Miner was born on August 14, 1936, in the Manhattan section of New York. Her father was a professor of history at Columbia University. Miner earned a bachelor's degree from Smith College in 1958, a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1961 and a degree in urban planning from Columbia University in 1972. She married James Edward O'Driscoll, a lecturer in the American language program at Columbia on June 25, 1970; The marriage lasted until his death in 1993.
In 1973, Miner was named as counsel to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Her work helped create the legal process for the 1983 landmark status designation of the 17th-century street plan of Lower Manhattan as part of a historic district. This plan helped prevent developers from restructuring the irregular blocks in the area's grid structure.
Miner played a major role in presenting the city's case in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978), in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld (by a 6-3 margin) the ability of New York City to restrict development of Grand Central Terminal based on the building's landmark designation. The Penn Central company had argued that the development restrictions placed on the site constituted an unconstitutional taking of its property by the government in conflict with the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
In 1994, new Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Jennifer Raab announced that Miner would be leaving as chief counsel at the end of October 1998, citing the need for a "fresh eye". Raab acknowledged Miner's "very large and important role" and affirmed that it was Miner "who helped establish the legal right to designate landmarks."
After leaving the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Miner accepted a position at Pace University School of Law and as an adjunct associate professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
- Dunlap, David W. "Dorothy Miner, 72, Legal Innovator, Dies", The New York Times, October 23, 2008. Accessed October 23, 2008.
- Staff. "Dorothy Miner, J.E. O'Driscoll Are Wed Here", The New York Times, June 26, 1970. Accessed October 23, 2008.
- Staff. "POSTINGS: A 'Fresh Eye' Wanted; Counsel Leaving Landmarks Panel", The New York Times, October 16, 1994. Accessed October 23, 2008.