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10.16.15 Issue

by Ozzie Nogg

On Sunday, Sept. 13, New Yorkers were able to access the first new subway station opened in the City since 1989. The 1.5 mile extension of the No. 7 line, which has been under construction since 2007, connects Times Square to 34th Street and 11th Avenue on the far west side of Manhattan. And though Omaha is a long way from the Big Apple, this particular subway line has a local ‘connection’ in former-Omahan Beth Greenberg, a principal at Dattner Architects in New York City and the chief architect for the No. 7 Line Subway Extension.

“We started the project in 2002,” Greenberg explained. “A long period of time, but considering that the work included extensive environmental investigations, complex geotechnical engineering of tunnels and cavern excavation, passenger circulation studies plus coordination with private developers and numerous transit authority and life safety requirements, the project has actually been realized fairly rapidly. Any New York City project has complex political/regulatory hoops, and this project involved a huge cast of characters.” Included, according to the New York Times, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, current Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo. “The extension eases access to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center,” Greenberg continued. “It’s also convenient for tourists at the High Line and will be a boon to businesses and residents at the under-construction Hudson Yards mega-development. Its air-conditioned platforms, artistic murals, modern architecture and design — like inclined elevators — are a bonus to visitors and residents of the area.”

The daughter of Barton (Bucky) Greenberg and the late Caryl Greenberg, Beth received her Master of Architecture from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been with Dattner Architects since 1989 and became a Principal in 2000. “I am one of ten partners in a firm of just over 100 persons,” Greenberg said. “Each principal is deeply engaged in the design and project management of the firm’s work, along with sharing the responsibilities of business development and firm management.” According to Beth, Dattner Architects is dedicated to improving the urban fabric; practicing architecture that — in education, housing, institutional and infrastructure sectors — enriches the lives of building occupants and their surrounding communities. “Dattner has a humanist foundation, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found a professional home there.”

Beth has served on the board of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and was elevated to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects in 2015, an honor bestowed on AIA-member architects who have made outstanding contributions to the profession through design excellence, contributions in the field of architectural education, or to the advancement of the profession.

“My Fellowship is in the ‘practice’ area,” Beth said, “focusing on improvements to the urban environment. At Dattner I work with colleagues committed to quality architecture and urban design, on a diverse range of projects — schools, transportation, affordable housing, medical facilities.” While studying architecture in Denver, several of Beth’s professors were women. “And my class was at least fifty-percent women. While not explicitly role models in their specific architectural practices, I think the presence of numerous women professors gave me confidence that doors would be open to me equally with all my colleagues. And this has proven to be the case.”

After graduation, while still in Denver, Beth joined the firm of Sink Combs Dethlefs, a small firm founded by the staunchly modernist architect Charles Sink, a student of Walter Gropius and a classmate of I.M. Pei. “The firm’s work ranged from commercial/industrial to sports facilities to residential,” Beth said. “I was privileged to work directly under Mr. Sink on his personal residence, and after the Sink residence was completed I moved to New York City with my then boyfriend, now husband, Jim Wright, also an architect. In New York, I was able to work on multi-family housing with the Ehrenrkranz Group before moving to Dattner Architects.” Greenberg’s master’s thesis dealt with the urban revitalization of lower downtown Omaha and posited riverfront multi-family, mixed use housing adjacent to some of Omaha’s beautiful old warehouse buildings, all before the current ConAgra campus was built. Prescient, to be sure.

By now, Beth Greenberg is a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. “The City provides an embarrassment of riches that feeds many of my interests and passions — culinary, visual, theater, music, film and dance arts,” she said. “But Nebraska is close to my heart. We come to visit my dad and my husband’s mother and his sister’s family, and during these trips it has been fascinating to see Omaha’s developing urban vitality. I’m thrilled to see a bike-share program, and am very excited that Omaha’s transit system is considering a combination of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as an ‘Urban Circulator’ between downtown, midtown, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Crossroads and Westroads; and a modern streetcar connecting UNO, Creighton, the Old Market and, perhaps, extending to the Henry Doorly Zoo. Omaha is fortunate to have retained and re-purposed much of its robust, sometimes gritty early urban architecture, connecting its past with what appears to be a growing and positive future.”

When asked if her Jewish background informs her work, Beth said, “Successful architecture in the public realm embodies Jewish ideals of social justice, education and respect for the quality of human life. My experience of Jewish tradition and history engenders respect for different cultures, languages and points of view — positive and enriching lifelong values.”