Creating Networks of Community Builders in Brownsville

Brownsville4This past Saturday April 12, 2014, MAS kicked off its first Livable Neighborhoods Program in Brownsville. Grassroots organizers, and concerned citizens gathered at the Riverway Innovative Senior Center to gain knowledge and tools to advocate for improvements in Brownsville.

Starting off the day with a Community Planning 101 workshop, participants heard Christine Gaspar, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy about the basic tools for planning that are used in New York City. Following the first session, Transportation Alternatives, Jennifer Godzeno made a strong case for the need to advocate for improvements to streets and presented ideas on how to make the streets of Brownsville more livable.

The program will offer eight training workshops over four sessions. With a wide range of workshops to choose from, participants will be able to develop multi-faceted tools to improve their communities. Courses include: Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing, Advocating for Parks, Identifying Community Strengths and Addressing Vulnerabilities, How to Make it Happen, Historic Preservation and Neighborhoods Based Economic Development.

The MAS Livable Neighborhoods program will continue to provide community activists with the knowledge they need to effectively participate in decisions that impact the livability of their neighborhoods. Since Livable Neighborhoods started in 2006, we’ve provided hands-on training to over 1000 New Yorkers (including over one third of the city’s 59 community boards).

To learn more about Livable Neighborhoods, and future sessions that will be offered on April 26th, May 17th, and June 14th, visit

MAS Defends Ladies’ Mile



On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, the Municipal Art Society testified before the Landmarks Preservation Commission against a pivotal Certificate of Appropriateness application to demolish two buildings at 51 and 53 West 19th Street within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District (see testimony here).

The proposal was to replace two buildings described in the 1989 historic district designation as “early 20th century commercial style” with a 14-story contemporary building. Smith-Miller & Hawkinson Architects maintained that the new structure would have a more positive effect on the historic district.

MAS believes these buildings are integral components of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. Built in 1854 and redesigned in 1924, their altered, vernacular style represents one of the area’s four major architectural development periods and embodies the history of smaller industry that proliferated along the side streets between 5th and 6th Avenues after the fashionable shopping district moved further uptown. Vernacular industrial and commercial buildings on the side streets, as well as avenue retail palaces, contribute to the area’s unique character. This remains the case despite the poor condition of the two buildings. MAS suggested that a more appropriate application would include restoration of these historic buildings with perhaps an addition.

Additionally, MAS is concerned that allowing the demolition of contributing buildings would establish a troubling precedent. The cumulative effect of demolishing low-scale historic buildings that contribute to the sense of place would forever change this and other historic districts.



Community Board 5, Historic Districts Council, The Society for the Architecture of the City, Flatiron Alliance, along with other preservation organizations, community representatives, and neighborhood residents expressed similar concerns in their testimony. The commissioners, voting against the proposal, stated that it was LPC’s obligation to protect contributing buildings in historic districts, and that there was no evidence that these buildings were beyond restoration. Chair Tierney and other commissioners reiterated that a historic district is not simply about individual style but a sense of place and that LPC is not charged with providing for the highest and best use of a site; they had not been persuaded that there was any justification for the demolition of 51 and 53 West 19th Street. Overall, most commended Mr. Smith-Miller on his thoughtful design and presentation, and said they would like seeing it built somewhere other than the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.

MAS Attends the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia

IMG_86374585318067This week the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) hosts its seventh World Urban Forum (WUF7) in Medellín, Colombia.  From April 5 – 11, 2014 nearly 25,000 urban practitioners from over 164 countries will participate in a series of lectures, roundtable discussions, exhibitions, and networking events seeking to examine the most pressing challenges facing our cities.  As part of the US delegation, the Municipal Art Society is participating in this year’s conference and hosting a session to forge new partnerships between city builders.  Hosted by MAS’s CityBuilders Global Network, Speed Dating for City Builders: Making Cities more livable and resilient provides an opportunity for urban practitioners to connect with our network partners in order to share common challenges, discuss new strategies and exchange knowledge concerning the resilience and livability of our cities.  The session will be hosted on Wednesday, April 7th and will include network partners from Bandung Creative City Forum, Commonwealth Association of Planners, the Grand Paris Alliance, The Nature of Cities, Penn Institute for Urban Research, African Planning Association, UN Habitat, The World Bank, and Architecture for Humanity.

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MAS Presents: Ideas for New York’s New Leadership

Ideas for New York's New Leadership CoverDuring the 2014 Annual Members Meeting on March 25, MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman announced the release of our latest publication, MAS Presents: Ideas for New York’s New Leadership. To enrich the discussion about the next set of policy ideas for New York City, MAS invited a cross-section of New Yorkers to offer their guidance to our city’s new leadership. Continue Reading>>

MAS Leadership on Why the World Needs an Urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)

citybuildersPlease join MAS and our colleagues working around the world to make cities more livable and resilient, by signing this petition to support the adoption of an Urban Sustainable Development Goal.

Background: The Local is Global

Recognizing the value of knowledge exchange to address the challenges to creating livable and resilient cities, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) has spent the past few years developing partnerships with other civil society organizations and urban practitioners working in cities around the world. In 2012, under the leadership of MAS Board Chair Dr. Eugenie Birch, we began a unique global partnership with UN Habitat to support the World Urban Campaign, of which Dr. Birch is the co-chair. Since that time we have participated in a number of international events addressing urban challenges with which MAS has familiarity and expertise, particularly focused on approaches to fostering urban resilience and livability. Continue Reading>>

The New York Times Architecture Critic Michael Kimmelman to Receive the 2014 Brendan Gill Prize

GillPrizeMAS is proud to announce that Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic of The New York Times, has been named the winner of the 2014 Brendan Gill Prize. Mr. Kimmelman will be presented with the prestigious award by MAS President Vin Cipolla and Board Chair Genie Birch, during the organization’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, March 25th.

