The Municipal Art Society (MAS) is a private, non-profit membership organization that advocates for intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation through education, dialogue and advocacy.
MAS supports efforts to preserve cultural landmarks that recognize and protect sites with rich social histories unique to New York City. To this end we support Individual Landmark Designation for the Stonewall Inn, at 51-53 Christopher Street, because of the integral role it played in sparking the modern gay rights movement.
On the evening of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was the site of a police raid. However, instead of dispersing, patrons unified in spontaneous demonstrations and uprisings that marked a pivotal point in the uphill battle towards just and equal rights for the LGBT community.
LPC Individual Landmark designation would provide much needed protection from future demolition for Stonewall Inn and more importantly it would recognize a building for its connection to LGBT history. Furthermore, LPC designation at the local level would follow steps already taken by the state and federal government in recognizing the special cultural history of this building.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project.]]>
“MAS was proud to testify in support of Pier55 during its extensive public hearing and environmental review process this winter, and we remain strong supporters of the project.
From Brooklyn Bridge Park to the High Line, public/private partnerships have proven to be an indispensable tool for transforming New York’s untapped public spaces. The fact is, Pier 54 is crumbling and neither the State nor the City has the resources or the will to safely repair it.
To oppose this project is to favor inertia over action, caution tape over ribbon-cuttings. Pier55 was conceived in the spirit of cooperation and it deserves the same treatment, even from its detractors.”
-Margaret Newman, Executive Director, Municipal Art Society of New York]]>
Like elsewhere in the United States, New York City’s other pressing issues, such as the need to update aging infrastructure and its housing crisis, pushes the maintenance and programming of its rich legacy of assets further to the bottom of its fiscal priorities. Yet the critical civic importance of these gathering places was made all too clear in the wake of Hurricane Sandy when libraries in Queens and Starbucks in Midtown were used by effected communities as disaster resource hubs. While these places have proven important in an emergency, they are also necessary to day-to-day life, presenting opportunities for the social interactions and chance encounters that foster neighborhood cohesion and ingenuity.
On June 11 and 12 , with support from TD Bank and others, MAS will convene delegations from New York, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, to share common challenges and tested approaches for revitalizing underutilized neighborhood assets. Participants will walk away with effective funding, programming, and management strategies, and together we hope to leverage our collective knowledge and expertise to build a more sustainable civic commons in each of these cities.The public event on the evening of Thursday, June 11, will mark the release of MAS’s Re-Imagining the Civic Commons white paper (PDF) and poster (PDF) and will include remarks by MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman and TD Bank New York Regional President Chris Giamo, as well as a panel discussion on the state of the civic commons featuring: Claudette Brady, Co-Founder, Bedford-Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation; Geoff Cape, CEO, Evergreen; Cameron Charlebois, President, GPMC Montreal Inc.; Benet Haller, Director, Urban Design and Planning, City of Chicago; Kathryn Ott Lovell, Executive Director, Fairmount Park Conservancy; and Gretchen Schneider, Executive Director, Community Design Resource Center of Boston and Director of Civic Design, Boston Society of Architects.
On Friday, June 12, delegations will hear from Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of the McConnell Foundation, on the topic of impact investing and from Stantec’s Urban Places Group Leader, David Dixon, on the importance of public/private partnerships. Delegates will also discuss Policy Opportunities in Civic Asset Disposition, The Role of Technology to Enable a Higher Functioning Civic Commons, Designing the Civic Commons, Community Engagement Strategies in Local Neighborhoods, Making the Case for the Civic Commons, and Financing Tools and Options; and will identify policy recommendations around each of these topics as well as next steps in each city and opportunities for future collaboration.]]>
On the morning of April 21, following a heavy spring shower, Wilson Conservation was in Madison Square Park cleaning the magnificent Farragut Monument. Thirteen years earlier, in 2002, the MAS restored the Farragut Monument, one of America’s most acclaimed works of art, through a generous grant to the Adopt-A-Monument program from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation. The 1880 sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent American sculptor of the 19th century, depicts the revered naval hero, Admiral Glasgow Farragut, whose lasting fame was won by wresting New Orleans from Confederate control during the Civil War. Saint-Gaudens shows the admiral in full regalia but by 2002 the sculpture had lost its original luster as well as its sword after years of neglect. Esteemed architect Stanford White designed the exquisite semi-circular granite exedra on which the monument stands. The base, bedecked with Art Nouveau- inspired allegorical reliefs, had also been marred over time. Both were returned to their former glory with this restoration.
