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December 2008
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Archive for December, 2008

ImagineConey Public Meeting January 14th, 2009

imagine coney island brooklyn new york historic preservationThe hundreds of ideas for the future of Coney Island that have been submitted so far to ImagineConey are some of the most creative, thoughtful ideas ever submitted in a process of this kind — from a proposal to build a Sushi Skate Park to rebuilding the Elephant Hotel.  You can view them by clicking on the Gallery button on the ImagineConey website. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to submit an idea, the deadline for submissions is now January 15, and an exhibit featuring all the ideas and the charrette results will open at the MAS on January 27 2009. Now, it is critical that we demonstrate to the decision-makers that New Yorkers passionately believe that Coney Island should become a great amusement and entertainment destination once again.  So please join us on January 14 at 6.30PM, where the MAS will be participating in a public meeting in Coney Island at Our Lady of Solace Church. Continue Reading>>


rendering imagine coney laura collins bubbleThis is the third in a series of posts describing the latest submissions to ImagineConey, the MAS initiative to develop bold new ideas for Coney Island. Click to view thefirst and second in the series. This week’s ImagineConey post focuses on ideas submitted that embody Coney’s tradition of being a testing ground for invention and technological advances. In addition to entertaining visitors, Coney Island was a place where entrepreneurs came to try out their zany ideas. The hotdog was invented at Feltman’s while the first baby incubators were set up in Coney Island before they were accepted by the global medical community. Luna Park’s use of one million incandescent light bulbs was also a global first. Here are some of the inventive-submissions to ImagineConey:
  • Build the first ever Inverted Wooden Roller Coaster where the thrill of a shaky roller coaster can be experienced with your feet dangling below you.
  • Create a Bubble as a Roof to enclose some amusements in a gigantic bubble similar to those made with soap and water, but less prone to popping. Continue Reading>>

Holiday Book Report Gives “A” to UCB

urban center books roomThe MAS bookstore Urban Center Books (UCB) is described in the recent article Holiday Book Report on Design Arts Daily (DART), as being “packed to the rafters with books and magazines on architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture, interior design and graphic design.”, and “The selection is breathtaking.” Now, with the holiday season upon is, there is no better time to visit UCB. “In addition to books on architecture and urbanism are many items that would make unusual gifts. Among the DVDs of design-centric films is Jacques Tati’s Play Time,… books on the subject of design for the movies, including The Wrong House, a study of Alfred Hitchcock’s oppressive interiors by Steven Jacobs, …[and] a choice selection of books on New York City history… complemented by an appealing array of guide books, and photography books that celebrate urbanism and a sense of place.”

Featured Place That Matters: Pratt’s New Year’s Eve Steam Whistle Blow

pratt new years eve steam whistlesThe New Year’s Eve Steam Whistle Blow at Pratt Institute, located at 200 Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for being a literal New Year’s Eve blast! Steam whistles, salvaged from trains, riverboats, ocean liners and factories, are kept in Pratt’s steam-powered plant, the oldest, privately-owned, continuously operating, power plant of its kind in the country. Conrad Milster, Pratt’s longtime Chief Engineer, blew the first whistle of his collection on New Year’s Eve 1965. Over the past four decades his collection has grown, as has the popularity of his annual New Year’s Eve steam whistle blast. Pratt’s website boasts, Continue Reading>>

A Moveable Landmark

One of New York City’s most unusual landmarks is the Carroll Street Bridge, which spans Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. Built in 1888-89 (Robert Van Buren, chief engineer; George Ingram, engineer in charge), it is one of the oldest remaining bridges in New York City, and one of only four known “retractile” bridges in the United States. We were lucky enough to be in the neighborhood when the bridge was opening, offering a special opportunity to see how this rare bridge operates. As you can see in the photographs, the bridge rolls horizontally on a track in order to open to allow barges to pass. As an official New York City landmark, the bridge is protected from inappropriate changes or demolition. However, MAS is concerned that plans for a major residential development, by Toll Brothers, adjacent to the bridge could bring increased auto traffic challenging the limits of the bridge’s structural capacity. [AFG_gallery id=’16’]

Where Will New Yorkers Live?

