Former TCDC member and Ithaca City Alderwoman Susan Blumenthal, 78, died February 16, 2023, after eight years as a Stage 4 cancer patient and an intense bout of flu and pneumonia.
Blumenthal came to Ithaca to study at Cornell University, earning a Master of Regional Planning in 1978. Her career in public service began in 1984, when she was appointed to the city’s planning board; she served for 11 years, eight of them as its chair. She joined the Downtown Vision Task Force in 1990 and chaired the Downtown Revitalization Leadership Committee. A member of Common Council from 1996 to 2004, Blumenthal gravitated naturally to the Planning and Development Committee and served as its chair.
Her focus on planning and economic development initiatives helped to bring about many of the public and commercial improvements we take for granted today. She oversaw the economic studies that brought “big box” newcomers such as Lowes, Walmart, Home Depot and Staples to southwest Ithaca. She was instrumental in the decision-making that led to the siting of the Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing. With Cornell mentor and former Democratic county legislator Stuart Stein, Blumenthal developed the Tompkins County Beautification Program, and was Common Council’s liaison to the county Public Art Commission. In the late 1990s she founded the annual Pride of Ownership Award, which honors building projects in the City of Ithaca “that are thoughtful, unexpected and lift the aesthetic experience of their setting and surroundings.”
Susan Blumenthal’s husband, David Kreinick, recalled how she bicycled around Cayuga Lake to raise money for AIDS. “She was very proud of that.”
Blumenthal also led a more modest project in her home neighborhood of Belle Sherman and Bryant Park: a sidewalk build-out where Route 366, Ithaca Road and Mitchell Street meet. Nicknamed the Blumenthal Bump, it appreciably slows traffic at that intersection.
“She knew how things ought to be and made them happen,” said her husband, David Kreinick.
George Frantz, who worked with Blumenthal as a municipal planner, recalls “Susan’s long and fruitful service to the community.
“I had great respect for her as a thoughtful, knowledgeable local leader and independent thinker,” said Frantz.
Claudia Montague Wheatley, who covered City Hall as a young reporter for WHCU and the Ithaca Times, remembers Blumenthal as “always prepared, always forthright, always passionate in advocating for positive change. She was a wonderful role model for me.”
“Susan was a model of public service to the City of Ithaca,” said TCDC member Ann Sullivan, current chair of the Third Ward Democratic Committee. “She served the City of Ithaca, the Third Ward and Tompkins County Democratic Committee as a longtime active member. She will be missed.”
In addition to her husband, Blumenthal is survived by the couple’s son, Heschi.