Landmarks Lion 2012:Roberta Brandes Gratz

Historic Districts Council Honors Roberta Brandes Gratz as Landmarks Lion
Monday, November 5th, 2012

The Historic Districts Council, the citywide organization dedicated to preserving New York’s historic neighborhoods, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award to advocate, author, journalist and urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz.

Roberta is known for her deep knowledge and expertise about preservation and urbanism, both within New York City and across the country. She is a nationally-respected leader in promoting preservation practices and policies for the revitalization of urban areas. She coined the term, “Urban Husbandry,” for her first book, The Living City, to describe the process by which urban neighborhoods and downtowns can regenerate from economic stagnation by “thinking small in a big way”.  She later coined the term “SoHo Syndrome” for her second book, Cities Back From the Edge, to identify the process unfolding in onetime industrial neighborhoods in cities across the country and abroad.

Not just a theorist, Roberta has been an active presence in preservation efforts in New York City and elsewhere, particularly the fight to save and designate the Broadway theaters and opposition to Westway. She served on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from 2003 to 2010, participating in some of the biggest preservation issues of our time. Roberta is the founder and President Emeritus of the Eldridge Street Project, an award-winning effort that restored the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side and established The Eldridge Street Museum on the site.  In 2005, in collaboration with the legendary Jane Jacobs, she founded The Center for the Living City, which promotes increased civic engagement among those who care deeply for their communities and sponsors the popular annual program Jane Jacobs Walks, which encourage people throughout the country to explore and observe their own neighborhoods in a new way.

Roberta began her career as a journalist, at The New York Post training her eye on urban issues and winning awards for her investigative series on the NYC Landmarks Law and Commission, revealing the severe limitations of the law and dramatic weaknesses in the commission.  Today, Roberta lectures internationally on urban development. Her publications such as The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane JacobsCities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown; and The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way detail how cities actually revitalize themselves and the importance that preservation plays in the life of our cities. She currently sits on the Sustainability Advisory Board for PlaNYC. She is also on the Trustees Council and former head of Public Policy of the Preservation League of New York State. In addition, she founded the Fire Island Historical Society. She splits her time these days between NYC and New Orleans, where she is writing a book on the recovery after Katrina.

To view photos of the event (c) Gramercy Park Photography, click here.

To view Roberta Brandes Gratz’s remarks from the Landmarks Lion 2012, click here.



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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

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