Downtown Alliance Announces Explorer In Chief Winner

Downtown Alliance Announces Explorer In Chief Winner

The Alliance for Downtown New York, the nonprofit business improvement district for Lower Manhattan, has selected Josh Katz — a savvy street photographer who has captured the attention of over a half-million followers since uploading his first video at age nine — as the winner of the Lower Manhattan’s Explorer In Chief Contest. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance is revamping the program; the start of the assignment will align with the best city and state public health guidance on safety, and focus on the healthiest ways to once again enjoy New York’s oldest, and newest, neighborhood.

The Explorer In Chief’s job still includes a stipend, top accommodations and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a multimedia storyteller, but in the wake of the novel coronavirus, the Explorer will also be tasked with documenting the recovery of a major urban neighborhood. The Alliance will use the Explorer’s reporting efforts to help tell stories of people and businesses as Lower Manhattan stirs and recovers from its latest challenge.

The Alliance sought an urban explorer with a camera-ready personality, a keen eye, a distinctive voice and the chops to produce compelling, entertaining content. Enter Josh Katz, whose submission was selected from among hundreds of entries representing 40 states and 30 countries. The 23-year-old Brooklyn-based Katz has built a strong online following across YouTube, Instagram and TikTok with a mix of photography tutorials and original content that could earn him the title of digital anthropologist. While he originally submitted a video showstopper on his street photography, it was his most recent project that helped him stand out from his excellent fellow finalists during the interview process. From the safety of his socially distant rooftop, Josh spent time last month documenting the rooftop culture that has emerged during New York’s stay-at-home orders in his Brooklyn neighborhood. With permission, he documented rooftop dinners and first dates, neighbors tending local pigeon coops, and new friends meeting for the first time, in search of connection across rooftops. This intimate study of human beings during our changed circumstances is a testament to Katz’s curiosity and innovative creativity, which will help him tell the Lower Manhattan story in this new era.

“When we began developing this position, COVID-19 didn’t exist. After we started accepting applications, the world changed overnight. As a result, so did the contest,” said Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin. “This whole experience will take on a new dimension as our neighborhood starts down a path of recovery, and we’re confident that Josh Katz is the right adventurous soul to help the world discover Lower Manhattan anew.”

To learn more about Josh Katz’s winning entry and view the top 15 submissions, visit

This reimagined job description of the Explorer In Chief’s duties is part of a continuing effort by the Alliance to support businesses that are being adversely impacted by the spread of COVID-19. From educating local business owners about available funding opportunities and convening working groups, to communicating which businesses are currently open and spotlighting essential workers who are making a difference, the Alliance is actively working to help Lower Manhattan’s business community. Efforts will continue through the recovery phase with dedicated marketing programs and initiatives to help turn the lights back on across the neighborhood. To support the immediate needs of Lower Manhattan, the Alliance announced a Small Business Rental Assistance Grant program earlier this week. More info on that program is available here.