Lower Manhattan has lost a tireless champion.
Elizabeth H. Berger, who served as the president and CEO of the Alliance for Downtown New York and as president of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, died Monday, the organizations announced.
Saturday was her 53rd birthday. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.
Berger’s tenure as the head economic development cheerleader of Lower Manhattan encompassed the full funding and timely completion of the Fulton Street Transit Center, the reconstruction of Fiterman Hall and the enactment of post-9/11 commercial leasing incentives.
In a statement announcing her death, the Alliance described Berger as “an unabashed partisan about the neighborhood where she lived, raised her family and worked.” As she told the New York Times in 2010: “What I love about Lower Manhattan is that it has the biggest buildings on the smallest streets. It’s an internationally known destination but it’s a little village…. It’s intensely walkable and at the center of a regional transportation hub. And there’s the connection to the water — it’s one of the few place in Manhattan where you know it’s an island.”
Berger was born on August 3, 1960 in New York City. She grew up here and in Buffalo and Providence, Rhode Island. She joined the Alliance for Downtown New York as president in November 2007. The organization manages the Business Improvement District for Lower Manhattan and promotes Downtown as a premier global address for businesses, residents and visitors through programs, service and advocacy. Before her tenure as president and CEO, Berger served on the Alliance’s board as a resident representative for a number of years.
“Liz Berger loved our City with passion and gave her great intelligence and inventiveness to New York without reserve,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. “She was more than an advocate for Lower Manhattan, she was a partner in building its future. As new transit hubs, skyscrapers, full access to our waterfront and a fresh vitality emerge downtown, Liz’s influences are everywhere to be seen. We shared a vision of Lower Manhattan as a model 21st century business and residential district, and thanks to her tireless work, it’s being realized before our eyes. The City mourns the loss of a great civic leader.”
Berger had decades of experience in government, community affairs and strategic planning. Prior to her time with the Alliance she established and built government relations practices at the law firms Lord Day & Lord Barrett Smith and LeBoeuf, Lamb Greene & MacRae and the Law Offices of Claudia Wagner.
“I and everyone at the Silverstein organization are deeply saddened by the passing of Liz Berger, a great friend and colleague, as well as a passionate civic leader and advocate for Downtown’s residents and businesses,” Larry Silverstein, president of Silverstein Properties, said in a statement. “We all will miss her and draw inspiration from her efforts as we work to fulfill our shared goal to make Downtown the most dynamic urban area in America.”
Berger is also credited with creating the Department of Government and External Affairs at Lincoln Center. She served as an Assistant Mayoral Representative to the New York City Council during the Koch administration.
“Liz Berger’s passion, sophistication and drive shaped Lower Manhattan as surely as any skyscraper or bulldozer,” Robert R. Douglas, the chairman of the Alliance for Downtown New York and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, said in a statement.
“Her strength as an advocate and strategist was only exceeded by her loyalty as a friend and her dedication as a mother and wife. She will be sorely missed.”
A graduate of Yale University, where she majored in The Study of the City, Berger was at various times a board director of The Municipal Art Society, Film Forum, Second Stage Theatre, American Museum of Natural History Planetarium Authority and the New York Building Congress.
She was also a mayoral appointee to the board of the Trust for Governors Island.
Berger is survived by her husband Frederick Kaufman, daughter Phoebe, son Julian, her mother Anita, and brother Gideon.