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Revisiting Bolotowsky on Roosevelt Island

Prompted by the future Cornell Campus being built on Roosevelt Island, the New York Times recently profiled MAS’ work in finding and restoring a brilliant Bolotowsky mural in the Goldwater Memorial Hospital on the island. Here, Phyllis Cohen, the Director of the Adopt-a-Monument and Adopt-a-Mural programs, recounts how it was saved.

The mural painted by Bolotowsky at the Hospital for Chronic Diseases on Roosevelt Island, in 1941.

The mural painted by Bolotowsky at the Hospital for Chronic Diseases on Roosevelt Island, in 1941.

The Adopt-A-Mural Program was initiated on January 17, 1991–precisely the night that the Gulf War broke out and the air bombardment of Iraq led by the U.S. coalition began. That evening a panel of WPA scholars and friends assembled in the MAS Urban Center Gallery to discuss the extraordinary artistic achievements of the WPA and the important need to rescue many of those works from the late 1930s and 40s that had been neglected or painted over, such as the mural by the Russian-born Ilya Bolotowsky for the circular day room in Goldwater Hospital (Hospital for Chronic Diseases) on Roosevelt Island painted in 1941. The Gulf War ended four weeks later on Feb 28. But it took ten years, three mayoral administrations, countless bureaucratic changes within city agencies, and the steadfast consistency of our partners at Public Design Commission (formerly Art Commission) to return the Bolotowsky mural to public view in July 2001. It also took the shared generosity of the Judith Rothschild Foundation, Robert W. Wilson and Mike and Janet Slosberg and the Hospital itself to make this restoration possible.

Bolotowsky created four known murals for New York City while on the WPA. This one is the largest. The mural for the Williamsburg Housing Project, 1937, exists but was transferred to the Brooklyn Museum after it was restored in 1989. The mural designed for the Hall Of Medical Science, New York World’s Fair, 1938-39, was destroyed. The small mosaic created for Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, 1940, remains above a water fountain in the school’s hallway. When a mural survives on the original site, it is a happy moment.

None of us who doggedly and devotedly stayed with this project over the years ever anticipated just how marvelous the Bolotowsky mural would be. It is a masterpiece of American Modernism.

For decades the mural lay hidden under seven coats of paint: speckled white, yellow, green, green, pink and a very ugly brown. It is suspected that sometime in the 1950s Bolotowsky’s mural fell victim to changing tastes or zeal to freshen up the hospital. The administration now certainly recognizes the beauty of the mural and was very helpful when we were restoring it seven years ago and remains so.

Luca Bonetti, the Swiss-born, Italian trained conservator skillfully carried out the conservation, with his staff, guided by the knowledgeable Andrew Bolotowsky, Ilya’s son, who had long championed that his father’s mural be preserved.  Jackson Pollack, found a scaled down version of Bolotowsky’s mural with WPA material; Lee Krasner, his wife, saved it and donated it to the Guggenheim. Andrew photographed the scale version to use for an acrylic reproduction which his father was working on before his untimely death in 1981. This was all very lucky because the reproduction enabled Luca to restore the mural exactly as it was created.

Bolotowsky mural during restoration

Hand-chipping off layers of paint with chisels

The conservator, working with 5 assistants chipped off the first 3 layers of paint with chisels, a painstaking process for a 350 square foot mural. For the next 4 layers he applied a paint removing solvent paste with a brush and then peeled off the layers with a special paper. Then they injected an adhesive where the canvas base of the mural was detaching from the wall.

Bolotowsky was founder of the American Abstract Artists in 1936, a group that included Mondrian. They created purely abstract art in a style known as Neo-Plastic. When Bolotowsky wrote his proposal for the WPA commission for the hospital (known as the Hospital for Chronic Diseases in 1939), he said “the most suited design for a hospital mural should contain no definite subject matter but should be generally soothing in its line and color.”  The painting begins at waist height, for the seated patients. He wanted them to feel the universe was bigger as they sat in their wheelchairs. When I went there the year before the hospital closed I asked a patient sitting in the room for lunch what he thought about the mural. He replied “I think it’s very nice; you don’t have to know what it is but it’s something pleasant to look at. Bolotowsky would have been pleased.