The MAS, through its program of annual maintenance, has remained dedicated to preserving the Farragut Monument as well as 37 other “Adopt” statues conserved in parks throughout the five boroughs. At the Farragut, dirt, surface accretions, biological deposits and unfortunate elements of graffiti, were removed and the piece was washed with water and a neutral anionic detergent. The bronze, which has a protective coating of Incralac from the 2002 conservation, was allowed to dry before two thin coats of microcrystalline paste wax were brushed on the figure. After each application, the metal was hand buffed to better preserve it. The granite base was cleaned with low pressure water and mild detergent using natural bristle brushes. Small dark stains on the exedra were reduced significantly; white paint and black magic marker were removed with acetone and cotton swabs. Only with such care can these public art treasures continue to infuse magic into our city life.
As Memorial Day approaches, we also celebrate the statue of Admiral Farragut among more than 270 monuments, commemorative plaques and triumphal arches, honoring military heroes, soldiers and wars that adorn New York City’s parks. Over one quarter of our city’s 1,000 public statues are memorials. These works of art, stirring images and silent companions, are symbols of our past ideals, given permanence in bronze and stone and lasting records of our country’s history.
Our annual MAS Watch List released in January highlights many of the important planning issues facing the city from vanishing local retail, to the impact of as-of-right super tall towers, to the urgent need for a new Penn Station and the redevelopment of Midtown West, to our demands for responsible planning at our water’s edge. MAS’s work targets the most important developments in design and planning across our five boroughs—issues that affect all of us.
And a big part of MAS’s mission is to keep all of us better connected and close to the spatial city, its streets and neighborhoods. The better we understand New York, both its glorious past and its aspirations for the future, the better job we’ll do as the city’s stewards—and all of us are in fact her stewards. So parallel to MAS’s ambitious policy agenda is our robust public programming schedule. Just this month, Jane’s Walk NYC weekend was our biggest yet, bringing together more than four thousand New Yorkers on 200+ walking tours celebrating the art, architecture, history, culture, industry, and economy of our great city.
And since last fall, we have been convening regular meetings with 150 of the leading minds in urban innovation to incubate the best ideas for protecting the diversity of New York’s local economy—from tech start-ups to mom-and-pop businesses. Under the banner of CUE: The Committee for Urban Entrepreneurship, this group held its inaugural conference in early March and outlined key policy outputs that will drive MAS’s work in this area in the year ahead. We’re also preparing for a key event next month where we’ll unveil the first findings of MAS’s Civic Commons project, which looks at the future of our city’s shared public spaces in an era of increasing privatization of churches, schools, libraries, and parks.
Only just 20 weeks away, our annual blockbuster conference, the MAS Summit for New York City, now in its sixth season, will thread together the toughest city issues and the most innovative solutions—leveraging the expertise of over 130 speakers and thousands of participants, both live at the Times Center and via live-stream throughout the world.
This spring has also been a time of celebration and growth on the MAS Board of Directors. Our dedicated Board Chair, Dr. Eugenie L. Birch, completed her term of service in early 2015 and we welcomed the opportunity to honor her incredible leadership over the last three years. With Genie at the helm, MAS grew into a leading voice in innovative urban planning on the international stage. Genie introduced MAS to UN Habitat, where we now serve as a Lead Partner, and she anchored our annual international resilience convenings, which positioned New York City as a global leader in urban sustainability. We are grateful for all she does to keep MAS strong, nimble, and creative during the first moment in human history when more people live in cities than anywhere else. She will remain on the Board as a valued member and chair of our Penn Special Advisory Group and our Complete Neighborhoods Task Force.
