2009 and Ahead: Challenges and New Opportunities for MAS
December 22nd, 2009, 2:32 pm
When I assumed the presidency of the Municipal Art Society earlier this year, I was proud to join an organization with an unparalleled commitment to improving New York City’s built environment. My vision — shared by our Board of Directors — is to harness that commitment to transform MAS into a thought-leader on the subject of urban livability and to broaden our reach to new communities, so that we truly become the voice for the future of our city. Over the past year, we have made many significant strides toward these goals and I am pleased to share news of our progress with you. In 2009, we developed and implemented a new strategic plan that better focuses our work in three major areas, which, in large measure, embrace the work MAS has always excelled in and is best known for — preservation and sustainability, planning for all New Yorkers, and place-making and visioning. MAS had begun to take on projects and commitments that, while worthy, were not consistent with our mission, and drained limited staff resources. Over the year, we committed to taking on fewer projects, and also to deepen our work on those areas of focus. This website provides a record of information on those initiatives and accomplishments. And as part of that effort to bring new depth to our work, and to expand our presence throughout the city, we began to forge partnerships with universities, museums and other venerable New York institutions. These relationships will help enrich our work and expose MAS to new audiences — helping to further connect MAS to the concerns and interests of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. It may seem counter-intuitive to revitalize an organization while controlling spending, but we took bold steps in 2009 to improve MAS’ finances. As you know, the current economic climate is challenging all sectors, and non-profits have been hit especially hard as both donations and investment income has declined. We have implemented new controls and efficiencies that have significantly improved our bottom line, and we are taking measures to grow our membership and support. We appreciate the continued philanthropic support of so many, and we’re determined to continue to build an even more resourceful and effective MAS. We are planning a robust program season for 2010 with several new initiatives that will serve as an expanded platform for New Yorkers to voice their opinions about livability. Kicking off in spring 2010, our monthly programs and tour offerings will highlight timely issues like street design, the food industry and urban agriculture, and the fate of New York as the world’s fashion capital. Each of these topics underscores how our beloved city is at crossroads, and how there are opportunities for New Yorkers to make choices now for huge long-term benefits. Later in the year, we will offer two large and historic convening events – the first MAS Conference on Preservation and Sustainability, and the MAS Summit for New York, that will place MAS front and center in the debate about New York City’s future. As we say goodbye to the Villard Houses, our home for more than a quarter of a century, we can look back with tremendous pride on our history of achievements and how, as we move boldly into our future, we will take an even stronger role in shaping the world’s greatest city. Have a wonderful New Year, and thank you so much for your support.