Year in Real Estate

In Memoriam

New York real estate is some of the most desirable and expensive in the world, but the ever-fluctuating price of a square foot is unquestionably dwarfed by the value of human life. This year, the real estate industry lost two figures whose talents transcended leasing and sales

Ada Louise Huxtable, 1921-2013

Ada Louise Huxtable, who in 1963 became the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper, died Jan. 7 in New York. She was 91.  

Ms. Huxtable was named architecture critic by The New York Times at a time when steamrolling urban planners—most famously Robert Moses—were doing battle in the court of public opinion with members of the burgeoning preservation movement like Jane Jacobs, whose seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published in 1961.

Ms. Huxtable sided with the preservationists as she redefined modern architectural journalism. 

The Manhattan native spent her childhood enamored with Grand Central Terminal, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, the Times said in Ms. Huxtable’s obituary. Her work as a set designer on Hunter College theatrical productions attracted the attention of the paper, and she wrote a piece for its Sunday magazine in 1958.

Ms. Huxtable was born on March 14, 1921. She was raised in Manhattan, at the St. Urban apartment house on Central Park West and 89th Street and, after graduating from Hunter, attended New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. After leaving school, she sold furniture including works by Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames for Bloomingdale’s. 

Ms. Huxtable was known and feared for her withering dismissals of prominent buildings that she felt neglected their civic responsibility. She called the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., a “national tragedy,” adding that Nazi chief architect “Albert Speer would have approved” of the building.

The Times obit points out that Ms. Huxtable’s condemnations were a far cry from the sycophantic architecture writing in most newspapers in the 1950s. While her pans attracted more attention than her raves, Ms. Huxtable was fond of Lever House, the Ford Foundation Building and the CBS Building in Manhattan.

“When it is good, this is a city of fantastic strength, sophistication and beauty,” Ms. Huxtable said of her hometown. “It is like no other city in time or place.” —Billy Gray

Elizabeth Berger, 1960-2013

Elizabeth Berger, president and CEO of the Alliance for Downtown New York and president of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, died Aug. 5 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 53. 

Ms. Berger helped shape the reimagining and rebuilding of lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks and helped spearhead an effort to assist lower Manhattan businesses and residents following Superstorm Sandy. She became president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, where she lived with her husband, Frederick Kaufman; daughter, Phoebe; and son, Julian, in November 2007, having previously served on its board for several years.

 “What I love about lower Manhattan is that it has the biggest buildings on the smallest streets,” she told The New York Times in 2010. “It’s an internationally known destination, but it’s a little village … intensely walkable and at the center of a regional transportation hub.”

Elizabeth Harrie Berger was born on Aug. 3, 1960, in New York City, splitting her time during childhood between New York, Buffalo and Providence, R.I.

She graduated from Yale College with a degree in a major she created: the study of the city. Ms Berger served as director on the boards of the Municipal Art Society, Second Stage Theatre, American Museum of Natural History Planetarium Authority, New York Building Congress and Film Forum. 

“Liz Berger loved our city with passion and gave her great intelligence and inventiveness to New York without reserve,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said following her death. “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.”

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