We also welcomed the election of our new Board Chair, Frederick Iseman, founder of CI Capital Partners. We’ve had the honor of having Fred serve on the MAS Board as a member for many years, during which time he has consistently challenged us to be visionary, ambitious, and solutions-driven in our advocacy. A passionate supporter of the arts with a keen eye for aesthetics, Fred has been closely involved with MAS’s emerging Design First project, which advocates for reforms to the building, land use, and development process that will promote more thoughtful design outcomes in New York’s built environment. Please join us in welcoming Fred—who previously served as Vice Chairman and Chair of our Executive Committee—to this expanded leadership role.
MAS has never been stronger. Our net assets have increased dramatically. We’ve had several years of operating surpluses. We’ve developed a fundraising engine generating on average $4.5 million in new program and operating support each year. Our policy and program work—conducted by a small and very skilled, savvy, energetic, and devoted staff—is strong and comprehensive. And it all relies on the strong continued financial support of all of our members and friends. Without your support, this important work can’t be done. Whether it’s our City Hall victory to limit Madison Square Garden’s operating permit and unlock the redevelopment of Penn Station; or our powerful advocacy for better plans for East Midtown, the Garment District, intelligent resilient planning, and waterfront rezoning; or our countless landmark campaigns and commitment to the public realm through advocacy for our parks and important works like Tribute in Light, MAS is at-the-ready in its efforts to help New York be at its best.
On a personal note, as I announced last year, 2015 will mark my final year as President of MAS. I have been so deeply honored to serve in this role for nearly seven years, cherishing the opportunity to work on the issues for which I’m so passionate and supporting an organization I believe in so completely, as MAS’s resident “CEO.” I look forward to continuing to serve on the MAS Board, fighting the good fight—and, as always, I want to thank each of our very dedicated Directors for all the incredible work and generous support, as I thank all of you for your own tremendous support. Very shortly, we’ll be announcing a formal search process to select and elect a new MAS President and CEO—and I’m very confident there will be great interest!
This is such an exciting time for the city… and for MAS! There is so much great work to do, and so much opportunity to do it well.
With warm regards,
President, Municipal Art Society of New York
Frick Museum Abandons Contested Renovation Plan, following our opposition to the plan: http://t.co/aoYIlYraxB
— MASNYC (@MASNYC) June 4, 2015
Original Post, May 7, 2015:
MAS has declared its intention to publicly oppose any expansion plan that places the Page garden in danger. Read our letter delivered Thursday, May 7, 2015, to Ian Wardropper, Director, the Frick Collection:
Dear Mr. Wardropper,
The Municipal Art Society is deeply concerned about the destruction of the Russell Page garden on 70th Street as part of the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion. The garden is considered by many to be one of Page’s greatest works and is his only design in New York City.
The uniqueness of the Frick Collection is not confined to the great works of art within its walls, but extends to its outstanding exterior and landscape architecture. Since its creation 38 years ago, the Page garden has become a defining characteristic of the Frick estate. Those who enter the Collection enjoy views of the garden from within the entrance pavilion, and the grounds are visually accessible to passersby outside, enriching the streetscape of the entire neighborhood.
The issue is not the number of gardens at the Frick, or if the same number will be retained going forward. More is at stake; the current proposal risks undermining the singular essence of the Frick Collection by erasing a masterpiece of landscape design—a landmark in its own right.
While MAS is not necessarily against an expansion, we will oppose any plan that places the Page garden in its crosshairs. We urge the Frick Collection to explore alternative solutions – most obviously, the reference library – that do not require the loss of such a beloved work of landscape architecture and treasured urban greenspace.
Margaret Newman, FAIA
The fundamental problem here is outdated zoning regulations. New York City’s current zoning resolution was devised over 50 years ago and could not account for recent advances in building technologies or the changes in the real estate markets that have led to the construction of super tall towers.