Andrew, a professional flutist, would return to the hospital annually to give concerts to the patients and to keep an eye on his father’s wonderful mural.

Phyllis Samitz Cohen
Director, Adopt-A- Monument/Mural program

Bolotowsky's Full Mural

2015 Brendan Gill Prize: Call for Nominations

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The 2015 BRENDAN GILL PRIZE
Call for Nominations

Dear MAS Members and Friends,

Nominations are now open for the 27th Annual Brendan Gill Prize, MAS’s signature award honoring art and culture in our city! The Gill Prize, which includes an endowed cash award, is awarded each year to the creator of a specific work: a book, essay, musical composition, play, painting, sculpture, architectural design, film, or choreographic piece that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City. The nominee may be an individual or a group, a renowned artist or an emerging talent—the Gill Prize strives to bring attention to the constellation of artistic experiences that enrich our contemporary urban life.

All works submitted for consideration must have been produced and completed in 2014.  The award celebrates a singular contribution or project, rather than a lifetime of achievement.  The winner will be selected by the Brendan Gill jury, an esteemed group of nine experts intimately involved in the arts and literature of the city. The winner of the 2015 Gill Prize will be honored at a ceremony and reception during the MAS Annual Meeting this spring!

Please submit your nomination form via email to pcohen@mas.org before December 16, 2014. If preferred, hard copies with background material can be mailed to MAS at 488 Madison Avenue, Suite 1900, New York, NY, 10022, Attention: Phyllis Cohen. Download the nomination form now!

Download the Nomination Form (PDF)

Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for arts and culture with our organization. For more information, please visit mas.org/brendan-gill or call 212.935.3960 x1224.

RECENT HONOREES

2014 Michael Kimmelman for his New York Times articles on Penn Station
2013 Louis Kahn (posthumously) for Four Freedoms Park
2011 John Morse for Curbside Haiku
2010 Michael Van Valkenburgh for Brooklyn Bridge Park
2009 Mike and Doug Starn for See it change, see it split
2008 Sufjan Stevens for the BQE
2007 Sarah Jones for Bridge & Tunnel
2006 Christo and Jeanne-Claude for The Gates, Central Park
2005 Yoshio Taniguchi and the new Museum of Modern Art.

MAS Releases New Report: Madison Square Garden and the Future of West Midtown

Rendering by KPF | Marvel showing the Garden moved to the Morgan Post Office and Annex Site.

Rendering by KPF | Marvel showing the Garden moved to the Morgan Post Office and Annex Site.

A broad coalition of experts in architecture, engineering, and infrastructure finance, led by MAS and Regional Plan Association, unveiled the first comprehensive report on the leading options for the future of Madison Square Garden. The report, Madison Square Garden and the Future of West Midtown, focuses on the question of whether the arena should remain in place or be built anew on another site.

The report is the second in a series by the Alliance for a New Penn Station. The first report, Penn 2023, released in October 2013, summarized a new vision for West Midtown, including a comprehensive plan for the district; a completed Moynihan Station; an expansion of Penn’s transit capacity achieved through the Gateway Program and an expansion of Penn Station to the south; and construction of a new Madison Square Garden on a new site. Both reports offer analysis on the transit emergency in Penn Station, a facility originally designed to serve 200,000 riders a day, but that now serves some half a million, more than the daily impact at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports combined.

The report was released on the first day of the 2014 MAS Summit for New York City, which featured a panel called “Penn 2023: Where Will the Garden Go?” You can view a video of the panel discussion here.

Recommendations for Madison Square Garden
The Alliance’s analysis identified the Morgan Post Office and Annex as the most suitable future space for Madison Square Garden. The two block lot, bounded by 28th and 30th streets and 10th and 11th avenues, would allow for the construction of a safer, more modern Penn Station, the creation of new opportunities for retail, open space, and pedestrian amenities, as well as an improved stadium facility and new programming opportunities.

