Events & News

In Memoriam: Dorothy Miner

May 14, 2009
From the Spring 2009 Newsletter

Each year we lament the loss of important figures in our professional and private lives and the preservation community in the last several years has felt an acute loss as beloved friends and colleagues have died. NYPAP has said goodbye to Giorgio Cavaglieri, Paul Byard, Jan Pokorny, Margot Gayle and several other steadfast supporters of preservation in New York City as well as frequent audience members at NYPAP events and programs. The death of Dorothy Miner in October 2008 was, however, a most personal loss. The obituary in The New York Times referred to Dorothy as “….a fierce, immovable stickler — and could infuriate allies as well as adversaries with her insistence on principle and procedure.” No other phrase could describe Dorothy more perfectly. Dorothy was such a fixture in New York City’s preservation world that I have no actual memory of meeting her. She was simply a part of my professional life from my earliest memories extending back more than 25 years. I do have very distinct memories of Dorothy’s contributions to the field, her unfailing support of NYPAP, her generosity with knowledge, and her clear sense of preservation principles.

Dorothy was an engaged NYPAP Board member, attended nearly every event we organized, brought students and colleagues to NYPAP programs, and asked tough questions at every turn. She could indeed infuriate anyone working with her. On more than one occasion, I was exacerbated that Dorothy wouldn’t use email. It seems foolish now because there was often great joy in sitting down and writing her a note and receiving a written response.

One of my strongest memories of Dorothy is walking out of an evening event at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, asking her a simple question about something I was reading, and then being kicked out of the NPC office more than two hours later when Dorothy was helping me construct a meaningful bibliography if I really wanted to explore that topic more thoroughly. This might not seem odd to anyone who witnessed her receive the Landmarks Lion award from Historic Districts Council. Dorothy made the usual polite remarks and then provided the audience with an unparalleled lecture on the evolution of the Landmarks Law and its contemporary meaning.

Dorothy will be remembered by many long into the future. Many of us will miss her well-meaning vexing behavior. Indeed, I have discovered I have an inner Dorothy who is always reminding me that the enforcement of the landmarks law cannot wane. Now all NYPAP Board members use email, but we’ve lost a key figure in the 1978 Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City battle and one of the board’s strongest champions.

Above: Dorothy Miner (left) with Kent Barwick and Arlene Simon at the 2006 Golden Jubilee of the Bard Act; Courtesy of the New York Preservation Archive Project