The most famous of these plazas can be found at the “crossroads of the world,” Times Square. Recently, the media has reported at length on the influx of costumed characters and topless women, known as “desnudas.” In response, policymakers have proposed all sorts of solutions from licensing costumed characters, to outlawing topless individuals from Times Square, to even removing the Times Square plaza entirely.
These responses are aimed at solving the symptoms of the underlying problem, not its cause. The underlying issue is the lack of a legal framework for pedestrian plazas in general, and Times Square in particular. We have laws regulating activities on streets, sidewalks, and parks – but not plazas. This lack of a plaza framework creates confusion at best, and dysfunction at worst. Put simply, it is difficult to enforce the rules when it is unclear which rules to enforce.
Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a task force to tackle the issues facing the plaza at Times Square. The task force will include government agencies, local elected officials and external stakeholders from the Times Square community.
MAS supports the convening of this task force, but believes that it must be the first step, not the last, to provide clarity on how the plazas are to be managed, operated, and regulated. The task force should consider the following MAS recommendations:
Plazas are New York’s newest type of public spaces, and it will take some time for government regulations to catch up with their unique requirements. But they are making neighborhoods across the city better, improving traffic safety, and improving business’ bottom line.
Given all of this potential, it is the responsibility of Mayor de Blasio and his task force to deliver solutions that make public plazas work for the millions of New Yorkers and tourists who visit Times Square and other public spaces throughout the city.
Learn more from the Times Square Alliance, and the Design Trust for Public Space.]]>
I was inspired to read World’s Fair. Then I was inspired to read it again, underlining all the specific addresses and places. Then one Saturday morning I met a friend at the 174th-Street stop on the D train, my list of places in hand: Doctorow’s house at 1650 Eastburn Avenue, the apartment on the Grand Concourse they moved to during the Depression after his father’s music business had failed, his school PS 70, the ovals in Mt Eden Avenue, the Surrey Theater where on Saturday mornings for a dime Edgar would see the newsreel, two feature films, a serial, and a cartoon, the public library on the forbidding Irish and Italian side of Webster Avenue, the sites of the lying-in hospital where he was born, the synagogue his grandmother attended, the drugstore where she bought for her asthma a medicinal leaf legally available without a prescription. I had found a small enclave of the Bronx that hadn’t changed significantly since Doctorow had loved those streets as a little boy. Finally, I was inspired to lead a walking tour to share with others this Doctorow memorabilia.
Since that first walk in 2013, the 1920s brick house beside his has been demolished as has the garage against which he and his father played paddle ball. Now we’ve lost even Doctorow himself. Constant diminishment is the way of this world. How lucky we are that reality also includes art, a world in which experiences and truths aren’t subject to diminishment? For all these reasons and more, I hope you and yours can join me and MAS for the upcoming tour of “E.L Doctorow’s Bronx.”]]>
As we head into the second half of 2015, our tours program is more robust than ever before and you’ll see some changes that we are pleased to announce along with the new walking tour schedule for September and October. We spent the summer reviewing the last several years of tours schedules to bring you the tours you want to see most, whether those are long-time favorites, Jane’s Walks you missed this past May (indicated by the JW photo icon), or all-new adventures. By popular demand, we’ve also added suggested public transportation directions for each of the fall tours (though of course we urge you to check MTA.info for any last-minute subway closures), approximate ending locations for tours, and more extensive information on the route you’ll take.
So grab your MetroCard (or even your skateboard!) and join us on an MAS tour this fall to see a new New York icon by moonlight, visit the primordial forest that still grows wild in Upper Manhattan, consider the public art on the Lower East Side that can only be seen after hours, taste what’s been brewing under the Pulaski Bridge, and more. With more tour guides on our team, and more tour participants visiting farther-flung destinations than ever before, we know you’ll have a great time. Take a tour and tell us what you think of the new fall line-up—we invite you to share your thoughts on our feedback survey.
As always, you can reach me at tours[at]mas.org with any questions or comments. Many thanks for your continued support for MAS!
MAS Tours Director
Love MAS tours? Be sure to let us know by reviewing your favorites on our TripAdvisor page!
See the full tours schedule at mas.org/tours.]]>
The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is partnering with the Municipal Art Society (MAS) to provide community-based organizations with a series of facilitated workshops designed to provide their neighborhoods with the knowledge and tools needed to advocate for change. MAS has been offering this community engagement-focused training—called the Livable Neighborhoods Program—since 2007, and has trained nearly 1,000 New Yorkers on basic concepts of zoning, city government, and community activism.
This new version of the Livable Neighborhoods Program will focus on commercial revitalization and community engagement strategies in four (4) communities with up to two (2) partner organizations—including local development corporations, merchants associations, business improvement districts, and others—in each community. Resources will be available to community-based organizations for outreach materials, space rental, and interpretation and translation.
Benefits to participating organizations include:
This program is free, but competitive and available by application only. For complete program guidelines, email SBS at the Neighborhood Development email or APPLY NOW through the online application.]]>
This month, we hired the City Wide Monuments Conservation crew to perform maintenance work on the iconic “Rocket Thrower” monument by Donald de Lue. This 45-foot-high Promethean figure conceived for the 1964 World’s Fair, resides in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, celebrating America’s exploration into space.
The monument, restored in 2013, by Steve Tatti, began to show areas of wax loss (blanching) which merited attention. Overseen by MAS, the conservation workers performed a specialized treatment that will keep the statue in perfect shape. “The kind of treatment performed reinforces the base layer of wax as a protective coating and underscores the need for annual maintenance of such outdoor sculpture”, explained Phyllis Cohen, Director of the Adopt-A-Monument program.