Fifty years is an eternity in the lifespan of building design and construction. Fifty years before the Empire State Building topped out, the tallest structure in Manhattan was the steeple at Trinity Church. Using 1961 zoning guidelines in the era of 432 Park is like applying colonial construction standards to the 1930s skyscraper boom.
These buildings are largely being built as-of-right and without any public review, even though they will be among the tallest structures in the country.They will have a dramatic impact on the surrounding neighborhood, Central Park and the New York skyline.
Beyond Central Park, out-of context development continues to be an issue for neighborhoods throughout the city. New York City must grow and change, but new development should positively contribute to the surrounding communities.
To help bring more transparency to how development occurs in New York, MAS has produced a few tools to help communities, including a series of online maps that highlight where available development rights exist in the city . Communities should not be the last to know when the fabric of their neighborhoods changes.
But ultimately, the de Blasio Administration needs to take action. As part of its Housing New York plan, the Administration is committed to developing in a way that includes neighborhood stakeholders, enhances public services and protects open space. To that end, we have the following recommendations to ensure that development doesn’t result in what MAS calls an “Accidental Skyline”:
MAS supports advancing policies that protect New York City neighborhoods, parks, and streets from adverse effects from irresponsible development practices.
Download the full testimony given to Community Board 5 on April 28, 2015]]>
On May 1-3, thousands of New Yorkers will walk the city’s streets in honor of urban activist—and Robert Moses’ nemesis—Jane Jacobs. Jane’s Walk NYC, hosted by the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), is an annual weekend-long celebration featuring 200+ free “walking conversations” throughout the five boroughs, led by urban enthusiasts and local experts who care deeply about their neighborhoods.
“Jane’s Walk NYC has exploded in size from just 23 tours in 2011, to more than 200 coming up this May 1-3,” said Margaret Newman, Executive Director MAS. “This year’s incredible line-up of free ‘walking conversations’ takes New Yorkers on a tour through some of the biggest battles facing the five boroughs and the secret histories that helped make this the greatest city on earth. Where will you walk this year?”
The full list of tours is available online at MAS.org/janeswalk, including:
And 100+ more!
All of the MAS-sponsored walks combine the simple act of exploring neighborhoods with personal observations, local history, and civic engagement, reflecting Jacobs’ urging that a city’s health is dependent on having many “eyes on the street.” A typical walk is 90 minutes and is free and open to the public.
Jane’s Walk NYC is supported by: Airbnb, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and TimeOut New York.
For detailed information about Jane’s Walk and a full list of events, visit MAS.org/janeswalk or email Stacey Anderson at email@example.com.
Members of the press, please contact Meaghan Baron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow and contribute to Jane’s Walk on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with #janeswalknyc. The five best posts will get gift certificates good for 250+ MAS walking tours throughout the year!
Since Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast coast on October 29, 2012, city, state and federal agencies, organizations, and individuals around the region have mobilized to aid impacted communities in their recovery efforts, and consider new ways to make New York and the surrounding region more resilient. What better moment to reflect on our collective progress than Earth Day, when the world pauses to check in on the planetary ecosystem in which we live?
The resilience of urban systems—including their natural, physical, social, and economic infrastructure—is strongly linked to the livability of neighborhoods and the city as a whole. Resilience is not just about emergency preparedness, it is a lens through which communities grow, adapt, and address persistent challenges and capitalize on opportunities. Public agencies and institutions play a critical role in developing and implementing large scale solutions, but an effective urban resilience strategy requires the mobilization of the social, intellectual, and cultural capital of the residents that live and work in vulnerable communities and can improvise hyper-local approaches.
MAS has been at the forefront of the post-Sandy effort to connect civil society leaders, government officials, grassroots community organizers, academics, professional urban planners, and designers, and a host of other community leaders and urban practitioners working at the regional, city-wide, and local levels to develop strategies and initiatives that help build community-based resilience.
