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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.

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.

Community Risk and Resiliency Act

Superstorm Sandy brought a level of disruption that many in our region have never experienced. Vulnerabilities in commercial, residential, transport and utility structures were revealed. Even more importantly, social capital and community cohesion were found to be strong in some areas, but less so in others.

From Sandy, a new awareness of planning for resiliency has started to take hold in the region: architects and, designers and planners have incorporated resilience as they plan, design and develop structures, and community groups have created emergency preparedness trainings and long term recovery planning groups. And, nearly everyone now sees the value of social capital: from knowing your neighbors, to creating networks where members of a community can rely on each other in the face of a disaster.

While these broad undercurrents are changing our thinking, it is critical to look at ways policy and legislation can have a broader impact on the region. MAS has been on the forefront of this thinking. We’ve fought for zoning that seeks to enhance the city’s livability: preserving the qualities that make New York City a vibrant place to live, work and play. When Sandy hit, MAS rapidly responded with a series of multi-stakeholder discussions and launched a monthly roundtable for resilience practitioners. We’ve been a key part of Rebuild by Design, developing innovative solutions to rebuild our region in new, stronger ways. We’re also equipping communities themselves with the capability of building their own resiliency from the ground-up: incorporating resiliency into our Livable Neighborhoods Trainings and delivering Community Resilience Trainings.

nature conservancy largeGrassroots planning works best when coupled with planning on a wider, regional scale. Knowing that, our partner, the Nature Conservancy, is advocating for Community Disaster Risk Reduction legislation. This would require state-funded projects and permits to consider risk analysis data before construction begins. Sea levels are rising – we cannot stop them, as we found out clearly this week with the discovery that Antarctic glaciers are irreversibly collapsing. It’s time to require that all state-permitted and funded development, not just rebuilding efforts after a catastrophic storm, take into account our word’s changing climate. We simply can’t continue building with ‘business as usual’ – we have to plan for the world we’ll have tomorrow. Your voice is critical in making this effort happen. Contact your state Senator and ask them to pass the “Community Risk and Resiliency Act” A. 6558 (Sweeney) / S. 6617 (Savino).

The proposal bill and associated actions of the New York State Assembly are available online here.

MAS Introduces its Global Webinar Series

UN Photo

UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata.

MAS continues to grow its presence in the international field of resilience and livability with its MAS Global Network of urban innovators and practitioners. Through participation in global convenings and events, including a session we hosted with several of our global partners on Speed Dating for City Builders at the World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin Colombia, Executive Director Margaret Newman’s participation in NY-LON series of live video seminars on Tall Buildings with the NLA – the centre for London’s Built environment, and MAS Director of Urban Resilience and Livability Mary Rowe’s UN Habitat lecture on Fostering resilience through community based innovation, our network continues to expand, bringing to MAS new learning partnerships to not only share knowledge and experience from NYC, but also benefit from the lessons of others working in cities around the world. Increasingly urban challenges – including population growth, the need for diverse economic opportunities, affordability, and the threats from climate change – are common to cities around the world, and as solutions are being tried and tested we need global platforms to share innovations in a timely way. The MAS Global Network does just that by connecting practitioners both digitally and face-to-face to share challenges and opportunities, and approaches to addressing them. Through nurturing this exchange, community artists in Bandung are sharing strategies with planners in Lagos, urban ecologists in NYC are providing tips to architects in Irkutsk- innovative approaches created at the granular level that are strengthening cities.

To that end, MAS recently launched its Global Webinar Series, hosting its first Why the World Needs an Urban Sustainable Development Goal earlier this week for over 50 participants from more than 20 cities, including New York City, Edinburgh, Beirut, Seattle, London, and more. The webinar was led by MAS Board Chair Eugenie Birch, with Christine Platt, President of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, Maruxa Cardama, Executive Project Coordinator at Communities, and Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University, and moderated by MAS’s Mary Rowe, to provide an update of the United Nations Open Working Group (OWG)’s process to decide on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Our presenters shared the details of a global campaign to ensure that one of the goals focuses on cities, why this is so critical, and how people around the world must urge their governments to support its adoption. The recording and presentation from the webinar is available here: webinar recording, webinar slide deck. Our recent blog post outlined the importance of this campaign, and encourages MAS members to support it by signing this petition on change.org. Additional resources regarding the adoption of the urban sustainable development goal are listed below.

