Search Blog Posts

Recent Blog Posts


Recent Posts

Upcoming Tours & Events

Stay In Touch


Sign up for our monthly newsletter, covering New York City and the world of urban planning.

Contact Us

The Rockefeller Foundation Honors Dr. Joan Clos and Mr. PK Das with 2016 Jane Jacobs Medal

First-Ever Global Recipients – Medals to be Presented at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador

The Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin announced the first-ever global recipients of the 2016 Jane Jacobs Medal – Dr. Joan Clos and PK Das. The Medal is awarded to individuals whose work creates new ways of seeing and understanding cities, challenges traditional assumptions about urban life, creatively uses the built environment to make cities places of hope and expectation, and influences global understanding and application of Jane Jacobs’ principles. The 2016 Jane Jacobs Medal was open to international nominees for the first time, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Jacobs’ birth and the impact of her ideas on cities around the world.

Dr. Clos is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), which promotes sustainable urban development around the world. Mr. Das is a Mumbai-based architect and activist, who has worked to revitalize open spaces, rehabilitate slums, and bring the voice of Mumbai residents into a participatory planning process.

The recipients will be honored at a ceremony on October 17 in Quito, Ecuador, during the United Nations Habitat III Conference. Along with the medal, the recipients will receive a cash award.

The Rockefeller Foundation Jane Jacobs Medal was created in 2007 to honor the author and activist who died in April 2006 at the age of 89. The Rockefeller Foundation’s relationship with Jane Jacobs dates back to the 1950s, when the Foundation made a grant to the then-obscure writer from Greenwich Village, for the research and writing of the book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Now more than fifty years later, Jane Jacobs’ work remains one of the most influential books ever written on urban design. In previous years the Medal has been awarded to honorees who have been undertaking work that advances the spirit of Jane Jacobs within New York City.

“It is a great honor to award The Rockefeller Foundation Jane Jacobs’ Medal to our first-ever global winners, Dr. Joan Clos and PK Das,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “It is fitting that during the week of Habitat III, the effort spearheaded by Mr. Clos, we honor and recognize his tireless efforts to elevate the global discussion on resilience through smart urban development. And this is the perfect moment to honor Mr. Das, as we look ahead to implementing the New Urban Agenda, his vision for Mumbai and reimagining its citizens’ access to open space and improved affordable housing in one of the most densely populated cities on the planet serves as a model for all.”

“I am delighted to be nominated for this distinguished award. It is deeply gratifying to witness a developing worldwide consensus over the recognition of the power of urbanization as a driver for wealth, employment and human progress. The New Urban Agenda is an opportunity for achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities for all,” said Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

“With the expansion of cities public spaces are sharply declining, both in physical and democratic terms. Cities are increasingly being divided. We are producing more backyards of discrimination, neglect and abuse of people and places, even  natural areas are not spared. Our challenge is to integrate these fragmented and disparate backyards into unified, just and equal cities. For the achievement of this objective, planning and architecture are incredible democratic tools of socio-environmental change, that I actively pursue through collective endeavor. I am deeply motivated and honored by this prestigious first international Jane Jacobs Award being conferred on me,” said PK Das, Architect, Activist, Mumbai.

Throughout his distinguished career in public service and diplomacy, Dr. Clos has been leader in the global discussion of sustainable urban development. As Executive Director of the UN-Habitat since 2010, he has spearheaded UN-Habitat’s global conference in Quito, which will set the New Urban Agenda. Prior to this role, Dr. Clos served the Spanish Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan, the Minister of Industry, Tourism, and Trade of Spain, and the Mayor of Barcelona. As Mayor of Barcelona, he spurred ambitious investment in Barcelona’s industrial zones. For his commitment to a better urban future, Dr. Clos is a 2016 recipient of the Jane Jacobs Medal.

Mr. Das works to democratize open spaces and urban planning in Mumbai. In addition to his architectural practice, he serves as the chairperson of the Mumbai Waterfronts Centre. Mr. Das and the Mumbai Waterfronts Centre organized the Open Mumbai Plan and exhibitions, which mapped, analyzed, and re-envisioned the city’s open spaces from coastline to parks and gardens and the vast extent of the natural areas. Mr. Das along with Nivara Hakk- a housing rights movement, of which he is the joint convener, has also advocated for the rights of slum dwellers and improved affordable housing. His primary concern has been to integrate the backyards of exclusion and abuse and integrate these disparate fragments for the achievement of just and equal cities. For his work to transform Mumbai and its open spaces, Mr. Das is a 2016 recipient of the Jane Jacobs Medal.

The selection of the Jane Jacobs Medalists and allocation of the prize money was determined by an internationally renowned judging panel chaired by Dr. Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. The 2016 Jane Jacobs Medal is administered by The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS).