The evening will include Kimmelman in conversation with MAS Board Member and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Manuela V. Hoelterhoff, Executive Editor, Bloomberg News.  Continue Reading>>

The History of Penn Station Highlighted in New PBS Documentary

Penn for blog

 On February 18th, PBS will premiere The Rise and Fall of Penn Station, part of the American Experience series. The documentary presents an engrossing look at the monumental feats of engineering 100 years ago that led to the construction of the tunnels, tracks and station house that made up the original Penn Station.  Tonight, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting a special screening of the film with filmmaker Randall MacLowry; executive producer Mark Samels; Lorraine Diehl, author of The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station; and historian Jill Jonnes, author of Conquering Gotham. Click through to watch a preview. Continue Reading>>

MAS Submits Testimony to Landmarks Preservation Commission on the Church of St. Luke-in-the-Fields’ Development Proposal in the Greenwich Village Historic District

st. lukesOn February 4, 2014, the Church of St. Luke-in-the-Fields presented two development proposals for their complex within the Greenwich Village Historic District before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The first proposal was for a new 15-story residential building at 100 Barrow Street designed by Barry Rice Architects. The second proposal was for a 2-story rooftop and rear addition to an existing school building at 657 Greenwich Street designed by Andrew Bartle Architects. MAS submitted testimony regarding the appropriateness of these proposals. Continue Reading>>

Mayor De Blasio Appoints Vicki Been as Commissioner of the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development

Headshot-Vicki-BeenMAS is very pleased to congratulate Vicki Been – the new Commissioner of the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Vicki is one of the country’s leading experts on affordable housing and the creation of mixed-income, healthy neighborhoods. Her co-leadership of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy established it as a leading urban policy center in the country. Continue Reading>>

Mayor De Blasio Appoints Carl Weisbrod as the Chair of City Planning Commision

carl-weisbrod-fullMAS is delighted Mayor de Blasio has appointed Carl Weisbrod as Chair of the City Planning Commission who is not only a leading voice on some of the most pressing housing and planning challenges New York City faces, but also a great friend of MAS.  We look forward to working together very closely on the issues that are so key to the future of New York City–Penn Station and East Midtown among them–and congratulate the administration on this great choice.

A Conversation on MoMA’S Plan for Expansion Video Now Online

MoMA Redesign AFOn the freezing evening of Tuesday, January 28th, the audience packed the New York Society for Ethical Culture’s auditorium to hear a presentation and discussion of the recently announced westward expansion plan of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Co-hosted by the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, the discussion was nuanced and lively. You can view video from the program on our YouTube page here.
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Join MAS for the 4th Annual Jane’s Walk NYC
Saturday, May 3rd and Sunday, May 4th, 2014

jane-jacobsCelebrated during the first weekend in May in nearly 100 cities worldwide, Jane’s Walk honors the enduring legacy of urban activist Jane Jacobs by encouraging residents to get out on the street, engage with their neighbors and explore the city.

Last year, MAS coordinated 100+ walks throughout the five boroughs of New York City, promoting urban literacy among the thousands who participated. To make this year our most successful and far reaching Jane’s Walk yet, we need your help. Continue Reading>>

MAS Board President Vin Cipolla Continues Leadership on Key Livability Issues; Margaret Newman Transitions to MAS as Executive Director

Vin and Margaret

As previously announced, Margaret Newman has joined MAS as its Executive Director, the first to hold that position since 2007. Vin Cipolla continues in his role as board President.

Cipolla had chosen to return to entrepreneurship — after five years running day-to-day operations at MAS — and has joined forces with David Rockwell, founder and President of the Rockwell Group, to form a new company that will create, incubate, invest or co-invest in a range of design-driven enterprises in media technology, entertainment and hospitality. Continue Reading>>

MASter Class: Researching the History of Buildings in New York City

urban-planning-design-research-library-new-yorkIn four highly informative sessions, architectural historian Anthony W. Robins describes how to successfully research the history of buildings in New York City. A field trip to the Manhattan Department of Builidings completes the course. Robins, who will be including resources he used in researching his recent book on Grand Central Terminal, has been leading this class for MAS for more than 25 years and past participants have included architects, engineers, building owners, preservation advocates, lawyers and landmarks commissioners and even a New York City detective!

The class will meet on Tuesdays, February 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th from 6:00 PM to 7:45 PM in the Greenacre Reference Library at the Municipal Art Society, located at 111 W. 57th Street, 16th Floor, Manhattan.  The field trip will be scheduled for a weekday morning (date TBD) following the last class session. Continue Reading>>

MAS Releases Accidental Skyline Report

Accidential_Skyline_coverToday MAS released The Accidental Skyline, a report addressing the issues surrounding tall buildings and their influence on the scarce open spaces in New York – particularly West 57th Street and Central Park.

The Accidental Skyline, addresses the size and scale of the mostly as-of-right buildings going up on and around 57th Street which are of particular note due to their proximity to Central Park. It also suggests potential approaches to address the issue including changes to zoning rules, public review and greater transparency as developers assemble these sites. Continue Reading>>