New York City neighborhoods are leading the transition from recovery to resilience. To support that, MAS is working with local partners in each borough to network community-based neighborhood organizations, local business, and the nonprofit and faith communities together to develop a shared framework that addresses persistent challenges that Sandy exposed. Are we ready to cope with another hurricane or severe weather event that will overtop our shorelines and inundate our infrastructure? And are we creating the right kinds of opportunities for local entrepreneurs to come up with practical solutions that can be scaled to other neighborhoods? And are current planning decisions reflecting the range of potential climate-change impacts, so that we can quickly adapt and function? Earlier this year MAS questioned the wisdom of proposing a multi-story tower near the South Street Seaport, building so close to an already eroding shore.
MAS resilience work extends beyond New York City through MAS Cities, our program to engage and collaborate with peer organizations and urbanists working in other global cities. In March of this year, upon the tenth anniversary of the Gulf Coast Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, MAS Cities convened 32 urban resilience builders from New Orleans, New York City, Christchurch, Port-Au-Prince, Mexico City, Durban, Jakarta, and Manila at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference Center on Lake Como, Italy, to strategize on urban resilience challenges we share.
At the awarding of the winners of Rebuild By Design, the HUD-funded initiative which MAS helped lead with our partners Regional Plan Association, the Van Alen Institute, and the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, Governor Andrew Cuomo reminded awardees that New York City is America’s most important coastal city. What we are challenged by, and how we address those challenges, makes this city and its lessons of crucial importance to the world. On this Earth Day, amid all of the ongoing recovery and forward-looking resilience-building work, MAS continues to challenge New Yorkers to think comprehensively about the resilience challenges to our neighborhoods—to our housing, civic assets, business and commercial spaces—to create complete neighborhoods that are both more livable and more resilient. A complete neighborhood is by definition resilient. But this may mean some tough conversations about where development should be encouraged, and where not. For instance, how will the imminent changes to property insurance inside the new FEMA 100 year old flood zones affect the futures of those 60,000 property owners facing drastically increased premiums? Should the City be being more proactive in looking for alternatives, especially for more vulnerable residents living in lower income or public housing?
And finally, how well are our local and regional resilience efforts coordinated with larger national and international policy initiatives around sea level rise and climate change? Building resilience is a complicated and messy business, and as MAS Director of Strategy Mary Rowe recently said (Assessing Resilience Planning: Is the City Preparing Smartly for the Rising Risks of Climate Change? Sarah Crean, Gotham Gazette, April 16, 2015), something far too important to be just be left to government. Urban resilience is everybody’s business.
Please attend (or watch later on YouTube) this fantastic panel at The New School at 2pm today for Cities Under Siege: A Climate Change Resilience Panel, part of their Earth Matters: Designing our Future celebration.]]>
Re: Stahl Organization sues city over landmark rentals
“MAS has been proud to defend the City & Suburban First Avenue Estate complex as a historic treasure across more than two decades. We were dismayed to hear that this important site—a vibrant part of our city’s cultural and historical legacy—is once again under siege. We strongly urge the State Supreme Court to resist this most recent encroachment against 429 East 64th Street and 430 East 65th Street. The hardship provisions of the Landmarks Law should not be treated like a loophole, and the Stahl Organization has failed to present convincing evidence that this radical step is in any way justified.”
-MAS President Vin Cipolla and MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman]]>
MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman said, “In the year and a half since MAS launched the Accidental Skyline project, we have heard New Yorkers in all five boroughs clamoring for accountability when as-of-right private developments impact public amenities like parks. Access to air and light is a right of all New Yorkers and we have been delighted to work with Councilmember Levine this year on the need for comprehensive shadows legislation. We applaud the introduction of LS-3471, an important first step that proves New York doesn’t have to settle for an Accidental Skyline.”
Dana Rubenstein at Capital New York examined the details of the bill and its announcement, pointing back to Ms. Newman’s previous comments about shadow ordinances in San Francisco and other cities last year.
