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Marilyn Gelber

Image of Marilyn Gelber

Following a distinguished and accomplished career in the public sector, Ms. Gelber has been working in the field of philanthropy for the past 15 years. She was the founding President of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn's leading philanthropy and the first donor supported foundation created exclusively for Brooklyn. The community foundation was created using assets from the private Independence Community Bank Foundation which she led from its inception in 1998 to its conversion to a community foundation in 2009. Under her leadership, more than $100 million was invested in the work of effective non profit organizations supporting initiatives for improvement in education, access to the arts, housing and community development, the environment and human services. Prior to entering the field of philanthropy, Ms. Gelber served in New York City’s public sector for 28 years as an urban planner and administrator. She was the first woman Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and previously served as Chief of Staff to the Brooklyn Borough President and Director of Neighborhood Strategy Planning for the New York City Department of City Planning. Among her accomplishments as Commissioner of New York City’s 6,000 person Department of Environmental Protection, Ms. Gelber was responsible for the development of a watershed protection plan for New York City's vast water supply system. The plan combined a balanced environmental and economic development strategy and established innovative partnerships with upstate watershed communities. As Executive Assistant to the Borough President of Brooklyn, Ms. Gelber coordinated the development and implementation of the first plans for the revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn and its Civic Center. As Director of Neighborhood Strategy Planning for the Department of City Planning, Ms. Gelber oversaw the development of comprehensive plans and investment strategies for thirty-two of New York City's low and moderate-income neighborhoods. Ms. Gelber was a Mayoral appointee to the New York City Water Board, held the Brooklyn seat on the New York City Planning Commission and served as the New York City Comptroller’s appointee to the New York City Procurement Policy Board, She was the founding chair of the Committee on Foundations of the Community Bankers Association of New York State, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Philanthropy New York where she chaired the City Connect Committee. Ms. Gelber received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from St. Francis College, was awarded the President’s Medal by Brooklyn College, and received an honorary doctorate from St. Joseph’s College. She has received many awards including the Freedom Star award by the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, the Lawrence Orton Award from the American Planning Association, and the New York State Bar Association Award for her leading role in negotiating the watershed agreement to protect the City's drinking water system. She is a life-long New Yorker, a graduate of Queens College of the City University of New York, and she and her family reside in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.


Articles, Investigations and Blogs

Neither Joe Lhota nor Bill de Blasio will write the kind of personal checks that Mayor Bloomberg did. But that doesn't mean they can afford to ignore this important sector.

The environmental progress New York City—and Brooklyn especially—have made reflects federal legislation and local infrastructure. But it's also been a story of community groups working to make their neighborhoods healthier.

Detailed data confirm that today's Brooklyn is different. An inclusive civic infrastructure is what's needed to turn mere change into real progress.

While others have Paris and Rome, we'll always have Brooklyn. But justifiable pride of place should not make us reluctant to look deeper and examine serious challenges to Brooklyn's well being.

The director of Brooklyn's leading foundation writes that the borough's indisputable successes bring an obligation to look out for those whom recent changes haven't favored.