David Sive was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Abraham and Rebecca Sive. As a teenager his growing love for the outdoors and fascination with the American wilderness, as well as his interest in the writings of Thoreau, Emerson and Wordsworth, led him to a lifelong passion for the natural environment, to wilderness preservation and environmental protection. Hiking and camping expeditions during his college years — with his sister Lucille, brother Ira, and friends — to the Catskill and Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, foreshadowed his passionate advocacy in later years for the “forever wild” clause in the New York State Constitution and his activism for environmental preservation in his home state and throughout the U.S.
David graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in political science in 1943. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was called up in the spring of 1943 shortly before his college graduation. He served in the front lines in Europe, including in the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded twice and awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster. During a convalescence at a U.S. Army hospital in Devon, England he explored the English countryside and continued to study the verse of William Wordsworth and other poets who revered the natural world — all contributing to what was to become a lifelong commitment to environmental protection. Following a fall 1945 discharge from the army, David enrolled at Columbia Law School where he was recognized as a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar; he graduated in 1948.
In 1948 David married Mary Robinson, after meeting as graduate students at Columbia University. Their joint love of the outdoors led to the purchase of their first house in what was then still “the country,” in Rockland County, N.Y., where they raised their five children. In the 1950s they purchased a former dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains community of Margaretville, N.Y. which became the home base for many explorations of the area by them with their children and later, daughters and sons-in law, and grandchildren, along with many friends.
As a partner in the firm Winer, Neuberger and Sive (founded in 1962) and a director of the Sierra Club in the 1960s, David developed his reputation as an expert litigator and fierce defender of the environment. Winer, Neuberger and Sive later became Sive, Paget and Riesel.
David was an admired leader and activist with a number of environmental organizations. He was a founding member of Natural Resources Defense Council and of the Environmental Law Institute. He served as chairman of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, as a founder of Environmental Advocates of New York, as a member of the board of directors of the Hudson Valley Institute and Scenic Hudson, and as multi-year chair of the annual ALI-ABA Conference on Environmental Law.
David was the recipient of many awards, from the Environmental Law Institute, the New York State Environmental Planning Lobby, the Sierra Club, the New York State Bar Association, The Nature Conservancy, the New York State Parks and Conservation Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others. He was a prolific author on the topics of environmental law and litigation.
Up until his last days, David enjoyed visits with friends and family, poetry readings, and hearing about the travels and activities of his large and loving family.