Stephen Berger

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Stephen Berger
Stephen Berger.jpg
Born (1939-07-11) July 11, 1939 (age 79)
New York, New York, US
Residence New York, New York
Alma mater Brandeis University
  • Financial executive
  • Political advisor
  • Professor
Spouse(s) Cynthia Wainwright (married 1977)
Children 2

Stephen Berger (born July 11, 1939) is an American entrepreneur, investment banker, civil servant and political advisor.[1] His public service positions at the federal, state, and local levels for government agencies include: Chairman of the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century,[2] Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,[3] Chairman of the United States Railway Association under President Jimmy Carter,[4] and Executive Director of the New York Emergency Control Board for the City of New York.

He has served as CEO of both private and public organizations, as a board member, corporate director, and private equity investor as well as a Professor of Public Administration at New York University's Graduate School of Public Administration.[5]

Early life and education

Berger was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His father, Saul Berger, was a politically active lawyer who ran for State Senate and City Council as an anti-Tammany candidate. His mother, Paula Rosenzweig Berger, held a two-year term as a Democratic co-leader in the district.[6]

Berger attended New York City public schools, and graduated with Honors in Science from Stuyvesant High School in 1955.[7] He went to college at Brandeis University in 1955 and graduated magna cum laude with honors in history in 1959. He also attended the University of Chicago on a fellowship to the Department of Political Science from 1959–1960.[8]

Entry into politics

Berger entered the political arena to work for the Adlai Stevenson[not in citation given] and John F. Kennedy presidential campaign in 1960.[9] His public sector career began in 1964, when he ran a successful congressional campaign in the Bronx for the underdog Jonathan B. Bingham against Charles A. Buckley, a Bronx Democratic fixture and powerhouse. He served as executive assistant to Congressman Bingham from 1964 to 1968.[7] He later managed Rep. Herman Badillo, Borough President of the Bronx’s race in the 1969 New York mayoral primary and Richard Ottinger's bid for the U.S. Senate in 1970.[6]

The Rockefeller Commissions, 1972–1974

In the early ‘70s, Berger served on two major commissions under Governor Nelson Rockefeller. From 1972 to 1973, he held the position of Executive Director of The New York State Study Commission on New York City (the Scott Commission) that proposed sweeping changes in social services, fiscal systems, health and hospital services and government structure and jurisdiction.[10] The Scott Commission studies — warned of a multibillion-dollar city deficit when few had foreseen the up-coming mid-‘70s fiscal crisis.[11]

From 1973 to 1974, also under the Rockefeller administration, Berger served as a consultant to the Rockefeller Commission on Critical Choices for Americans, a private study project on national and international policy created to study the various resources and stresses on resources that would determine the environmental and economic health of America over the next several decades.[12]

Carey administration and New York City’s financial crisis, 1975–1977

Berger joined the administration of Governor Hugh L. Carey (1975–1982) as a planning specialist and later served as New York State Commissioner of Social Services and Member of the Board of Social Welfare.[13][14]

In 1976, during New York’s financial crisis, Carey appointed Berger to become the Executive Director of the New York State Emergency Control Board for the City of New York, which reviewed the city’s 12.5 billion budget and designed a plan that enabled the city to reenter the credit markets and eventual financial recovery.[15]

New York University, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Carter administration, 1977 – 1985

New York University

After leaving the Emergency Control Board in late 1977,[16] Berger became a professor at the Graduate School of Public Administration at New York University, teaching part-time there for over 6 years.[5][17]

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

In 1979, Carey appointed him a Member of the Board and Chairman of the finance committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City subways, buses and commuter rail lines.[18]

Jimmy Carter and United States Railway Association

On February 26, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the nomination of Berger as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the United States Railway Association, a government corporation set up in 1974 to create Consolidated Rail Corporation out of six railroads that were in bankruptcy proceedings and funnel federal funds to Conrail as well as monitor the systems performance.[19][20]

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1985–1990

Governor Mario Cuomo of New York and Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey appointed Berger as Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on October 1, 1985 and he served in that capacity until 1990.[21] He was responsible for directing New York and New Jersey's airports, port facilities, interstate network of tunnels, bridges and commuter trains and real estate investment, including the World Trade Center.[22]

Berger's legacy was a $6 billion capital plan designed to modernize many of the agency's facilities, which included John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, marine terminals in both New York and New Jersey, two bus terminals and the commuter railroad.[1]

He also directed a major reorganization of the port authority, which had some 9,500 employees and a $2.2 billion annual budget. The agency also undertook new and improved services, including the commencement of ferry operations from Hoboken, NJ to New York for the first time in 22 years during Berger’s tenure.[21]

