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MAS Comments Regarding the Greater East Midtown Proposal, ULURP No. 170186 ZRM Manhattan, NY

Background

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) has played an active role in the rezoning of East Midtown. In 2012, MAS engaged planning, preservation, and development practitioners to explore ways to maintain East Midtown as not only the city’s premier business district, but as a vital, working neighborhood. This effort culminated in the report, East Midtown: A Bold Vision for the Future, issued by MAS in February 2013, which laid out a framework for reinvigorating the area’s public realm, improving transit infrastructure, encouraging a vibrant mix of uses, protecting the area’s valuable historic resources, and fostering forward thinking sustainable design.

MAS and many other stakeholders found the 2013 East Midtown rezoning proposal to be deficient in achieving critical goals, and it was later withdrawn. Mayor de Blasio then formed the East Midtown Steering Committee, including MAS, to spearhead a stakeholder-driven effort. In October 2015, the Steering Committee issued its Final Report including recommendations that by and large frame the current Greater East Midtown Proposal.

MAS recognizes that the primary goal of the current proposal is to incentivize significant expansion of commercial office space to maintain the area’s viability as New York’s premier business district and retain its tax base. We also acknowledge the complexity of the project, as well as the effort by the city to foster and incorporate stakeholder input.

The 3D web map provides relevant property information for buildings within the proposed rezoning boundaries. Projected and potential development sites are highlighted in red and blue (sites show existing bulk under current zoning regulations – not proposed).

Supertalls are highlighted in orange (most are being constructed as-of-right and are independent to the rezoning process).

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Monument of the Month: Die Lorelei

Thirty years ago, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) launched the Adopt-A-Monument program in collaboration with the NYC Public Design Commission and the NYC Parks Department, to secure private funding for the rescue of public art in danger of deterioration. This program, and the subsequent Adopt-A-Mural Program (begun in 1991), preserve the extraordinary legacy of public art that MAS helped initiate at the turn of the 20th century.

To date, MAS’s Adopt programs have raised nearly $4 million dollars to conserve fifty-one works of art in all five boroughs.

The Heinrich Heine Fountain ("Die Lorelei") by Ernest Herter, 1899, Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx

The Heinrich Heine Fountain (“Die Lorelei”) by Ernest Herter was constructed in 1899 in Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx. It was restored this year through MAS’ Adopt-A-Monument program.

In addition, MAS recognizes the challenge of providing the less celebrated but crucial ongoing maintenance of the “Adopt” works. Through endowed maintenance funds, the MAS monitors the condition of each sculpture, and oversees the annual treatments performed. Such long term care has made this program both unique and successful.

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Action Alert: 175th Street Loew’s Wonder Theatre

We Need Your Help to Save a Treasure of Washington Heights!

Last month, the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre – the last of New York’s five gilded age Wonder Theaters – received approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, putting it one step closer to landmark designation after more than 45 years in limbo.

But we have just learned from our colleagues at the Historic Districts Council that the local Council Member for the 10th district, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, plans to rescind his support for designating the theater. Without his vote, the designation will almost surely fail to pass the City Council.

Please call Council Member Rodriguez this week and tell him that the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre must be protected as a New York City landmark.

MAS supported the designation of the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre when the Landmarks Preservation Commission first reviewed it in 1970, and again in 2015 (see “Testimony” below). A “delirious masterpiece” in words of the New York Times, the theater’s exuberant, eclectic style incorporates both Hindu and Islamic design in a free interpretation iconic to this period of theater design.

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Brownsville Matters

Yesterday, MAS celebrated the installation of the Brownsville Matters art exhibition with more than 50 project partners, artist and local residents at the Langston Hughes Senior Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn. 

MAS is pleased to have partnered with ArtBridge and the Brownsville Community Justice Center on the exhibition, which will be on display on the fences around the cul-de-sac at Thatford and Belmont Avenues until January of 2018. 

Brownsville Matters features interpretations of East Brooklyn’s cultural identity by eleven local artists: Cheryl Bowers, Christine Stoddard, Dominique Davenport, Ebony Bolt, Jazmine Hayes, Kisha Johnson, Laurent Chevalier, Malcolm Williams, Maria Belford, Sophia Dawson, and Tristan Lamour. 