Also examined in depth are options for moving Penn Station to the Farley Post Office Annex located on 8th Avenue across the street from the current Garden and leaving Madison Square Garden in place atop Penn Station. The Farley option was found to be an exceptionally challenging site, sitting on top of landmarked property and active rail lines, and restricting opportunities for commercial development.

The Alliance also looked at leaving Madison Square Garden in place. This option greatly diminishes the opportunities for track and platform improvements at Penn Station, but available improvements could bring much needed light and air into the station, and better connect Madison Square Garden to the surrounding area.

Future reports by the Alliance for a New Penn Station will focus on the underutilized cultural richness of the Penn district and the numerous transportation, economic and development issues in West Midtown.

Read the report »»

Thank you, Ronda Wist

On behalf of the entire Municipal Art Society family, we wish to express our deepest thanks to Ronda Wist for her many years of service to MAS. As Vice President for Preservation and Government Relations, Ronda was instrumental in crafting MAS’ perspective on the role of preservation in our city, and bringing that balanced view to the City Council, City Planning Commission, and Landmarks Preservation Commission. From her earliest days as a student and public member, to her leadership on campaigns to save the garment district, green our historic buildings, and re-envision our public waterfronts, Ronda has contributed to MAS in innumerable ways.

As we look ahead toward next year’s 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Preservation Law, Ronda’s expertise, insight, and dedication to New York’s historic buildings will help us envision this movement’s impact in the next half century. As head of her own consulting firm in preservation, we’re sure Ronda will continue to have a direct impact on important historic preservation issues across the city for years to come.

Thank you, Ronda, from all of us.
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Margaret Newman, Executive Director of the Municipal Art Society of New York

MAS Moves to the Look Building – a New York Landmark

Look BuildingOn September 2, 2014, the Municipal Art Society will be relocating from our current offices in the Steinway Building on 57th Street to 488 Madison Avenue, the landmarked Look Building.

From saving Grand Central to winning passage of New York City’s Landmarks Law, MAS has been a champion for the protection of New York’s significant historic buildings throughout our 120-year history. The Look Building will be a fitting home for MAS, with its esteemed history and status as a New York Landmark, while allowing for a more open, collaborative and modern office environment.

The Villard Houses and Steinway Hall

For almost 30 years MAS was headquartered at the Villard Houses, built in 1886 and designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White.

Villard Houses The palazzo-style brownstone building, originally built as six townhouses, was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1968. In 2010, MAS moved to Steinway Hall, home of the piano manufacturing firm Steinway & Sons. Built in 1925 and designed by Warren & Wetmore, Steinway Hall was designated as a New York City Landmark in 2001.

MAS’s New Home

The 21-story Look Building, built in 1950, is exemplary of a minimalist aesthetic popular in architecture at the time. The building is most notable for its use of industrial materials to create sleek, setback elevations with rounded edges and its unique facades of alternating layers of ribbon-like windows and glazed white brick..

Two second-generation, family-run businesses, the developers Uris Brothers and architects Emery Roth & Sons, successfully speculated on the new building’s success. Richard Roth, the lead architect, designed the building to be stylish, profitable and practical. The building’s style suggests that Roth drew inspiration from the 1931 Starrett-Lehigh Building and the 1947 Universal Pictures Building, both in Manhattan. Roth was also influenced by architect Erich Mendelsohn, a German Expressionist.

A Salute to 488 Madison

In 1998, MAS produced an exhibition: “New Life for a Modern Monument: A Salute to 488 Madison Avenue”

The building was named for Look magazine, the principal tenant upon completion. Once one of the most widely-read magazines in the day, Look remained at this location until 1971, when it ceased publication. Other notable past tenants include Esquire, Pocket Books, music publishers Witmark & Sons, and industrial designer Raymond Loewy.