MAS will continue to stay involved with the progress of Councilmember Levine’s proposed legislation.]]>
The Municipal Art Society of New York announced the winners of the 2015 MASterworks Awards, a competition hosted annually by MAS to recognize projects completed in the preceding year that make a significant contribution to New York’s built environment. The awards will be presented on the evening of April 16 at the Museum at Eldridge Street.
“From a transit hub that bends sunlight, to a sidewalk that fortifies tree roots, the 2015 MASterworks honorees embody the innovation and creativity that drive New York’s best architects and designers,” said Margaret Newman, FAIA, Executive Director of MAS. “We look forward to celebrating all of this year’s winners at a ceremony next month, and thank them for enhancing New York one project at a time.”
The 2015 honorees placed in six categories:
Best New Building: Fulton Center, Grimshaw Architects
The MASterworks jury selected an infrastructure project as Best New Building for 2014, an unusual move that highlights the Fulton Center’s role as more than just a train station. Its design was noted for demonstrating innovation, creativity, and the bravery to play with geometry. Suspended within the atrium is a piece of artwork by James Carpenter Design Associates called “Sky Reflector-Net,” an integrated web of cables and aluminum panels that brings natural sunlight down into the lowest levels of the building. The artwork combines beauty and function, reduces energy consumption, and powerfully connects daily transit users with a tangible sense of daylight.
Best Neighborhood Catalyst: 1000 Dean Street and Berg’n, Selldorf Architects
Opened in 2013, the historic Studebaker service station has been renovated and repurposed as office and studio space for the creative community. The project highlights a growing opportunity for design in New York City that reimagines and repurposes old buildings to suit modern needs. An adjacent garage was converted into Berg’n, a 9,000 square foot beer garden and restaurant operated by the creators of the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, which has already become an immensely popular draw in the neighborhood.
Best New Infrastructure: NYC Emergency Housing Prototype, Garrison Architects
Developed for NYC Emergency Management, these prototypes imagine a system of modular homes that could be deployed to house displaced residents in the event of an emergency. These multi-story, multi-family units can be deployed in less than 15 hours. The project is innovative in its willingness to address the City’s climate change challenges and consider the role that prefabrication could play in meeting our urgent housing needs.
Best New Urban Amenity: Hudson Square Standard, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
The Hudson Square Standard reimagines the potential for urban sidewalks by finding small changes to the design and structure of our streets that can yield major environmental and health impacts. Its innovation is best seen from below the ground, where trees have been planted in expanded subterranean plots that give their roots more room to grow. Hudson Square Connection continues to serve as a catalyst for efficient and sophisticated design intervention in the public realm.
Best Restoration: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners in collaboration with Gluckman Mayner Architects
The result of an ambitious collaboration between 13 leading design firms, the Cooper Hewitt project is more than just a beautiful restoration of a landmarked mansion; it also lays out an innovative master plan for a 21st century design museum. The MASterworks jury praised the effort as well for the diversity of use it imagines and the seamless way it integrates Smithsonian-grade technology, calling it an impeccable and extensive re-thinking of a historic space.
Best Urban Landscape: The Engineering Quadrangle, Bruce Newman & the Pratt Design Team
Celebrated for creating a “truly urban landscape,” the goals of this project were numerous. By redesigning and rebuilding the space to allow for better circulation, increased aesthetics, and an increased cohesiveness with the rest of campus, Pratt’s Engineering Quadrangle is now a hub for the neighborhood and school community.
About the Jury & Ceremony
This year’s fantastic pool of nominees made the evaluation process especially challenging for the 2015 jury, which included Elizabeth Belfer, Analyst, Belfer Management, LLC; Vincent Chang, RIBA, AIA, Partner, Grimshaw Architects; Helena Rose Durst, Vice President, The Durst Organization; Everardo Jefferson, Principal, Caples Jefferson Architects; and Dan Shannon, Principal, Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects. Jury members recused themselves from categories involving conflicts of interest.
The 2015 MASterworks Awards are sponsored by JCDecaux and the awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 16 from 7-9:00 PM at the Museum at Eldridge Street (located at 12 Eldridge Street.)
