June 2008
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Archive for June, 2008

An Opportunity for Change

gowanus canal brooklyn new york city urban restoration

The New York City Charter is comparable to a constitution – it spells out the roles and obligations of all elected municipal officials and state agencies. In Mayor Bloomberg’s January 2008 “State of the City Address,” he announced the creation of a Charter Review Commission to “conduct a top-to-bottom review of the city government,” and that the city would “consider any proposal that would improve the life of New York and New Yorkers.”

The Daily News recently reported that Bloomberg allocated $2.1 million in his most recent budget proposal to fund this commission, $354,000 of which is earmarked for the fiscal year ending July 1. Although at press time the Mayor had not yet appointed the Commission’s members, an announcement is expected soon.

Shortly after it forms, the Commission will be holding public hearings to solicit suggestions for changes to the City Charter. Later it will hold more public hearings to solicit comments on its recommendations. Stay tuned for more news on this important opportunity to shape the future of our city.


Imagine Flatbush 2030

flatbush street mural art

While the federal government has sat on the sidelines, local government has provided true leadership in response to global climate change in the United States. Last year, New York City joined a small but growing list of American municipalities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle in aligning planning and development goals with ambitions to reduce carbon emissions.

Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC2030 was designed to lay the groundwork for achieving and maintaining affordable housing, open space, comprehensive public transportation, and reliable energy, as well as clean air, water, and land. A year has passed and PlaNYC has seen both successes and failures. MAS set about this past year to address what we perceived to be a critical issue that is nonetheless often overlooked: sustainability planning is too important to be left solely to the experts.

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Vornado’s Roth on MSG Air Rights: “Come to Mama”

moynihan penn station concept rendering som

After a few quiet weeks in the world of Moynihan, the Farley Post Office emerged unscathed from a two-alarm fire on Tuesday night and Steve Roth, chairman of Vornado, and Steve Ross, chairman of Related – the Moynihan Venture tag team – spoke about the project at a real estate breakfast this morning in New York. The Venture’s latest scheme is to get the Port Authority to buy the Garden from the Dolans and liberate the coveted air rights on the arena site. Eliot Brown of the Observer has this report:

In case there was any doubt, Steve Roth and Steve Ross really want Madison Square Garden to move.

This morning, some 13 weeks after Madison Square Garden announced it was renovating and staying in place (i.e. not moving), the developer duo professed, once again, their eagerness to see the Paterson administration pick up the ball and move forward with the large-scale Moynihan Station plan. The plan, in its most recent iteration, would involve the state using Port Authority money intended for regional transportation projects to buy the Garden and its air rights from the Dolan family—that is, if they’re willing to sell (the Dolans have expressed no interest and are moving forward with the renovation).

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MAS Position on George Bruce Branch & 125th St. Branch of New York Public Library

Both of these New York Public Library branches on 125th Street are worthy of designation by the Commission. The George Bruce Branch, designed in 1914 by Carrere & Hastings, architects of the main branch of the public library on 5th Avenue, finely represents the use of Georgian Revival in civic architecture in the early twentieth century. Today, the exterior remains intact, and the building still serves as a public library. The 125th Street branch, on the other hand, was one of 67 branches funded by Andrew Carnegie and was designed by another prominent New York City architecture firm of the era, McKim, Mead and White. In this library, McKim Mead and White display their understanding of the Renaissance Revival style.

These two libraries are not the only buildings along 125th Street that merit preservation. With the recent rezoning of the famous thoroughfare, threats to the street’s historically, architecturally, and culturally significant buildings will without a doubt increase tenfold. It is critically important for the LPC to go further with additional designations on 125th Street. In our statement to City Council regarding the rezoning, MAS urged that the important historical resources in Harlem be preserved before they are lost to redevelopment.

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MAS Position on 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza

MAS commends the Landmarks Preservation Commission for moving forward today with the designation of two worthy post-war historic resources, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza and the Silver Towers complex. Both are modern sites that MAS has suggested for designation in the past, and we are pleased with the LPC’s attention to these two examples of post-war architecture and planning. We look forward to seeing the LPC consider more Modern buildings and sites for landmark designation in the near future.

1 Chase Manhattan Plaza’s completion in 1961 signified a new era for Lower Manhattan both historically and architecturally. Not long after the end of the war, development of New York’s business center was shifting from the earliest skyscraper district in Lower Manhattan to the blocks of Midtown. Lower Manhattan was seen as obsolete and part of the past, not the future, of New York until David Rockefeller’s insistence that his Chase company remain downtown. The construction of this building helped to spur the revival, redevelopment, and reuse of the neighborhood that continued throughout the remaining decades of the twentieth century.

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