In a city where it is already increasingly difficult for low and moderate income families to afford to live, how will the current economic and financial crises further impact the cost and availability of housing in New York? In November, an expert panel, introduced by Joan Shigekawa, associate director of The Rockefeller Foundation, and moderated by Vicki Been, director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, including: Jerilyn Perine, director, Citizens Housing and Planning Council; Holly Leicht, deputy commissioner for development, New York City Housing, Preservation, and Development; Michelle de la Uz, executive director, Fifth Avenue Committee, Brooklyn; and Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, founding partner, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects LLP, sought to answer these and other related questions.

A Conversation: Ada Louise Huxtable & Kent Barwick

Ada Louise HuxtableArchitecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable was born and raised in New York City. She attended good schools, but believes that “being in New York was the education.” In 1963, Ms. Huxtable became the first architecture critic at The New York Times (indeed, the first architecture critic at any daily newspaper in the United States). She won the first Pulitzer Prize for criticism and was a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Above all, she is a writer who knows what she thinks and says it. Members of the Municipal Art Society and the Architectural League of New York are invited to join Ms. Huxtable and MAS President Emeritus Kent Barwick on Wednesday, January 21, at 7:00 p.m., for what will doubtless be a fascinating conversation between two of the city’s most eloquent voices in the fields of architecture and urban planning.


imagineconey submission animalsThis is the second in a series of posts describing the latest submissions to ImagineConey, the MAS initiative to develop bold new ideas for Coney Island. Click here for the first in the series. This week’s ImagineConey post focuses on ideas submitted that have an animal theme. Animals have always been in the center ring of Coney Island’s history: from Topsy the domesticated elephant (who was sadly electrocuted in 1903) to Dr. Carver’s Diving Horses of Luna Park to the arrival of the Aquarium in the 1950s. Here are some of the animal-centric submissions:
  • Create Canine Coney: an amusement park for dogs and their owners where a dog can be a dog and an owner can be an owner. Attractions could include Coney Dog Emporium, Doggie Beach, and Daily Dog Shows.
  • Rebuild the Elephant Hotel. Who wouldn’t want to spend a night sleeping in an elephant. A burlesque theater could also be inside. Continue Reading>>

Hello, New York City. May I Help You?

311 call center nycLast week, the MAS Urbanists got a behind-the-scenes look at New York City’s state-of-the-art 311 call facility. Winner of a MAS Annual Award in 2008, 311 was launched five years ago and now receives more than 40,000 calls per day. Executive Director Joe Morrisroe and members of his staff enthusiastically presented the ins and outs of this information hub. Even though most calls are predictable (noise complaints in the summer, heat/hot water in the winter, parking questions year round) there are always important anomalies. They offer social services, and have provided informational services for over 2,000,000 callers during peak times like during  the NYC transit strike of 2005. Continue Reading>>

City of Water Showing Tonight

developmentCity of Water, the MAS and MWA documentary about the future of the New York City waterfront, screens tonight at 6:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment. You can find out more about the screening, watch the trailer for the film at, and read an interview with one of the filmmakers on Gowanus Lounge here.

Up to the Roof: A Vertical Tour of St. John the Divine

morningside heights st john divine church interiorLast Saturday, MAS members took a vertical tour of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, climbing the equivalent of 12 stories of narrow, winding stairs with periodic stops to breathe deeply and take in memorable views and vistas. The newly-cleaned stone walls not only reveal architectural details unnoticed for decades, they are now a canvas for the play of color from the stained glass windows. High up in the cathedral, the mix of sun through colored glass bathed tour takers in golden-pink light, a highly flattering effect more often seen in movies than life. Senior tour guide Tom Fedorek, a church volunteer for 24 years, gave an excellent commentary throughout, explaining the geometry of the church as clearly as its outreach programs for teenagers (which include overnights with sleeping bags and midnight communion at the high altar). After examining the Guastavino tile vaults of the cathedral’s ceiling at close enough range to see the weep holes which drain water, the group climbed to the space above the vaults and below the roof. Continue Reading>>

Housing New Yorkers in the 21st-Century

building tenementsWith the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation, MAS brought together a panel of experts in the field of housing for the 2008 Jane Jacobs Forum in November, in conjunction with the annual Jane Jacobs Award. Jane Jacobs believed a sense of community was critical in creating and maintaining dynamic and diverse neighborhoods, but today, it is increasingly difficult for people of low and moderate income to live in New York City. How can planners, architects, city officials, and developers work with local residents to provide homes that are affordable and sustainable? What role do the dense, mixed-income neighborhoods that Jacobs favored play in creating a strong sense of community? Continue Reading>>