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Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

Opportunity: Become a Forefront Fellow

This week, the Urban Design Forum launched Forefront, a new initiative dedicated to cultivating emerging leaders in urban design, planning, and policy.

forefront-both_150wThe Forum is inviting 20 individuals under the age of 40 to become Forefront Fellows. Participants will meet monthly for dedicated conversations and site visits in New York City, share projects, and receive feedback from their peers and established leaders in the field. In addition, Forefront Fellows will enjoy two free years of membership to the Urban Design Forum.

Learn more and apply »»

Op-Ed by MAS Chair Fred Iseman: Redevelop Penn Station Without MSG



Published in The Daily News, February 1, 2016
View the original »»

Unsafe, grossly inefficient, and asphyxiated by Madison Square Garden, Penn Station was built in the 1960s as a sorry proxy for the grand Roman rail-temple designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1910. The philistines who tore down the old Penn Station believed that cars and planes were the only future of transit.

Sixty years later, the northeast region’s powerful economy depends heavily on rail travel, which is now channeled through a stygian labyrinth underneath the Arena. Some 650,000 daily passengers on Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and the subways need wider, safer platforms and unfettered access to the transit maze below. And New York City needs a train station worthy of New York.

Last month, Gov. Cuomo presented what he called “a transformational redesign of New York Penn Station.” He is soliciting bids for a public-private partnership to end this “blight on the greatest city in the world.” Respondents are asked to consider specific design changes, including new entrances and closing 33rd St. between 7th and 8th Aves. to create skylights.

Most dramatically, the RFP asks developers to redevelop the James A. Farley Post Office, both the imperial front building and the annex behind. Also by McKim, Mead & White, Farley looks out in silent rebuke across 8th Ave. at the stupifyingly banal complex designed by Charles Luckman Associates. To nudge contestants in the right direction, the governor provided drawings. These present future travelers bathed in ethereal light gliding through new halls and retail spaces.

Very nice, but not enough. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

Pour yourself an extra strong cup of coffee for this weekend’s reading, as a lot has happened over the past few days!

Of course the big news inside MAS this week is the announcement that Gina Pollara will join us as our new MAS President.

“We are deeply pleased to name Gina Pollara our next President after a long and thorough hunt for a suitable leader,” said MAS Chairman Frederick Iseman. “She is dynamic, our issues run through her veins, she is respected throughout the city as a doer, an entrepreneur, and as a force for the improvement of civic life.”

And the rest:

Curbed: Four Starchitects Predict the Future of NYC’s Skyline
The biggest names impacting New York’s skyline — from Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier to Bjarke Ingels, whose firm was chosen to design Two World Trade Center and Annabelle Selldorf, known for her timeless work on NYC museums, libraries and historic renovations, and Rick Cook, a leader in environmentally responsible, high-performance buildings — come together to discuss the projects that now epitomize the city, the ever-evolving real estate market and what’s next for New York’s neighborhoods.

NY Times: Community Gardens Imperiled by New York’s Affordable Housing Plans
Many of the gardens occupy plots of land owned by the City of New York, leaving residents who have tended them for years with few options to oppose the changes.

Developer ices plans for Central Park luxury condos
Developer Steven Witkoff is holding off on converting Manhattan’s Park Lane Hotel into luxury condominiums—for now.

Bloomberg: A Different Perspective on the Future of Penn Station
“Critics slammed plans for New York’s Penn Station—but sometimes building for posterity shouldn’t be the most pressing concern. ”

Curbed: MoMA Expansion Scaled Back With Revised Timeline
Two years after the Museum of Modern Art unveiled plans for its massive expansion (which included the controversial demolition of the much-beloved American Folk Art Museum building), it looks like some progress will finally be made. Continue Reading>>

Architect Gina Pollara Named President of The Municipal Art Society

Former Executive Director of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC, Joins Leading NYC Civic Organization

Contact: Meaghan Baron | | 212-935-3960
Jaime Strohmenger | | 212-575-4545

Gina Pollara

Gina Pollara

Gina Pollara, architect, author, and urban designer, has been appointed President of The Municipal Art Society (MAS), effective immediately, it was announced today by Frederick Iseman, Chairman of the MAS Board of Directors.

“We are deeply pleased to name Gina Pollara our next President after a long and thorough hunt for a suitable leader,” said Iseman. “She is dynamic, our issues run through her veins, she is respected throughout the city as a doer, an entrepreneur, and as a force for the improvement of civic life. She is also known for being effective, exigent, hell-bent on results and a lot of fun to work with. I look forward to working with her on the many challenges that all five boroughs of this city face. She will be a fiery spark-plug working with the capable members of our board.”

“I’m profoundly honored to join The Municipal Art Society, an organization that continues to be one of the most important civic voices in the city that advocates for design and planning excellence. I am particularly excited to be leading MAS as it prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2018,” Pollara said. “I look forward to working with our current partners and to developing new alliances as MAS continues to advance so many of the issues that are vital to the city’s future.”

As executive director of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC, Pollara oversaw construction of the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt designed by the architect Louis Kahn for the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River. The project, now called Four Freedoms Park, was completed in October 2012. It occupied Louis Kahn at the time of his death in 1974, and the project lay dormant for decades.

An exhibit Pollara co-curated at The Cooper Union on this design was instrumental in the successful civic effort to revive the project which involved many partners including Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel.

