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June 2008
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Archive for June, 2008

An Opportunity for Change

gowanus canal brooklyn new york city urban restorationThe 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. Continue Reading>>

The Economist Says it is Time to Revive our Infrastructure

infrastructureThe Economisthas an excellent article on the critical state of our nation’s infrastructure in its current issue. After describing the ills the article prescribes a cure for projects not unlike Moynihan Station:
The federal government should do what it can to ensure that these [metroregions], first of all, have the infrastructure they need to thrive. This means, among other things, an enhanced federal role in projects that cross state borders, including not only the interstates but intermodal freight and high-speed rail. A better system for evaluating a project’s benefit—within a broader strategy for economic development, for example—would help the public get more for its money. Metros would be given more incentives to reduce congestion and sprawl.
In New York, the MAS believes a meaningful step in the right direction would be for Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, co-founder of the Building America’s Future coalition, to host an infrastructure summit of all the major players to discuss the status and evaluate the public benefits of all current projects, including Moynihan Station, Hudson Yards, the 7 line extension, the 2nd Ave Subway, Lower Manhattan/JFK link, etc., in order to set some priorities for moving forward in a tough economic environment. A clearer sense of what is most important and a public display of leadership might even attract more federal support. Read “The Economist Says it is Time to Revive our Infrastructure,” from the Economist

Imagine Flatbush 2030

flatbush street mural artWhile 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. Continue Reading>>

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

moynihan penn station concept rendering somAfter 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: Continue Reading>>

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. Continue Reading>>

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. Continue Reading>>

MAS Position on University Village, aka Silver Towers 1 & 2

The Municipal Art Society supports the designation of the Silver Towers/505 LaGuardia Place complex. Silver Towers (formerly known as University Village) has been cited as the most enduring modern residential complex in the city, and its design is a success-story within the larger context of New York City’s Robert Moses-era urban renewal schemes. The complex provides a striking contrast to the historic styles in the nearby vicinity, and has been well-received over the years by the Greenwich Village and greater New York community. Continue Reading>>

New Amsterdam Market, A Place That Matters

new amsterdam market honeyNew Amsterdam Market at the South Street Seaport, will be held this Sunday, June 29th, 11am to 4pm. Go to the plaza fronting the New Market Building on the East River between Beekman St. and Peck Slip. $5 suggested donation. For more information please visit the New Amsterdam Market website. While featuring this exciting opening, we also want to recognize a closing that will sadden many: June 29th is also the last day for Florent’s Restaurant in the West Village, nominated to the Census by Jane Weissman. Continue Reading>>

MAS Position on Hubbard House, 2138 McDonald Avenue, Brooklyn

The Hubbard House in Gravesend, Brooklyn remains today as one of only a dozen surviving Dutch farmhouses in the greater New York metropolitan area. The settlement of the Dutch in this area was crucial to the development of New York. Built in the 1830s, the Hubbard residence is notable for its remarkably intact condition. Additionally, its easy-to-read design incorporates both traditional Dutch framing techniques and pioneered the use of later, standardized building materials such as machine-cut nails and lumber. Both the National Register of Historic Places, which listed the property in 2001, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy who awarded a maintenance grant to the residence, have recognized the Hubbard House for its historic meaning and visibility of purpose. The designation of the Hubbard House would ensure that the physical reminders of this legacy continue to inform our understanding of Dutch settlement and culture. I commend the Commission for calendaring this building and urge you to designate it a New York City landmark.

MAS Position on F.W. Devoe & Co. Factory 110-112 Horatio Street, Far West Village, Manhattan

The F.W. Devoe & Co. Factory has significant architectural and cultural value, and we strongly support its designation as a New York City Landmark. The F.W. Devoe & Co. Factory is located at 110-112 Horatio Street, just south of the Gansevoort Market Historic District and in the historically industrial Hudson River waterfront section of Greenwich Village. This building, like its neighbors in the Far West Village, is a significant reminder of the neighborhood’s past as home to large industrial complexes, such as Nabisco and Bell Telephone. At its height (1870’s-1918) the Devoe Paint Complex occupied its entire block which is bound by Jane, West, Horatio and Washington Streets. The company produced high quality paint and varnishes for prestigious clients such as the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads. Continue Reading>>

MAS Position on Douglaston Historic District Extension, Queens

The Municipal Art Society fully supports this designation, which furthers the work of the community and the Commission work to protect the special and irreplaceable character of the Douglaston neighborhood. The Douglaston neighborhood represents the suburban planning ideals of the mid-nineteenth century, with tree-lined, curving streets. Today, the area showcases a variety of remarkably-intact residences, built in an array of architectural-revival styles situated on 200-ft-deep-lots in a park-like setting. The expanded district would include several significant buildings, such as the Colonial Revival style Community Church, which was built in 1923-24; the church’s complementary annex Public School building, built in 1953 and also designed in the Colonial revival style; and a Tudor-revival co-op. Of note are also a number of immaculately well-preserved 1850s farmhouses that were built to once support the original Douglas Manor. Continue Reading>>

MAS Position on 4927 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island

Calendared in the 1960s, the time has now come to move forward with the designation of 4927 Arthur Kill Road — a Greek Revival house — so as to insure that any future changes are done under the guidance of the LPC’s regulations. Staten Island witnessed tremendous growth during the mid-nineteenth century as it became the preferred location for the development of rural homesteads. Leng & Davis’ Staten Island and Its People notes that the Abram Cole family began construction of a Greek Revival home in the 1840s on this property, which was originally beachfront. Continue Reading>>