Corporate development and finance

After 1977, he moved to Wall Street holding senior posts at Oppenheimer & Company from 1981–1983 and Odyssey Partners from 1983–1985.[1]

GE Capital

From 1990–1993, Berger joined Financial Guaranty Insurance Co., a municipal bond insurer wholly owned by GE Capital, as Chairman and CEO in 1990 and was appointed Executive Vice-President of GE Capital in 1992.[23] He was responsible for a portfolio of companies including the Corporate Finance Group, Private Equity Investment, Railcar Services, Transport International Pool, GE Capital Modular Space and The Financial Guaranty Insurance Company.

Berger was also responsible for establishing and growing GE Capital's insurance annuity business, with the acquisitions of Great Northern Annuity Insurance Company (GNA) from Weyerhaeuser Company and United Pacific Life Insurance Company from the Reliance Group.[5] He resigned in 1993 [24] to return to Odyssey Partners L.P. after an eight-year absence.[25]

Odyssey Partners

Berger is one of the founders of Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC., a private New York investment firm that specializes in private corporate transactions, where he now serves as Chairman and was a general partner of Odyssey’s predecessor firm, Odyssey Partners, L.P. (Odyssey Partners), from 1993 to 1997.[26]

Recent public service

Berger is a director of the Partnership for New York City [27] and the former co-chair of the Governor’s Committee on Scholastic Achievement.[28]

Berger continued his work in the New York health care system and chaired the Governor's Task Force on Health Care Reform, 2003–2005.[29]

In early 2005, Governor George Pataki selected Berger to chair the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century. This commission (often described as the Berger Commission) resulted in the first major restructuring of New York's health-care delivery system. In its final report, issued in November 2006, it called for consolidations, closures, conversions and large-scale restructurings. In the end, nine institutions closed and 48 restructured, in many cases over the objections of health care executives, politicians and community residents.[30][31]

He was also a Member of the Governor Andrew Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Team during 2010–2011. He chaired the Health System Redesign Group, which proposed a restructuring of Brooklyn's Hospitals and Primary Care Facilities.[29]

He serves as a member of State’s Value Based Pricing Committee and the Project Approval and Oversight Panel for the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, guiding New York’s investment of $6 billion in federal funds, through the State’s Medicaid waiver.[2]


On Berger’s work as Chairman of the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities:

"Given his history as someone who is sent in to do difficult jobs that no one else wants to do, we think he’s coming in with his knives sharpened."[citation needed]

Mr. Berger (…) whose name has rarely appeared in print without words like "sharp" and "aggressive" appended to it—is among the first to acknowledge that he is a fiscal tough guy. "I am," said Mr. Berger (…) and then qualified himself a bit. "'Tough' is a very strange word," he said. "I have a reputation of being honest with people, asking questions, and being willing ultimately to say what I think. I don’t think that's particularly tough. I think that's particularly what you need to survive in the world."[32]

In an interview with Crain’s New York, he spoke about reforming Medicare and said:

"(…) we refuse to face the issues related to the last 180 days of life. Often the terminally ill are kept alive through major interventions, and the process of dying is prolonged unnecessarily. We are not dealing with the needs of the dying, but the assumptions and needs of the living. That is not fair. It is also wrong morally, and massively expensive." [30]

When people suggested after the George Washington Bridge scandal that it might make sense to break up the enormous organization of which he'd once been head, Berger said: "It could be simpler and cleaner if you separated the different parts of the Port into individual agencies. It would also be insane."[33]

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once said of him: "Twenty years ago, if you had a conversation with Steve Berger you couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Now if you have a conversation, he allows you to speak for 10 minutes out of each hour."[34]

Personal life

Mr. Berger married Cynthia Wainwright on September 24, 1977.[35][36] She is President of the Board of the Churchill School[37] in New York City and serves as President for The Bridge, a mental health agency.[38] They have two daughters, Robin and Diana.


