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Award-winning journalist and urban critic, lecturer and 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, Roberta 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 and 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 JacobsThe 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.


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, Roberta, 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, Roberta 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.

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