Finally Moving Forward

Governor Cuomo Unveils New Pennsylvania Station/Farley Complex

MAS congratulates Governor Cuomo for his leadership in taking an important first step toward a new Penn Station. Presented at the Association for a Better New York luncheon yesterday, the plan will address some of Penn’s most visible deficiencies: low-slung ceilings, rundown public spaces, poor signage, limited amenities, and cramped corridors. We look forward to learning more about how the proposed work will affect capacity at the track level as additional details become available. For now, visit the Governor’s website to learn more.

Betsy Head Among Five Parks to Receive a $30 Million Investment

MAS was thrilled to hear about the Mayor’s plan to invest a total of $150 million in five New York City Parks: Saint Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Highbridge Park in Washington Heights in Manhattan, Astoria Park in Queens and Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The announcement represents a much needed commitment to investing in the maintenance of existing public assets, and recognition of the critical roles they play in improving quality of life in neighborhoods.

MAS has been working with partners including the Brownsville Partnership, the Brownsville Community Justice Center and Friends of Brownsville Parks to support community-based planning and advocacy since 2013. On June 4th MAS helped plan and facilitate a community discussion about Betsy Head Park, resulting in a set of resident identified priorities around activities, safety, cleanliness, facilities, open space, furniture and equipment and circulation of the park.

You can read more about the June 4th discussion and other programs MAS has partnered on in Brownsville, here: http://www.mas.org/betsy-head-park-community-discussion/.

You can view an infographic containing a list of community priorities for Betsy Head Park here: http://www.mas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Betsy-Head-Park-Map-Infographic.pdf

BHP Charrette
Betsy Head Design Charrette

BetsyHeadPark
Betsy Head Park

CD1 - Alanna Vaughns
Betsy Head Park Community Discussion. Photo Credit: Alanna Vaughns

CD2 - Alanna Vaughns
Betsy Head Park Community Discussion. Photo Credit: Alanna Vaughns

For more information please contact Joanna Crispe, Director of Community Engagement and Education, at jcrispe@mas.org.

Broadway Sherman Plaza rezoning has been unanimously rejected by the City Council

After months of negotiations and ongoing debate between a private developer (Arcadia Sherman Avenue LLC), city officials, and the residents of Inwood, the City Council unanimously rejected a proposed rezoning that would have potentially facilitated a 17-story, 355-unit building between Broadway and Sherman Avenue across from Fort Tryon Park.

The Municipal Art Society commends the Council for making the appropriate decision for the Inwood community, reinforcing trust in the public review process. We hope the decision will encourage continued public engagement regarding the future development of the site and similar land use decisions.

The rezoning was the first project subject to the application of the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements. Passed by City Council in March 2016, MIH is one of the key mechanisms designed to achieve the affordable housing goals to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over a ten-year period, outlined in the Mayor’s Housing New York Plan. As such, the Broadway Sherman rezoning had the potential to be a precedent setting project with citywide implications.
Continue Reading>>

Summary of Public Review for Sherman Plaza Project, C 150438 ZMM, Community District 12, 4650 Broadway (Block 2175, Lot 1), Inwood, New York

Summary of Public Review for Sherman Plaza Project, C 150438 ZMM, Community District 12, 4650 Broadway (Block 2175, Lot 1), Inwood, New York
August 11, 2016

Background

If approved, the Broadway Sherman rezoning in Inwood would facilitate the City’s first development under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zoning text amendment passed by City Council in March 2016. MIH is one of the key mechanisms utilized by the City to achieve the affordable housing goals to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over a ten-year period as outlined in the Mayor’s Housing New York Plan. Under the proposed rezoning, the project developer Arcadia Sherman Avenue LLC (Arcadia) is proposing to construct a 369,000-square foot (sf), mixed-use, primarily residential building consisting of 15 stories on a site directly across Broadway from Fort Tryon Park in an ethnically diverse neighborhood characterized by 5- to 7-story residential buildings. As such, the Broadway Sherman rezoning has the potential to be a precedent setting project with citywide implications. This document summarizes the evolution of the project and the public review processes involved, and provides clarity on the various issues and the involvement of The Municipal Art Society of New York.
Continue Reading>>

MAS Statement regarding the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Greater East Midtown Initiative.

MAS Statement regarding the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Greater East Midtown Initiative.
July 19, 2016

The Municipal Art Society of New York is a non-profit committed to advocating for intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation policy. MAS has a particularly long and celebrated history in East Midtown, successfully leading the fight to preserve Grand Central Terminal.