In 1998, the Look Building underwent restoration by architects Hardy Holzman & Pfieffer. MAS organized a exhibition, New Life for a Modern Monument: A Salute to 488 Madison Avenue, which, at the time was just kitty-corner to MAS’s headquarters at 457 Madison Avenue. MAS’s event brochure commended the restoration stating that it “shows how successfully the best postwar buildings can be updated, rewarding investors and delighting passerby.” Ned Kaufman, an associate director of MAS at the time and a leading advocate of the preservation of modern architecture, presciently said the renovation would be ”a very valuable and important model.”

In 2004, the Look Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and was named a New York City Landmark in 2010.

Contacting MAS

Our mailing address is now:
Municipal Art Society
488 Madison Avenue, Suite 1900
New York, NY 10022

Our email addresses, phone and fax numbers remain the same. Call (212) 935-3960 or send an email to info (at) mas.org if you have any questions.

We look forward to welcoming you into our new space!

Congratulating Bob Yaro on 25 Years at RPA

On behalf of the board and staff of the Municipal Art Society of New York, we express our admiration and thanks to Bob Yaro for his years of service to the city as president of the Regional Plan Association. We have been honored to collaborate with RPA on some of the largest infrastructure projects facing New York, from rebuilding Penn Station to addressing post-Sandy resiliency. We have always valued RPA’s perspective as a regional voice in these discussions, and Bob’s invaluable role in helping to shape them. Deeply knowledgeable and ever insightful, Bob has been a tireless caretaker for New York and its surrounding communities for 25 years. Continue Reading>>

Tell the MTA: We Need the Move NY Plan and a New Penn Station

This is a trying time for our region’s transportation. Growing ridership, aging infrastructure, and climate change (seen with Superstorm Sandy’s immense devastation to our subways and tunnels) mean that we can’t continue with business as usual, with not near enough resources to maintain our current system, let alone one that New York needs for its future.

But with these obstacles, we also have opportunities. The MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission was recently formed to address these challenges. With 24 experts in transportation, planning, financing, business, real estate and more, the Commission has the leadership to call for new investment and new ways in thinking about how we move New York City.

What’s more: they’re looking for your help. They’ve opened the call up to the public to provide input. They’re asking: How do we move forward with transportation in New York?

Let’s tell them. We need to adopt the Move NY Plan – the most rational way to raise new revenue. With a $12 billion deficit, the MTA can’t afford to maintain the infrastructure it has, let alone build for our future. Fair tolling is the best way to fix this.

Also, critically, the MTA needs to work with other transit agencies and stakeholders to take action towards a New Penn Station. The current station is overcrowded, unsafe, and unattractive, and its limitations impede future growth in transit service in the city and region. Planning for a new station in tandem with Amtrak’s Gateway Project will ensure that the New York region can meet anticipated future travel demand while creating the city’s next great civic space.

We told the MTA what needs to happen (read our testimony here PDF). Now it’s your turn.

Tell the MTA: we need a fair tolling plan and a new Penn Station.

Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gene Norman, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, testifying to save St. Bart's Church. Credit: Albany Press, January 1984

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gene Norman, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, testifying to save St. Bart’s Church. Credit: Albany Press, January 1984

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, born July 28, 1929, would have turned 85 today. In 1975, she brought to the Municipal Art Society her commitment to the splendors of New York City — and sparked an unforgettable collaboration for which every New Yorker can be grateful for ever since.

Instrumental in saving Grand Central Terminal, Lever House and St. Bart’s Church, and preventing the intrusion of a shadow stretching from Columbus Circle to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ms. Onassis said at the start of the Municipal Art Society’s fight to save Grand Central: “If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for the future.” Today, we honor her. Happy birthday Ms. Onassis!

Re-Imagining the Civic Commons

Mary Rowe Bio Final

Mary Rowe, Director, Urban Resilience and Livability

In the past, cities included in zoning plans and land use guides provision for a variety of common civic spaces and places accessible to the public such as parks, libraries, settlement houses, post offices, community centers, health clinics and hospitals, markets and public schools. These key facilities formed the backbone of any city’s “civic commons”: a network of publicly financed and managed amenities to serve the broader, collective needs of local neighborhoods and to benefit the city as a whole. They provided much-needed public services, but also opportunities to foster neighborhood identities, cultural expression, learning, a sense of belonging, and serendipity and surprise. Throughout history, the civic commons has made the city a city: It’s where we voted, where key decisions were made, we expressed our collective aspirations, and where we went to celebrate, learn, trade, play, and maybe just rest.

