary! Generally speaking, there is no right or wrong when comes to the publishing world. If you have great content, passion, work ethic and people skills, you will inevitably succeed. It may take a year or even a few years, but if you can keep holding on while pushing forward, you’ll eventually get where you need to be. There is enough bandwidth for hundreds — or even thousands — of publications to succeed, so there is no reason that you can’t work with other publications. Also, remember that today’s intern may be tomorrow’s editor or even tomorrow’s publisher. So, treat everyone well and keep up relationships whenever possible.
MM: How do you find writers?
GC: For the magazine, through friends and other great writers. We are lucky to have many approach us.
DP: As Grace said, it’s often friends and other writers reaching out. But feel free to send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested!
[Feature Image by Grace A. Capobianco]