More information & tickets »»]]>
Unfortunately, hours after a New York Times report detailed the mural’s discovery, sheeting was erected to obscure the mural from public view. According to the owner of the tower, the discovery of the mural was “unexpected” and the work would be “covered during the renovation in a way that will preserve it for the future.”
“It’s as if the owners moved ahead at high speed to beat all the positive reaction,” said Phyllis Cohen, the director of Adopt-a-Monument/Adopt-a-Mural at the Municipal Art Society. “The glass mosaic murals from the late 1940s to 1960s are treasures that need to be preserved,” she said.
Two different Max Spivak murals are preserved, thanks to the work of the Adopt-a-Mural program at MAS: a pair of WPA oil in canvas murals, 1938, at the Astoria branch of the Queens library, and a 1948 mosaic mural currently on display at a Ben and Jerry’s shop on the Upper West Side.
Excerpted and adapted from the original New York Times article by David Dunlap.]]>
The Municipal Art Society released a first-ever interactive tool mapping the impact of one of New York City’s most expensive housing incentive programs. Spread across three city agencies, the data required to evaluate the affordable housing output of 421-a has never been publicly compiled until now.
In total, the city forfeited more than $1.1 billion in tax revenue in 2014 alone through the 421-a program, 60% of which (nearly $670 million) subsidized buildings in Manhattan, a borough currently undergoing a historic building boom that renders a building subsidy unnecessary. The annual exemption recurs for 10-20 years in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Creating the maps required MAS to track down and merge data—some of it in PDF form—from the Department of Finance, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Department of City Planning. The City’s Independent Budget Office assisted MAS in this effort by compiling the data from the Department of Finance.
“It’s not the 1970s anymore. In these booming Manhattan neighborhoods, the only value of a 421-a program is to spur affordable housing, yet the data on 421-a’s affordable housing impact is largely unavailable. And what information we do have is scattered across three city agencies. It’s long past time that Albany provides a transparent public accounting of this four-decade-old, $1 billion/year program.” -Margaret Newman, MAS Executive Director
The 421-a program, created in 1971 to spur residential development, was amended in 1985 in response to the rebounding real estate market. After 1985, new development projects seeking 421-a tax exemptions in flourishing Manhattan neighborhoods—defined by the so-called Geographic Exclusionary Area (GEA)—were required to dedicate 20% of total units to affordable housing. However, in 2008 legislators expanded the boundaries of the GEA to include all of Manhattan, but also neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
“Reimagining 421-a as an engine for affordable housing was a well-intentioned but doomed idea. We’ve amended it again and again over four decades, trying to mold a program that was designed during a construction drought into one that makes sense during a construction boom. The geographic exclusionary area should do just that—exclude luxury neighborhoods from cashing in on 421-a.” -Margaret Newman, MAS Executive Director
The 421-a program is up for renewal by the New York State legislature in June 2015. Based on the findings revealed in the maps, MAS urges that the program cannot be renewed as is.>
150 East 86 Street
City forfeited $5.8 million in tax revenue in 2014 subsidizing 24 affordable units built in 2011; this annual exemption continues through 2021
505 West 37 Street
City forfeited $12.1 million in tax revenue in 2014 subsidizing 167 affordable units built in 2012; this annual exemption continues through 2032
How is your neighborhood affected? »»]]>
Re: Vanderbilt corridor set for massive new tower
“MAS welcomes the news that the Vanderbilt Corridor rezoning is continuing to spur development in East Midtown—especially development that engages the City and community in a public review process. We hope that the project at 335 Madison Avenue will follow the example set at One Vanderbilt and include a transportation improvement benefit as part of its plan. We also look forward to working with the City to evaluate the best policy for air rights transfers, especially as they involve our precious landmarks. In a city as dense as New York, the best new developments are the ones that knit themselves into the existing community, its history, and its local infrastructure.”
–Margaret Newman, Executive Director of the Municipal Art Society of New York]]>