More recently, she has been working with the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and a large group of stakeholders on the South Street Initiative, an effort to create an entity to steward the development of the lower East River waterfront. She has also provided strategic planning and fundraising services to The River Project and the Hudson River Foundation for an estuarium to be built on Pier 26 in the Hudson River Park. Additionally, she was the New York City/East Coast representative for the Vancouver, Canada-based firm, Bing Thom Architects.
Before serving as executive director of Four Freedoms Park, she was associate director at The Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive, the exhibition and publication arm of the school. Prior to that, she spent many years as an architecture consultant and construction manager for various companies and projects in New York City, California and Florida.

Pollara serves on the boards of the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy and the New York Preservation Archive Project, and is on the advisory board of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial. She has lectured widely and has been published on topics ranging from the Roosevelt Memorial to New York City’s water system.

She is a graduate of Bennington College and The Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture.

About The Municipal Art Society of New York
Founded in 1893, The Municipal Art Society is five years older than the consolidated City of New York itself. For over 120 years, MAS has worked to inspire, educate, and empower New Yorkers to engage in the betterment of our city. Through three core campaign areas, MAS protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages intentional planning and urban development, and fosters complete neighborhoods across the five boroughs.


Download the press release (PDF) »»

Your Invitation to Visit Gracie Mansion

MAS is happy to share the news that the recently restored Gracie Mansion is once offering tours to the public. We invite all members of the MAS community to check out a new series of free tours offered on Tuesdays at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm. Don’t forget to register!


Gracie-Mansion-in-winterBackground on Gracie Mansion
In 1799, a prosperous New York merchant named Archibald Gracie built a country house overlooking a bend in the East River, five miles north of the contemporary City limits. More than two centuries later it stands overlooking the Hell Gate rapids and the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge skyway as one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan and a member of New York’s Historic House Trust, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gracie Mansion Conservancy continues to operate as a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing and enlivening its namesake address. Its mission is to preserve, interpret, and safeguard the Mansion with contributions for the landmark and its art and furnishings, including periodic changes to illuminate its Federal Period origins through to the New York of today, as well as harkening forward to changes ahead.


MAS Statement on the Release of the Penn/Farley RFP

On Friday, January 22, Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development Corporation, Amtrak, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a joint solicitation to developers for the redevelopment, design, and construction of Penn Station and the Farley Post Office building as part of the Empire Station Complex. Responses are due by April 22, 2016.
Read the full Request for Proposal on ESD’s website (PDF) »»

MAS issued the following statement on the news:

“We are pleased to see the Governor’s detailed Request for Proposal for the redevelopment of Penn Station and the Farley Complex released today. However, we believe the framing of the project for Penn must demand more. Any long-term plan to meaningfully address the problems at Penn Station must include the relocation of Madison Square Garden. MAS calls on all responding firms to harness the creativity, ambition, and talent of New York’s development community: be bold and propose a grand new Penn Station worthy of our great city.”

Mary W. Rowe
Executive Vice President
Municipal Art Society of New York


Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

This weekend, make some hot chocolate, cozy up to the f̶i̶r̶e̶ WPIX yule log, and catch up on the week’s top stories.

New York Times: By Finding a New Home for Carriage Horses, Solving a Problem That Doesn’t Exist
Jim Dwyer writes that “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ill-conceived plan to house commercial animals in Central Park is a costly solution in search of a problem.”

New York Times: At Art Students League, Air Rights and Airing Grievances
A lawsuit is challenging the way decisions are made — including selling rights to a high-rise next door — at the nonprofit art school in Manhattan.

Crain’s: The little loophole helping developers build their supertall towers even higher
Developers are constructing skyscrapers on stilts

New York Times: New Life for Staten Island’s Derelict Farm Colony
Part of the colony, where the bank robber Willie Sutton once hid, is being sold to a developer who will create housing for older adults and open space for the public.

Wamu 88.5: D.C. Has A New Zoning Code. Here’s How It Could Change The City’s Look And Feel
D.C. residents may never have read the D.C. Zoning Code, but its impact is visible throughout the city. The thousands of pages of granular rules and specifications determine how land can be used in D.C. — and, consequently, how the city looks and feels.

New York Times: What Donald Trump’s Plaza Deal Reveals About His White House Bid
The mogul’s purchase of the Plaza Hotel in 1988 offers insight into the methods and thinking of a deal maker turned presidential candidate.

Commercial Observer: Lapsed 421a Break Leaves City’s Real Estate Community Scrambling to Get the Program Back
Concerns over transparency prompted the Municipal Art Society to publish a map showing every building that gets 421a with the amount of the tax break and the number of affordable units.

The unbelievable story of why Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s dad
“Donald did inherit his father’s racism,” the professor who uncovered a long-lost lyric said.

And please join us in sending your thoughts and prayers for MAS’s former Chairmain, David Childs, recovering from a lifesaving liver transplant made possible by his son, Josh.
NBC New York »»

Stay warm and dry. All MAS tours are canceled tomorrow, Saturday, January 23.

Letter of Support, United Nations Plaza Hotel Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge

Sent to the Honorable Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
January 22, 2016

The Municipal Art Society writes in strong support of an expedited public hearing for the interior landmark designation of the United Nations Plaza Hotel Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge located at One United Nations Plaza. Its current operators, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, have closed the restaurant and are now planning the demolition of this significant and intact example of New York City Late Modernism. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: NYC Wins $176M Resilience Award as Jonas Approaches

As the East Coast prepares for Winter Storm Jonas, which carries with it warnings of heavy snow, high winds, ice and coastal flooding, HUD made the exciting announcement on Thursday that the tri-state region will receive $281 million of the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) allocation. Continue Reading>>