Morningstar to Move New York Office to 4 World Trade Center
September 18, 2014
Silverstein Properties announced today that leading independent investment research provider Morningstar, Inc. has signed a 10-year, 30,000 square foot lease at 4 World Trade Center. The company Read more...

The woman who remade downtown

Downtown owes its renaissance to many heroes, from firefighters who perished on 9/11 to business moguls and ordinary residents who never gave up on a district too many had left for dead.

 Deserving a special place in the pantheon is Liz Berger, the Downtown Alliance president since November 2007.

My friend Liz died unacceptably young on Monday at age 53. She heroically battled pancreatic cancer for years. But she was so resolute, so uncomplaining, that I had no idea when I first met her she'd been ill, much less suffering from a disease nearly always fatal.  

A strong leader and a gracious lady, she played an indispensable role in making what's now called FiDi the marvelous place it's become. That tens of thousands of happy new residents cheerfully co-exist with giant corporations in sky-piercing towers owes much to her tireless efforts.  

Liz lived with her family on Lower Broadway for 30 years. Her love for the area counted for at least as much as her prior experience in law, government and politics.  

Maybe more than anyone, she "got" downtown's uniquely commingled qualities of intimacy and majesty. Narrow streets amidst mighty skyscrapers can sound intimidating to those who don't live there, but Liz and the Alliance she led got the truth out. No wonder its population nearly doubled on her watch.  

Liz was frequently in the press, but was careful not to reveal too much. The head of a business improvement district is pressured on all sides by landlords, tenants, community boards, city agencies and advocacy groups of every type. A few careless words can wreck an effort requiring cooperation all around.  

So Liz played it close to the vest in public: "We are going to be the best game in town in 2010," as I quoted her in 2008, was a typical sound bite. But we who knew her understood her real strength lay behind the scenes.  

She was in the thick of the fight over troubled projects and initiatives that have all had improbably happy endings: the imminent completion (against all odds) of the Fulton Transit Center, the luring of good stores downtown like Tiffany and Urban Outfitters, conversions of old office buildings into modern apartments.  

In the snake pit of World Trade Center politics, Liz - lacking any statutory authority, but merely advocating for what she deemed was the site's best interests - was the honest broker everyone trusted. She lobbied tirelessly for commercial incentives to lure and retain business downtown; today, its low office vacancy rate is the envy of most every central business district in the US. 

She brought her human touch to matters great and small. No one did more than Liz to help residents and businesses to recover from Hurricane Sandy.   She was a New Yorker to the core who delighted in the city's nooks and crannies. The last time I saw her, at a new Tribeca restaurant last year, she wanted to talk only about food.  

Glowing in the company of her husband and friends, she evinced the undimmed passion of the newly arrived young. I'll remember her that way. So, I hope, will all of downtown's residents and workers who owe so much to her indomitable spirit.