But urban life is continually changing, and so too are people’s needs and use of the civic commons. Re-Imagining the Civic Commons is a national inquiry funded by Knight Foundation, managed by the Municipal Art Society of New York, a civil society advocacy organization focused on effective policy and leadership initiatives that foster urban livability and resilience. Our goal is to build a national provocation, and later this year to make the case for a reimagined civic commons which will be so compelling that city leaders will embrace it, and commit to new ways to create, manage and invest in it.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

We aren’t using the elements of the civic commons the way our parents did. Where do you see the civic commons in your neighborhood, and who is using it? Institutions (churches, settlement houses, community and cultural centers) that traditionally offered opportunities for mutual aid and interaction across differences of class, race and ethnicity seem to be less central to contemporary urban life. Many of us spend a substantial part of our working day commuting – by car, or train, or bus or subway – which not only affects the amount of time we may have to spend taking advantage of the civic commons, but also our disposition towards funding it.

In some cities we see some people opting out of the civic commons: spending more time watching television at home and exercising in their private health club, rather than going to the library or using their local park. As city budgets are pressed, it’s easy to see why governments might opt to reduce service hours, shutter old community centers, sell off community hospitals or local post offices, or abandon costly public spaces.

At the same time, urban dwellers continue to find new ways of sharing and making connections. In your city, what kinds of activities take place in public spaces and places? Attractive public spaces and parks are often full of groups and individuals. Libraries seem to be oversubscribed with people and families participating in every kind of program. Co-working and maker spaces are thriving. So are coffee shops. Digital technologies continue to create a remarkable web of urban interconnectedness – a digital commons –that allow those with Internet access to share a ride, a service, meet up with a group with similar interests, order a book, find an event. What can we learn from successful places and shared experiences that can inform how we design, build and manage the new civic commons?

Working closely with the Municipal Art Society to help curate this process is WXY Studio, an architectural practice led by Claire Weisz whose firm has a special interest in public space and programming. In addition to user research and observation, the project team is consulting extensively with urban practitioners working in cities across the country, including designers, planners, artists, entrepreneurs, as well as the myriad of people who conceive, manage and finance particular elements of the civic commons. This includes targeted sessions with stakeholders in a number of cities including the Knight communities of Charlotte, N.C., and San Jose, Calif., and the cities of Chicago, San Francisco and New York. The team is also working in tandem with a similar initiative in Canada funded by the J.W. McConnell Foundation, exploring the potential uses of public buildings – civic assets – that governments are finding it challenging to continue to maintain and program. The initiative will report out its preliminary findings at the annual MAS Summit for New York City, Oct. 23-24, 2014.

Mary Rowe is director, urban resilience and livability, for The Municipal Art Society of New York, which will help reimagine civic spaces with the support of Knight Foundation.

This post was originally published on Knight Blog: The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

MAS Testifies on One Vanderbilt Draft Scope

Photo: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Photo: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Today, MAS testified on the draft scope for One Vanderbilt – a proposed 1,350-foot tower neighboring Grand Central Terminal, one of the most attractive development sites in New York City.

MAS supports One Vanderbilt’s proposed public space improvements, gestures to relate the project to Grand Central with complementary building materials and a design allowing for new views of the Terminal, and the project’s seamless integration with Grand Central’s critical transit infrastructure.

Future development in this corridor needs careful thought. All new development in East Midtown needs infrastructure and public realm investments. We must make sure that the public is getting the best deal possible. There needs to be greater clarity of how $200 milion in public benefits was agreed upon, the relationship between FAR bonuses and the level of public investment required, and greater clarity on the mechanism and timing for these improvements.

We look forward to working with City Planning, elected officials and the community for a thoughtful approach to future development in East Midtown.

Read the full testimony (PDF), given by Kate Slevin, Vice President of Police and Planning.

