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Roberta Brandes Gratz      

Award-Winning Journalist, Urban Critic, Lecturer & Author

An award-winning journalist and urbanist, Roberta Brandes Gratz has been observing and writing about cities – how they grow, fall apart, recover – for more than 40 years. NYC born and raised, Gratz started her journalism career as a reporter for the New York Post under Dorothy Schiff. She left when Rupert Murdoch bought the paper and went on to write six books on urban change. Her last one, "It’s a Helluva Town: Joan K. Davidson, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, and the Fight for a Better New York" draws on her observations, understanding and involvement in the critical issues of the city.

The book before that was: "We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City."

Earlier books were: "The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs;" "The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way;" "Cities Back From the Edge: New Life For Downtown," and "A Frog, A Wooden House, A Stream and A Trail: Ten years of Community Revitalization in Central Europe." She was interviewed on radio stations across the country after each book.

Gratz’s writings have also appeared in the Nation, New York Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Review, Common Edge and various online publications. She has brought her in-depth research and expertise to appointments, consultancies, and speaking engagements around the world.

As a reporter at the New York Post, Gratz was given the opportunity to suggest stories worthy of coverage. Instinctively, she chose subjects and issues that needed the spotlight turned on them.

In the early 1970s, women needed corroboration by two witnesses to prove a rape, making proof impossible. Other impediments to conviction existed, along with the societal assumption that women invited the crime. Gratz wrote a six-part award-winning series of articles in The New York Post that brought the issue to the fore for the first time in New York and helped change New York state law.

Gratz did the same for the issue of illegal abortion, also in The New York Post, writing a six-part series on the consequences of illegal abortions and also wrote the cover story on the subject for MS Magazine for the issue of Jan 1973 with the U.S. Supreme Court Roe V Wade decision.

From 2003 to 2011, she served on the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, where, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she helped preserve New York City’s significant buildings and neighborhoods for seven years.

In 2004, Gratz, with author/urbanist Jane Jacobs, founded The Center For the Living City to build on Jacobs’ ground-breaking work.

Gratz was a member of the New York Governor’s and Mayor’s Task Force on Planning Manhattan’s West Side Waterfront after the defeat of Westway under Mayor Ed Koch and served on the Sustainability Advisory Board of NYC under Michael Bloomberg.

For more than 20 years, Gratz led the restoration effort of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side that is now a museum. This was the largest landmark restoration in NYC not affiliated with an educational or other non-profit institution.

She is a longtime Trustee and former head of Public Policy of the New York State Preservation League.

She has been a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, NYS Council on the Arts, Surdna Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Fannie Mae Foundation, and writing awards from the American Institute of Architects, American Planning Assn, Municipal Art Society, the New York Press Club, the City Club of New York and the Press Club of New Orleans.

A personal friend of Jane Jacobs for almost 30 years, Gratz views cities very much through the Jacobs-style lens. She is both a critic of city and planning policies and an activist in some of the big development fights.

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