Albert K. Butzel, Lawyer and Protector of the Hudson, Dies at 85


“There seemed to be no argument he couldn’t win, no trap he couldn’t wriggle out of, no adversary he couldn’t outwit,” Charles Komanoff, a former city environmental analyst, wrote last year in the Citizens Union online journal, Gotham Gazette. “Not just the smartest guy in the room, he was the most effective.”

Albert Kahn Butzel was born on Oct. 1, 1938, in Birmingham, Mich., north of Detroit. His father, Martin Butzel, was a lawyer. His mother, Rosalie (Kahn) Butzel, was the daughter of the Detroit architect Albert Kahn and was active in civic and philanthropic groups.

After attending the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Mr. Butzel graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1960 and from Harvard Law School in 1961.

That same year, he married Brenda Fay Sosland, a clinical social worker. She survives him, along with their daughters, Laura and Kyra Butzel; four grandchildren; and his brother Leo. Another brother, John, died earlier. Mr. Butzel and his wife had moved to Seattle, where there daughter Kyra lives, for long-term care.

After law school, Mr. Butzel joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Garrison, where Lloyd Garrison recruited him for the law firm’s pro bono representation of Scenic Hudson. In 1971, he formed a law partnership with Peter A.A. Berle, who would later become the state environmental commissioner.

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