Read our full written comments (PDF) on the Draft Scope.

Rezoning and Retaining the Garment District

In 2011, in response to the City’s attempt to rezone Manhattan’s Garment District, MAS released a report Fashioning the Future: NYC’s Garment District. In it we highlighted the continued importance of the district, a unique area of the city because, unlike neighborhoods like the Meatpacking District, it remains true to its name, and with over 40% of New York City’s apparel manufacturing businesses, continues to function as a hub for garment production.  The City eventually abandoned its rezoning efforts after being unable to come to an agreement with district stakeholders.

It has been reported recently, that Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has suggested that she will take on the special district which had been created in 1987 to help prevent the conversion of manufacturing space to office use.  MAS agrees that the Special Garment Center District zoning should be updated, with the understanding that manufacturing uses remain to support the diversity of the district and its relevance as a resource for budding fashion designers.  This  unique district is important for the neighborhood and, even more critical, an important economic driver for the city as the fashion industry generates $2 billion in annual revenue.

Update the zoning

Concentration of Manufacturing Uses in the Garment DistrictThe Special Garment District is divided into preservation areas, which currently preserve about 7.7 million square feet of space in 101 buildings for manufacturing. However, manufacturing uses now take up just over one million square feet, with the remainder of the space either vacant or illegally converted to commercial uses. We believe that consolidating the preservation areas makes a lot of sense as part of a larger economic development plan. Our 2011 report lays out an approach for rezoning the area that would preserve and secure vital manufacturing space and allow complimentary design and wholesale uses, while also encouraging a diverse mix of commercial uses, enabling the neighborhood to become more diverse and lively. To do this we suggest breaking the district down into separate sub-zones – each with distinct features and zoned to encourage specific uses. For example, lifting the protections in the area of the district between Broadway and 7th Avenue to allow commercial uses as-of-right would still allow showroom and manufacturing but would also introduce new class B&C office uses. Read more about these specific zoning recommendations here.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has taken significant steps to support the industry by establishing valuable partnerships and programs such as the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative (FMI), an initiative enacted with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)— a not-for-profit trade association whose membership consists of America’s foremost fashion designers —to  provide production facilities with grants to acquire advanced technology, equipment and other opportunities.  It is important for the City to continue in this vein and support the ancillary jobs that are critical to the well-being of the city’s fashion industry.  Just as the City decided that retaining amusement rides was important to maintaining Coney Island’s identity, and the theaters were essential to Times Square, we hope that the de Blasio administration will recognize the importance of retaining manufacturing in the Garment District.

Congratulations to the Winners of Rebuild by Design

On Monday, June 2nd, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Senator Charles Schumer, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Governor Chris Christie, Mayor Mauro Raguseo of Little Ferry, NJ, and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $920 million in funding to six Rebuild by Design teams.

Grantee Region Design Team Funding
New Jersey Meadowlands MIT CAU+ZUS+URBANISTEN $150 M
New Jersey Lower Hudson OMA $230 M
New York Nassau County The Interboro Team $125 M
New York Staten Island SCAPE/Landscape Architecture $60 M
New York City Manhattan The BIG Team $335 M
New York City South Bronx PennDesign/OLIN $20 M

MAS was a lead partner in the Rebuild by Design competition, alongside the Van Alen Institute, the Regional Plan Association and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. As the winning projects move into implementation, MAS will continue to support Rebuild by Design and the communities involved through our Community Resilience Trainings and network building activities.

While the implementation of the funded projects will be critical to improving our region’s resilience, the competition’s unique format produced research, design opportunities, and thoughtful project ideas that could be a springboard for future work.

Congratulations again to the winners. We look forward to working with them, and other stakeholders, on improving resiliency in New York City through an ongoing, inclusive dialogue.

Learn more about the winning Rebuild by Design projects in the official HUD press release.

Farragut Monument Restoration

Farragut After 9_21_06013The Municipal Art Society remains dedicated to preserving the Farragut Monument by the esteemed sculptor Augustus Saint- Gaudens, crafted in 1880 and on display at Madison Square Park. In May, MAS teamed with the Madison Square Park Conservancy to repoint the beautiful bluestone base, while the Conservancy repointed and reset the steps.