American Jewish Congress NY NJ Metropolitan Award (1987)

Distinguished Public Service Award for Outstanding Contribution to NY State 1989 from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy (1989)

B'nai B'rith Civic Achievement Award (1989)[39]

United Hospital Fund Special Tribute (2015)[2]


  1. ^ a b c Lueck, Thomas (August 2, 1987). "Port Authority Powerhouse: Stephen Berger; Revving Up the 'Economic Engine'". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Stephen Berger: 2015 Recipient, Special Tribute". United Hospital Fund. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Jerry (1992). Public Authorities and Public Policy: The Business of Government. New York: Praeger. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-275-94321-9. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  4. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John. "Jimmy Carter: "United States Railway Association Nomination of Stephen Berger To Be Chairman of the Board of Directors". The American Presidency Project. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Executive Profile: Stephen Berger". Bloomberg. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b Haberman, Clyde (March 13, 1976). "A Tighter Hand on the City". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc.
  7. ^ a b Finn, Robin (December 8, 2006). "Tightening New York Health Care's Belt". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Stephen Berger - Chairman @ Odyssey Investment Partners". CrunchBase. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  9. ^ Weisman, Steven (February 8, 1977). "Carey's Tough Blocking-Back at City Hall; Stephen Berger: Blocking-Back For Carey in City Fiscal Crisis". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Welfare Politics Probed". The Evening News. March 16, 1976. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  11. ^ Clines, Francis (December 13, 1973). "As Expected, Berger Is a Fiscal Hawk". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  12. ^ Lynn, Frank (May 23, 1976). "Rockefeller to Keep 4 of His Top Aides". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  13. ^ Clines, Francis (May 3, 1975). "Carey Shifting Key Aide to Welfare Post". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Governor Appoints Berger As Social Service Chief". The New York Times. The New York Times. May 25, 1975. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  15. ^ Roess, Roger; Sansone, Gene (Aug 23, 2012). The Wheels That Drove New York: A History of the New York City Transit System. New York: Springer. p. 336. ISBN 978-3-642-30484-2. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  16. ^ Dembart, Lee (October 31, 1977). "Fiscal Board Drifts As Top Aides Leave". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  17. ^ Schatz, Robin D. "Stephen Berger". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  18. ^ Carroll, Maurice (January 9, 1979). "Clash Is Expected Over M.T.A. Post". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  19. ^ "Berger, A New York State Transit Aide, Is Expected to Head U.S. Rail Association". The Wall Street Journal. February 27, 1980.
  20. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John. "Jimmy Carter: "United States Railway Association Nomination of Stephen Berger To Be Chairman of the Board of Directors". The American Presidency Project. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  21. ^ a b Armbruster, Willian (Jun 5, 1990). "Stephen Berger Quits NY-NJ Port Authority". The Journal of Commerce. The Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  22. ^ Sullivan, Joseph (April 26, 1985). "Berger Likely to get Port Agency Job". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Stephen Berger Named GE Capital Executive Vice President". The Free Library. PR Newswire Association LLC. 1992. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  24. ^ Task, Aaron (July 7, 1993). "Stephen Berger resigns from GE Capital, FGIC". American Banker. SourceMedia. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  25. ^ Eichenwald, Kurt (July 9, 1993). "Company News: 8 Years Later, Odyssey Gets Berger Back". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  26. ^ Truell, Peter (January 14, 1997). "Partners Vote To Dissolve Odyssey Fund". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  27. ^ "Board of Directors - Partnership for New York City". Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  28. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (May 28, 2006). "A Governor and Governor Reunion". Times Union. The Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  29. ^ a b "Mr. Stephen Berger Presents Grand Rounds on January 8th". The Institute for Family Health. The Institute for Family Health. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  30. ^ a b Benson, Barbara (June 27, 2010). "Q&A with Stephen Berger". Crain's New York Business. Crain Communications Inc. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  31. ^ "Medicaid Redesign Team: Health Systems Redesign: Brooklyn Work Group". New York State Department of Health. New York State Department of Health. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  32. ^ Ratner, Lizzy (April 3, 2006). "Meet the Hospital Hatchet Man: Tough-Talkin' Stephen Berger". New York Observer. Observer Media. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  33. ^ Elstein, Aaron (January 19, 2014). "Breaking Up the Port Authority is Hard to Do". Crain's New York Business. Crain Communication Inc. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  34. ^ Auletta, Ken (January 3, 1977). "Runnin' Scared Tips Hat, Names Good Guys". The Village Voice. The Village Voice. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  35. ^ Deacy, Jack (March 6, 1978). "The Koch Watch: Politics and Public Relations". New York Magazine (Vol. 11, No. 10). New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  36. ^ Greitzer, Carol (February 7, 2013). "I knew Ed Koch Before He Became Ed Koch". The Villager. NYC Community Media LLC. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  37. ^ "Board of Trustees". The Churchill School and Center. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  38. ^ "The Bridge - Board of Directors". The Bridge Mental Health and Housing Solutions. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  39. ^ "Maritime Briefs". Journal of Commerce. March 1, 1989. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
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