Included pieces were selected via an open call for art, narrowed down to 43 submissions by curators Rujeko Hockley (Brooklyn Museum) and Farrah Lafontant (Brooklyn Arts Council) and then voted on by residents.

The project was made possible by the collaboration of the New York City Housing Authority and support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Safeguarding Free Expression in NYC’s Public Plazas

In December, MAS joined planning colleagues around the city in issuing a joint letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on the need to foster freedom of expression in public plazas and other public areas.

We invite you to read the letter, which details seven steps the Administration can take to make demonstrations and other gatherings of free expression, “safer, more effective, and even welcoming to all New Yorkers who want to participate in civic action.”


Re: Governor Cuomo’s State of the State

In yesterday’s State of the State, Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated that he would announce new infrastructure investments later this month. MAS hopes that further improvements at Penn Station will among those announcements. We applaud the Governor for spearheading the current plan to address some of Penn’s most visible deficiencies, but the more difficult track-level improvements are also urgently needed. We look forward to the Governor’s continued leadership on this and other infrastructure priorities across New York.

To learn more about MAS’s advocacy on Penn Station, read our joint statement with Regional Plan Association.


A Message from the Board

Dear Members,

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and our work fighting for responsible growth in our city. As we begin 2017 and prepare for our upcoming 125th anniversary, we would like to recap some of the best work of the last year and offer a preview of our year ahead.

In February, MAS will welcome its new president, Elizabeth Goldstein. She is nationally-known as a tenacious and remarkably effective advocate for parks, open spaces, and historic preservation. If you have not yet been introduced to Elizabeth and her incredible track record of leadership in New York and as president of the California State Parks Foundation, we encourage you to read our special announcement of her appointment.

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Please meet Elizabeth Goldstein

Dear Friends of MAS,

We want to share some important information about the future of this extraordinary organization and its essential role fighting for the responsible growth of New York City. The Board believes it is fundamentally important that we continue to strengthen MAS’ position as a central player in shaping this city’s future. MAS will continue to be an advocate for all those who love New York and understand that the pursuit of great design, preservation and livability requires both vigilance and action.

Elizabeth Goldstein, nationally-known as a tenacious and remarkably effective advocate for parks, open spaces and historic preservation with deep roots here in New York, will become the next president of MAS.

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Just In: 10 New Landmarks Designated

The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) Backlog Initiative continued Tuesday with the designation of ten new properties. Thirteen sites located across the five boroughs were on the agenda. However, the LPC chose to postpone one decision and removed another two from the calendar entirely.

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MAS Testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development regarding Transparency & Reform of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Intros. 1316 and 1337

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) supports Intros 1316 and 1337 with our recommendations included herein. The proposed legislations by the City Council would amend the City Charter and Administrative Code to improve transparency and accountability for actions undertaken by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) under contract with the New York Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

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MAS Testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation regarding Parks Department properties currently inaccessible to the public

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) supports opening and improving public access to city-owned properties. As residents and taxpayers of New York City, we depend on the effective management, protection, and enhancement of what is collectively ours–parks, open space, monuments, streetscapes, infrastructure, views, and other intangible resources.

This week MAS released a first-of-its-kind interactive tool to map the more than 14,000 city-owned and leased properties, amounting to a land area the size of Brooklyn. This online tool uses two datasets provided by New York City: MapPLUTO and City Owned and Leased Properties (COLP). MAS encourages the members of this committee and the public at large to examine these holdings with our new tool and identify opportunities for improving, protecting, and utilizing city-owned property. (Visit mas.org/colp)

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Advocacy Alert: State Bill to Protect NYC Zoning

We need your help today to stop a veritable land grab. This afternoon, MAS delivered a memorandum of support to Governor Cuomo in response to proposed legislation that would prevent unfettered development on property owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

By our count, the MTA owns at least 656 sites encompassing more than 41 million square feet of land across all five boroughs. 221 of those parcels are zoned for residential use. Without this bill, the MTA would have no requirement to adhere to the New York City zoning resolution. Quite literally, the sky is the limit for development of these sites.

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