The Grande Dame of New York City Land Use

Ms. Diether said one of her own landlords went to jail for fraud, after she sent to the state attorney general’s office housing records that showed he was listing the same loan on several co-op conversion applications.

“That’s why I like Doris; she’s tough” said Mr. Sweeney, who often takes Ms. Diether on “dates” to the opera or the ballet. “It’s one thing for men to break someone’s legs, but she’ll do it in like a feminine way.”

But for a woman who has fought so aggressively, and so continuously, from the same basement bunker for 51 years, Ms. Diether has a rather startling number of friends. She sends out 600 Christmas cards annually, and 150 people braved a January snowstorm to celebrate her 80th birthday.

“I still consider Doris a friend, and I still get a Christmas card from Doris,” said Richard Landman, who served with her on CB2 before he went to work in real estate for New York University, which Ms. Diether has often opposed.

“But we fought!” Ms. Diether said when asked about her friendship with Mr. Landman. “It’s not a personal fight. I’m fighting about an issue.”

It helps that Ms. Diether likes to socialize. “She’s a party animal. And proud of it,” said Susanne Schropp, a friend who helped organize her birthday party. The two met when Ms. Schropp needed help with a landlord problem, and she went on to take Ms. Diether’s zoning class. “Doris is just so adorable. She’s a really wonderful person.”

Ms. Diether has become such a local legend that her birthday party engendered—fittingly perhaps—a political fight. Council Speaker Christine Quinn apparently refused to let a political rival, Councilman Tony Avella, join the proclamation honoring Ms. Diether, a spat that became public when Mr. Avella’s side of the email exchange was leaked to the press.

For her part, Ms. Diether avoids email and the Internet. She got a computer about 10 years ago, but never took it out of the box. She continues to type her zoning resolutions and her community board minutes on a typewriter, to the chagrin of some who work with her.

I wish she did have a computer and access to the Internet,” Ms. Schropp said. “To have a tool like that available, it would just be a nightmare to everybody she’s opposing.”

rpillifant@observer.com