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Liz Berger, 52, is celebrating her fifth year as president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, the area’s Business Improvement District. In an interview with the Downtown Express, Berger spoke to the Alliance’s accomplishments, its future goals and why she is passionate about Lower Manhattan.
Congratulations, Liz! Does it feel longer or shorter than five years?
Thank you! It feels like a long time, but by the same token, I can’t believe it’s been five years. It feels like enough time to have really learned a lot about Lower Manhattan and to have worked with our board and our staff and all of our partners to really help the community move forward.
What are some of the accomplishments of the Alliance since the mid-2000s?
The leadership of the Board of Directors has focused our efforts in four key areas: research, service, advocacy and information. We’ve really built out our research department. We’re the go-to source of original and synthesized data about the Lower Manhattan market — that’s an achievement of which I’m really, really proud. It has really led to a growing sophistication and expansion of our field service programs, it’s led to an incredible multi-platforming of our communications program and it’s allowed us to be a lot more nimble and savvy in the economic development area, which focuses both on consumers and investors. On the investor’s side, it’s the hard data that allows brokers and owners to attract new tenants. Research also informs our advocacy — it helps us understand what’s important and it helps us quantify our arguments.
You’ve witnessed the revitalization of Downtown in many respects…which aspect of the regrowth has been most surprising to you?
What I’ve been pleased to see is the extent of the growth — it has exceeded our wildest imaginations. Fifty-seven thousand people live here, 309,000 people work here and there were virtually ten million visitors last year. None of these in and of themselves is surprising — the feeling has always been that if you build it, it will come!
What is a future goal of the Alliance, and what can we expect in the coming years?
We’re going to keep looking for ways to make daily life better for the people who live, work and visit here. We’re a constituent service organization, so we’re constantly talking, writing and trying to figure out what our constituents need. We have a variety of supplemental sanitation, public safety, homeless outreach, transportation and tourism engagement programs, and we’re going to continue to think about how we can serve those populations better and better. Giving away two million pieces of printed material is one example of how we’re constantly increasing our programs. We’re also constantly reevaluating what we do. You’re going to see more in the way of tourism, more in the way of retail promotion both to investors and to consumers, and I think we’re going to be advocating for many of the ideas that our collaborative committees generated with respect to Greenwich Street South, Water Street, the economy and technology.
What brought you to Downtown as a resident?
I didn’t have to be convinced to move to Lower Manhattan, I did it on my own 30 years ago. It has what every New Yorker wants — the ability to walk to work, doormen and value in terms of rent. I stayed because of the tremendous sense of community, the beauty, the architecture, the proximity to the water, the ability to get anywhere in the region via public transportation and the profound sense of history.
What is your favorite Downtown hang-out?
I love all my ‘children’ equally! I love what’s happened on North End Way in Battery Park City, I love shopping and dining on Front Street. Having been a Downtown Soccer League and Little League sports mom, I know there is nothing better than the sports fields on a Saturday morning. I love the chance to see and hear music at Pace University. I think there’s nothing better than being on the top story of Pier 15 over the summer — looking at the bridge, looking at the harbor, eating an ice cream cone and realizing the power and the drama of New York. It just doesn’t get better than that!
By Aline Reynolds