MAS, through its Adopt-A-Monument program, with a generous grant from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation, worked with the NYC Parks Department and Public Design Commission, to supervise the conservation of this magnificent monument in 2003. MAS has annually maintained the sculpture since, keeping it in pristine condition in the public realm. Thanks to Wilson Conservation for their skilled hands – restoring the statue in 2003 and cleaning and waxing the bronze figure, stone base and exedra each fall.

MAS Resilience Practitioners Join Forces with NYC’s Technology Entrepreneurs

ResilienceRoundtableA community that thrives on disruption, New York City’s Tech Entrepreneurs have a lot of contribute to the resilience scene.  On Thursday, May 15 the Municipal Art Society hosted its Resilience Roundtable at the Urban Future Lab in Brooklyn, bringing together practitioners at the forefront of NYC’s resilience challenges with practitioners leading the charge on technology entrepreneurship, to discuss how we can Engage the Tech Community in Resilience Building.

The main principles held by the tech community – accessibility and openness, diversity, innovation and exchange – provide entrepreneurs in this community with the tools necessary to address a wide range of social, political, and economic challenges in our cities.  With more than 291,000 jobs in the city’s tech ecosystem, it is a growing industry with the capital and resources to make effective change happen.  Those in power at the City level recognize the value of cultivating this industry in New York City.  Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a $10 million “Tech Talent Pipeline” to train New Yorkers for tech-related jobs.  The New York Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has sponsored the BigApps competition to empower individuals in the tech, design and business industries to build an app, device or data tool that addresses the city’s toughest challenges.  They also initiated a competition specifically focused on identifying and deploying creative new technologies and solutions to make NYC businesses more resilient to the impacts of future storms and the effects of climate change, called RISE:NYC . Even those embedded within the tech community recognize the power they have to impact social change, with organizations such as Significance Labs bringing together ‘technology’s brightest minds’ to design ‘high-impact products for low-income Americans.’

With the plethora of challenges Sandy both highlighted and created, there is a significant need to encourage the tech community to turn their attention towards resilience.  At the roundtable we heard from entrepreneurs working at the forefront to improve the energy industry, facilitate a sharing economy, and provide open and accessible data and information.  Organized in partnership with the Urban Future Lab and NYC Acre, the following innovators shared their web products and services:

A discussion followed around the challenges to our city’s resilience and how new technologies and innovations could address them.  Various themes emerged, including the need to create matchmaking services between entrepreneurs and those in need, providing education and institutional knowledge to improve the capacity to respond to events and create new jobs in the resilience field, and to develop  connective tissue that pulls together community members and diverse professionals to encourage collaboration.

MAS’s Global Network is doing just that.  By connecting innovators working on granular interventions in their communities around the world, we are creating an exchange of ideas and strategies to address the world’s urban challenges.  At MAS, we know that resilience requires an ‘All Hands on Deck’ approach that engages all disciplines and community members in resilience building.  Bearing this in mind, our global network includes artists in Bandung, urban ecologists in NYC, information and communication technology specialist from The Hague, entrepreneurs focusing on the sharing economy in San Francisco, and more.  By bridging connections between disciplines – arts and the economy, the natural and built environment, technology and the public realm – a holistic strategy to addressing urban challenges can be assembled and new innovations emerge.  As New York City continues to address its challenges from Sandy, opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, including the tech community, are spurring new improvements and advancements to make New York City a model for resilience around the globe.

Congratulations to Raju Mann

Raju MannMAS congratulates Raju Mann on his appointment as New York City Council’s new land use director. As Director of Planning and Policy at MAS, Raju was instrumental in helping shape MAS’s positions on some of New York’s most challenging policy questions. From our work in rethinking the future of East Midtown to our campaign for a new Penn Station, Raju provided thoughtful and effective leadership and vision.

We look forward to working with Raju in his new role, and extend to him our sincerest congratulations.