Herb Sturz, a Quiet Force in the Life of New York City, Dies at 90

Traveling in Europe, he met Elizabeth Lyttleton, with whom he wrote a well-reviewed novel about Spain, “Reapers of the Storm” (1958). They married in 1958. Ms. Sturz founded what became Argus Community, a program in the South Bronx for troubled youths, the mentally ill and drug addicts; she died in 2010.

Mr. Sturz is survived by her daughter, Anna Lomax Chairetakis Wood, a scholar with the Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College; a step-grandson; a step-great-grandson; and, in addition to Lisa Sturz, several other nieces and nephews.

He married Margaret Shaw, a lawyer and mediator, in 2012. She died in 2017.

After editing Boys’ Life magazine, Mr. Sturz was recruited by Louis J. Schweitzer, a chemical engineer and philanthropist, in founding the Vera Institute of Justice in 1961. A research organization named for Mr. Schweitzer’s mother, it was established to address the inequities faced by indigent people who become entangled with law enforcement and the courts.

After directing Vera for 17 years, Mr. Sturz was picked by the newly elected Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1978 to be his deputy mayor for criminal justice. The next year he was named director of city planning, a job in which he curbed the height of mid-block high-rises, kicked off the redevelopment of Times Square and changed zoning rules to spare Broadway theaters from demolition.

After stepping down as director in 1986, he continued to press his agenda in print as a member of The Times editorial board and later through philanthropy, as a senior adviser to George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. There, he further expanded his purview to include bail reform abroad as well as affordable housing in South Africa.

Nearing 90, he continued to confront a catalog of seemingly intractable social problems with a consistent strategy of invoking firsthand research to transform skeptics into stakeholders.

In June 2019 he semi-retired to become a part-time, pro bono consultant to the Open Society Foundations.

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