Hon. Frederic S. Berman ’51, a distinguished NYLS graduate and an adjunct professor at the School for more than four decades, passed away on January 19, 2020.
Berman graduated from NYLS in 1951 and embarked on an impressive public service career. After serving as a New York State Senator (1964 to 1966), representing Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Berman joined the John V. Lindsay Administration as New York City’s Rent and Housing Commissioner.
“His challenge,” New York Times reporter Sam Roberts wrote in Berman’s obituary, “was to reconcile rising maintenance costs, declining vacancy rates and rent gouging in unregulated apartments by protecting tenants while discouraging landlords from abandoning their buildings to arson and vandalism.”
As Commissioner, Berman helped resolve a nine-day strike by service employees in rent-controlled apartment buildings, drafted a “Bill of Rights” to protect tenants in 1.4 million rent-controlled apartments, and played a critical role in passing the city’s rent stabilization law.
In a 1995 interview with the New York Law School Reporter, Berman recalled experiencing death threats in the role. “A Rent Commissioner had to assume, expect and anticipate that he’ll be attacked by both landlord groups and tenant groups,” Berman told the student paper.
These challenges helped prepare Berman for the next phase of his career. As a judge in New York City Criminal Court (1973 to 1976) and New York State Supreme Court (1976 to 1997), he presided over thousands of criminal and civil cases, including more than 400 felony jury trials, and served under four mayoral administrations.
In addition to his demanding career, Berman was a dedicated Adjunct Professor at NYLS, where he taught courses on criminal law, personal property, municipal law, and post-conviction remedies and procedures for 45 years (1958 to 2003), a period of intense regulatory, legislative, and social change in New York City.
In recognition of his tremendous contributions to the School, NYLS bestowed on him the title of Adjunct Professor Emeritus in 2006.
“I’m very proud of the School,” Berman told New York Law School Reporter in 1995. “Always have been.”
- Read “Frederic Berman, Protector of Renters in New York, Dies at 92” in The New York Times.
- Listen to an archived 1958 WNYC radio interview with Professor Berman about rising rents and the middle class in New York City.