When the Department of City Planning first released their plans to rezone a large portion of East Midtown Manhattan in 2012, MAS worked with area stakeholders and a variety of planning experts to help ensure the future vitality of this important neighborhood. Much of this effort culminated in a report, East Midtown: A Bold Vision for the Future, which laid out recommendations for an improved planning framework for the City.
Continue Reading>>

MAS Comments on Notice of Filing by the New York City School Construction Authority for the Proposed Site Selection for the Construction of a Primary School Facility in Community School District No. 15, Brooklyn

MAS Comments on Notice of Filing by the New York City School Construction Authority for the Proposed Site Selection for the Construction of a Primary School Facility in Community School District No. 15, Brooklyn
July 15, 2016

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) herein provides comments on the Notice of Filing (NOF) for the proposed site selection of Block 728, Lots 34 and 36, and any other property in the immediate vicinity which may be necessary for the proposed project, for the construction of a new, approximately 300-seat primary school facility in Community School District No. 15, in Brooklyn.

With regard to the overall project, MAS opposes any plan that would involve the demolition of the 18th Police Precinct Station House and Stable. Designed by architect George Ingram between 1890 and 1892, both structures are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and are individual New York City landmarks. As such, these structures warrant protection and rehabilitation. We urge the School Construction Authority (SCA) to either select an alternate site for the construction of the school, or sensitively preserve the two buildings by incorporating them into any new design.
Continue Reading>>

MAS Comments Regarding the Draft Scope of Work for the Bay Street Corridor Rezoning and Related Actions, Borough of Staten Island Environmental Impact Statement

MAS Comments Regarding the Draft Scope of Work for the Bay Street Corridor Rezoning and Related Actions, Borough of Staten Island Environmental Impact Statement CEQR No. 16DCP156R, Staten Island, NY
July 14, 2016

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) commends the level of city engagement and community involvement in the Bay Street Corridor @ Downtown Staten Island Initiative. We support the goals of the City to rezone this area from manufacturing to residential and commercial zoning districts to create opportunities for affordable housing, increase economic development, and improve open space and infrastructure. MAS also recognizes that the Bay Street Corridor is one of 15 neighborhoods in which the City seeks to encourage density and apply the requirements of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH).

The proposed project is expected to result in an incremental increase of approximately 2,557 new dwelling units, approximately 260,000 square feet (sf) of new commercial uses and approximately 49,000 sf of community facility space throughout the 20 block project area. We understand that the project could facilitate a maximum of approximately 700 affordable dwelling units.

MAS requests the following items be included in the Scope of Work to be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):

Zoning, Land Use, Public Policy
The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) option has not been chosen at this time and the potential impacts on overall development will vary. The EIS should evaluate an option that would result in the highest number of dwelling units in order to assess the highest possible impact scenario.
Continue Reading>>

MAS Testimony to NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises regarding Land Use Application No.: C 150438 ZMM

MAS Testimony to NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises regarding Land Use Application No.: C 150438 ZMM, the Sherman Plaza Project, 4650 Broadway, New York, NY
July 12, 2016

Position
The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) asserts that this project, as currently proposed, would set a harmful precedent for inappropriate, out-of-scale development in the Inwood neighborhood. We urge the subcommittee to reject the proposed zoning map amendment and request an alternate design.

While we are pleased with the proposed changes regarding the affordable housing component, MAS remains concerned that the project would set a precedent for rezonings that facilitate the construction of similar out-of-scale developments in the Inwood area. With a height of 155 feet and approximately 431,725 gross square feet, the project would adversely affect urban design, visual resources, and the neighborhood character in the area.

MAS also questions why the revised Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) submitted June 20, 2016 includes a substantially shorter (14 stories, 150 feet vs. 10 stories, 110 feet) No-Action development than what was used as a basis for the evaluation in the original January 19, 2016 EAS. We question why this fundamental change was made at such a late stage in the project environmental review process.
Continue Reading>>

MAS Testimony to the Committee on Land Use Regarding Reporting on the Compliance Statuses of Privately Owned Public Spaces

MAS Testimony to the Committee on Land Use Regarding Reporting on the Compliance Statuses of Privately Owned Public Spaces by the Department of City Planning and Department of Buildings. INT 1219-2016
June 29, 2016

Position
The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) supports Intro 1219, but proposes a series of modifications to strengthen the City’s oversight powers for New York’s privately-owned public spaces (POPS).

Background
In our city-wide review of POPS conducted in 2000, MAS and partner Professor Jerold S. Kayden gave 41% of POPS a “marginal” rating and found that over 50% were in some way out of compliance. Despite our findings, City government and community stakeholders still lack a comprehensive and transparent set of mechanisms and oversight processes to ensure that POPS are kept open to the public, in good condition, and in alignment with the needs of the community.

The recent debate about the future of the Water Street POPS underscores the need for better oversight of these cherished public spaces. When POPS are allowed to fall into disrepair or disuse, as happened along the Water Street corridor, the public risks losing these spaces altogether to retail or other private uses without fair compensation to the public benefit. The passage of Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment N 160166 ZRM earlier this month demonstrates that New York City can no longer settle for a hands-off approach to POPS.
Continue Reading>>