We are looking forward to hosting monthly webinars from members of the MAS Global Network. To make sure you receive up-to-date notices of future events please send an email to info@mas.org with the subject line “Global.”

Urban SDG resources:

Petition on Change.org

#UrbanSDG Campaign 

UCLG: #UrbanSDG Campaign 

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

Communitas Coalition: Second Draft SDG Proposal

Atlantic Cities: 11 Reasons the UN Should Make Cities the Focus of Its Forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals

The Nature of Cities: Why We Need an Urban Sustainable Development Goal

UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform

Stakeholder Forum Sustainable Development 2015

UN (2011) World Urbanisation Prospects: The 2011 Revision Highlights. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. UN: New York.

Solecki, W., C. Rosenzweig, S. Hammer, and S. Mehrotra, (2012): Urbanization of climate change: Responding to a new global challenge, in UN (2011) The Urban Transformation: Health, Shelter and Climate Change. E. Sclar, N. Volavka-Close, and P. Brown, Eds. Routledge, 197-220. 

NASA (2013) Rapid Urbanisation: Time-Lapse. The Visual Everything.

SDSN (2013a) An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York. 

SDSN (2013d) Why the world needs an urban sustainable development goal, Briefing. UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York.

SDSN (2013e) The Urban Opportunity: Enabling Transformative and Sustainable Development. Briefing for the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on Post-2015. UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York. 

SDSN (2014) Indicators for Sustainable Development- Draft for Consultation, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York. 

MAS Applauds the New York Public Library

New_York_Public_Library_Exterior_PeopleMAS applauds the decision by the NYPL to halt its plans to turn the stacks of the Steven A. Schwarzman Building into a lending library. The plans, which would have changed the nature of research that now occurs within the building also included the closing and sale of the Science, Industry and Business Library and Mid-Manhattan branch library. MAS believes that this is a great moment for the city; the new mayoral administration is working closely with the NYPL leadership to ensure the best service for the public: readers, students, scholars and everyone who loves the building.

The glorious Fifth Avenue building is one of the most important and beloved landmarks in the city. Designed by architects Carrere and Hastings and opened to the public in 1912, the Library was designated a NYC landmark in 1967 and several portions of the interior were designated in 1974. Any changes to the exterior or designated interiors must be approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. And submitting testimony to the LPC for the 2013 version of the project was MAS’s only official way to comment. Despite the lack of a public process, many groups, individuals, writers and politicians continued to speak out about the library’s plans. As MAS said in our Ideas for New York’s New Leadership, “…New Yorkers deserve an ongoing transparent planning process that clearly reveals the long-term benefits and detriments of selling off public assets…” NYPL’s ability to listen to an engaged public sets the right tone for the coming years.

Congratulations to Julie Menin, Appointed Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs

Headshot - Julie MeninThe Municipal Art Society is proud to support Mayor de Blasio’s appointment of Julie Menin as Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Since joining the MAS Board in 2008, Julie has been a passionate advocate for our city and its citizens. Her strong business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and deep connections to neighborhood leaders, elected officials and civic stakeholders throughout the five boroughs will serve her—and our city—well in her new capacity as Commissioner.

We look forward to continuing our productive partnership with Julie as MAS’s own Committee for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) takes shape and works to support and sustain one of the strongest engines of the New York economy: start-ups and small businesses. In the meantime, we extend our sincere congratulations to Julie and to the Mayor on his inspired choice.

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.org/Brownsvillelnp.

MAS Defends Ladies’ Mile

2014.04.01_MAS_Testimony_51-53_West19th_Before

Before

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.

After

After

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 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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