With this monument and two others down, attention now turns to a dozen more artworks that will receive special treatment this year. Stay tuned as we help protect New York’s heritage!
Join us today as an MAS member, and you’ll be eligible for our special member discount on top of the early bird reduced rates:
$200 for a two-day Summit pass and individual MAS Membership ($100 discount)!
Reserve your spot before September to lock in this exclusive rate.
For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Brenda Parkerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing you at the best Summit yet!
The station as it stands is a sorry excuse for a transit hub. It is unsafe, unattractive, and is operating way above its intended capacity. Some 600,000 passengers use the station every day. When it was built, it was meant to serve just 200,000.
Penn Station’s future as a modern transit facility is strangled by Madison Square Garden above it. The Garden’s columns pierce the station and result in very low ceilings, making crowded conditions feel even more uncomfortable, limiting platform length and access to light and air, and prohibiting effective wayfinding. While some improvements are being planned by the railroads that own and operate the station, moving the Garden will ultimately be necessary to advance larger safety, transportation, circulation, and customer experience upgrades, and to serve surging ridership. In the last decade, the number of average weekday Penn Station riders on NJ Transit, LIRR, and Amtrak has grown by 26% and subway ridership has swelled by 34%. Going forward, NJ Transit ridership alone is expected to rise 28% by 2030.
On the occasion of the permit vote, as Public Advocate, you said this:
“A 10-year timeframe will enable active participation for all stakeholders in the creation of a more comprehensive plan for the area, provide MSG’s owners time to seek a new arena location, and allow for the Department of City Planning to reconsider the special permit in light of changing conditions in the surrounding area. We should not delay the full redevelopment of Penn Station a day beyond what is necessary to plan and secure the funding to rebuild, while allowing the arena to relocate.”
We now ask that you, as Mayor of the City of New York, and arguably the most important stakeholder when it comes to the future of West Midtown, immediately start a comprehensive planning study for the area.
Good planning takes time, especially on such a complicated site, and the city should not be caught flat-footed when the Garden’s permit is up in 2023. The Garden has moved in the past, and it will move again, but you must lead the way.
|Vikki Barbero, Chair
Community Board 5, Manhattan
Vin Cipolla, President
Donovan Finn, Visiting Assistant Professor
Hugh Hardy, FAIA, Founder and Partner
|Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
Veronica Vanterpool, Executive Director
Paul Steely White, Executive Director
Tom Wright, President
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito
City Council Member Corey Johnson
City Council Member Dan Garodnick
City Council Member David Greenfield
City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
Comptroller Scott Stringer
Borough President Gale Brewer
State Senator Adriano Espaillat
State Senator Brad Hoylman
State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried
United States Senator Charles Schumer
United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
View the full letter (PDF)]]>
Early last year, as discussions around a new Mayoral administration were underway, I made my own transition from city government to join MAS. And there were many changes underway at MAS: a search for new offices, new Board leadership and appointments, and a considered look at the most vibrant of 21st century cities, New York, with all of its scrappiness and escalating challenges around both the environment and affordability.
It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as Executive Director during this time of substantial change. The talented and creative staff at MAS have taught me a great deal and together I think we have made a difference. However, I have felt for some time that I wanted to return to my work in architecture and design. I have spent a lifetime dedicated to building and designing for a better place, as a practicing architect, in my planning and policy work, and as an educator. It seems an appropriate time to return to private practice and to be able to engage in building again.
MAS has a rich heritage of work stretching back almost 125 years in service to the issues that make NYC such a glorious and compelling place to live. I am leaving MAS poised to move fully into the future with a larger social media network than ever before, fabulous new offices, and ongoing great work on substantial projects from a new Penn Station to managing the skyline.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to engage in energetic discussion, with our terrific members, our board, city officials, advocates, press, community, and private sector leaders. And for this I thank all of you. You have all taught me a great deal and I hope you will join me in celebrating the future as MAS continues its amazing work advocating for a stronger, better New York.
Margaret Newman FAIA
Dear MAS Community,
As we share with you that MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman has informed us that she will be stepping down next month to return to the architecture and design field that was her first calling, we want to wish her continued success in her notable career and thank her for her contributions and stewardship of MAS.
In her year and a half at the helm, Margaret advocated for MAS through her strong relationships with constituents at City agencies and in the development, architecture, and design communities. During her tenure, which began with her design of our new, modern offices in the landmark Look Building, MAS hosted its biggest and most successful Summit and gala to date and quadrupled its year-over-year press coverage. She guided the organization through the development and release of new reports on the future of Penn Station and the Accidental Skyline, and oversaw the creation of the “Who Gets It Done and How” toolkit for citizens to take action in city government. She played an integral role in shaping the outcomes of the East Midtown steering committee as MAS’s lead representative, and launched the Design First initiative, which will benefit from her continued engagement as a consultant in the months ahead.
The work of MAS will continue apace, including our sixth Summit, scheduled for this October, and our Next 50 project, a look at the future of preservation in New York City. Interim day-to-day management of MAS will be led by Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President, and by Robert Libbey, Vice President, Finance and Administration.
We are grateful for all of Margaret’s contributions to MAS, and look forward to all she will achieve in her return to private practice. Please join us in thanking Margaret for her incredible service to our organization and wishing her well in her next endeavor.
Fred Iseman, Chair
Vin Cipolla, President
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]]>