Bloustein School mourns the passing of Martin Bierbaum, PhD ’80, former adjunct professor

November 8, 2022

“Over the more than three decades I knew him in New Jersey and Maryland, Marty did it all in planning–tamer of angry crowds, advisor to governors, local pols, and their wannabes, caring instructor, public-servant leader, subtle PhD, savvy lawyer, master of intergovernmental intricacies, wise and practical scholar, university administrator, compelling writer, and on and on. He was always more than cheerful or affable at everything: he was joyful. A total son of Rutgers and New Jersey, he was one of their gifts to the world.”
– Frank J. Popper, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Martin A. Bierbaum, former Bloustein School Adjunct Professor who taught courses related to the New Jersey State Plan, housing, and community development, and a major contributor to several New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plans, passed away on November 6, 2022. He was 77.

His academic background included masters degrees in political science, city and regional planning, a J.D. degree and a Ph.D. in Planning and Public Policy in 1980 from the’ Urban Planning department at Rutgers University, the predecessor of the Bloustein School. Prior to his death, he maintained relationships with the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) as a Senior Fellow and as a Visiting Lecturer for the Maryland China Initiative (M-CI) at the University of Maryland.

In 1987, Dr. Bierbaum was enlisted to serve as Assistant Director of the Office of State Planning as a member of the State’s Senior Executive Service (SES). In that capacity, he supervised 25 professionals. He was a major contributor to the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan (NJ SDRP) engaged in research, writing, and managing the State Plan’s legislatively-mandated “cross-acceptance” process. 

In 1991, Dr. Bierbaum was named the State’s first Environmental Planning Director within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP). In that capacity, he was also responsible for Coastal Resource Planning under New Jersey’s NOAA Coastal Grant.  Dr. Bierbaum supervised 40 professionals in achieving the following: mediation of a major environmental dispute with respect to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge; re-established watershed-based planning through a NJ-APA award-winning pilot program on the Whippany River; supervised the development of the Long Branch Sector Permit; purchased Sedge Island in Barnegat Bay on behalf of the State of New Jersey; established a Barnegat Bay research and educational fund in cooperation with the Trust for Public Lands (TPL); and successfully petitioned the U.S. EPA to attain designation of that Bay to be a part of the U.S. EPA’s National Estuary Program (NEP).  While at NJ DEP, he also served as the NJ DEP Commissioner’s designee on the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority (NJRA) and the New Jersey Urban Coordinating Council (NJ UCC).  

In 1999, Dr. Bierbaum moved to the Department of Community Affairs (NJ DCA) as Special Assistant to the Commissioner charged with the responsibility for the implementation of the NJ SDRP. In that capacity, he led a team employing change management techniques to implement the NJ SDRP within and across six State departments represented on the State Planning Commission.  During that period, Dr. Bierbaum also served as the NJ DCA Commissioner’s designee on the New Jersey State Planning Commission, on the New Jersey State Lakes Commission and on the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Commission.  

In 2002, Dr. Bierbaum was called upon to advise the Governor-elect McGreevey’s Transition Team on New Jersey State Plan- and Smart Growth-related issues. In March 2002, he joined the Governor’s Policy Office as Deputy Director, responsible for Smart Growth/Sustainability. In that capacity, Dr. Bierbaum produced a Smart Growth Summit, introduced selected Smart Growth project initiatives, and managed the Governor’s Smart Growth Policy Council (SGPC).  

In 2004, Dr. Bierbaum left state government to assume the post of founding director of a newly established, federally-funded Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey (MLUC @ TCNJ). The Center served as an information clearinghouse and provider of technical assistance to New Jersey’s local jurisdictions, encouraging smart growth and sustainable development. Among Dr. Bierbaum’s special projects at the Center was the rewrite of the third iteration of the NJ SDRP. He also presided over the launch of “Sustainable Jersey,” a web-based sustainable municipal certification program.  In recognition of those efforts, in November 2007, Dr. Bierbaum received a “distinguished leadership” award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association.  He also won a similar award from the New Jersey Planning Officials in April 2010.

Dr. Bierbaum became Associate Director of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland in July 2009. In that capacity, he taught courses in growth management; supervised graduate students in conducting smart growth-related research; formulated policy recommendations for consideration with respect to Chesapeake Bay; assisted in bringing “Sustainable Maryland,” to the University of Maryland; and consulted with the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission in the development and implementation of Maryland’s State Plan, “PlanMaryland.” 

Contributions in Martin’s memory may be made to HIAS,; and American Littoral Society, Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Bierbaum family.

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