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March 2009
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Archive for March, 2009

MAS Responds to Rumors of Admiral’s Row Compromise

rendering admirals row navy yard option 2There has been news coverage today on a reported compromise between the Navy Yard and the National Guard regarding the Admiral’s Row buildings in Brooklyn. Purportedly, only two of the eleven buildings will be retained. Lisa Kersavage, MAS Director of Advocacy and Policy said in a public release, “If the reported compromise on the future of the Admiral’s Row buildings is true we are deeply disappointed because the majority of these buildings could and should be saved. We will continue fighting to save these important structures.” It is not necessary to demolish the buildings in order to build on the site. MAS developed 11 alternative plans that that meet the Navy Yard’s program for a grocery store and retail (see rendering above left) and industrial space while allowing for the restoration and reuse of the historic buildings. Kersavage added, “If there is to be a compromise, it should be with the size of the 356-car parking lot, and not come at the expense of preserving these significant American treasures.” The buildings are in the midst of a federally-mandated Section 106 process, which provides the public with the opportunity to comment on the buildings’ demolition and to suggest alternatives that could prevent or mitigate the demolition of the historic structures.

Southern District Court Upholds City’s Restrictions on Arterial Advertising

outdoor advertising long island expresswayMAS has been involved with signage regulations since the turn of the 20th century, when the New York Times noted that one of the City’s famed retail districts had become a “frightful spectacle, made so more by the wilderness of discordant and shrieking signs.”  MAS even introduced a revision of the building code in 1908 that would regulate billboards for the first time. The problem of signage pollution continues to impact New York’s streetscapes, but recent litigation has affirmed the City’s right to regulate outdoor advertising in favor of traffic safety and aesthetics. The Southern District of New York held today that New York City may enforce its arterial highway advertising ban, regulate the registration and permitting of existing outdoor arterial signs, and restrict the locations of internally illuminated signs throughout the City. A number of New York City’s signage regulations were challenged by Plaintiffs Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., Atlantic Outdoor Advertising, Inc., Scenic Outdoor, Inc., Troystar City Outdoor, Inc., Willow Media, LLC (together, the “Clear Channel Plaintiffs”) and Metro Fuel, LLC. Continue Reading>>

MAS Conducts Survey of Gowanus Canal Historic Resources

In light of the City’s plan to rezone 25 blocks of the Gowanus Canal corridor, MAS is conducting an investigation of the area’s historic resources, including the canal itself. See slideshow below. Although the Gowanus Canal is sometimes better known for the pollutants from decades of heavy manufacturing and industrial use which earned it the nickname “Lavender Lake,” the canal should also be considered a historic industrial landscape. In fact, the waterway has been officially recognized as eligible for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.  MAS recently completed a historic resources survey of the Gowanus Canal rezoning area, and will expand the study to include the other blocks along the canal and adjacent to the rezoning area that may be affected by the rezoning. The survey has already identified several unprotected potential historic buildings and structures, many of which are featured in this slide show.  Continue Reading>>

Tonight at MAS: New York’s Main Street

There are still a few tickets left for tonight’s lecture by architectural historian Francis Morrone on the architecture and history of New York’s main street, Broadway. This program will be illustrated with photographs from different periods in the life of this unique urban thoroughfare, from Bowling Green to the Harlem River. Though a fascinating subject in its own right, tonight’s focus is to provide context for the current photographic exhibition By Way of Broadway: New York Photographs by Cervin Robinson, on display at MAS through Thursday, May 7. Tickets for tonight’s lecture are $15, $10 MAS members. Purchase them online or call 212-935-2075, and for more information about the exhibit and gallery hours, visit

The La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, A Place That Matters

The La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, located in the East Village of Manhattan, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for introducing new culture to an old setting. In 1873, the Aschenbroedel Verein building was constructed to house the “Cinderella Society,” a German-American cultural association. When the group moved to Yorkville in 1892, another German organization, the Gesang Verein Schiller Bund, took over the space. As the large German population of Kleindeutschland began to migrate uptown, most of the East Village’s German institutions moved with them. Though founded in 1961, it wasn’t until 1969 that the La Mama Experimental Theater Club converted the former Aschenbroedel Verein building into its off-off Broadway theatre. Led by Ellen Stewart, the world-renowned La MaMa has “passionately pursued its original mission to develop, nurture, support, produce and present new and original performance work by artists of all nations and cultures,” according to their website. Continue Reading>>

Celebrate the Centennial of the Manhattan & Queensboro Bridges with MAS

Architectural historian John Kriskiewicz talks to Tamara Coombs of MAS about his April 2 lecture, The 100th Birthday of Two Great Bridges: The Queensborough & The Manhattan, celebrating the centennial of the Manhattan and Queensboro Bridges, and explains why their construction marks New York’s metamorphosis from an island city to a modern metropolis. Join MAS as we celebrate the centennial of two of the eras great bridges with a lecture and two walks across the neighborhoods they transformed. $15, $10 MAS members. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075.

Community-Based Plan of the Month: Rockaway Waterfront Park at Seagirt Beach

rockaway seagirt beach vacant land small by eve baronFar Rockaway, Queens consists of two square miles of barrier island just across the bay from JFK Airport and just west of the Nassau County line. Its population is diverse, including a large Orthodox Jewish community, and immigrants from Russia, Jamaica, Guyana, and Guatemala. While there are some upscale areas, particularly near the Long Island border, a large percentage of residents live in public or rent-regulated housing. The area has been hit hard recently by a double-whammy: a wave of foreclosures due to the ongoing mortgage crisis, and a nearly simultaneous wave of new, often luxury, development. Jeanne DuPont was inspired to start the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) when she saw that much of that new development was proceeding with little regard for current residents. Continue Reading>>

March Madness Update: the Outer Boroughs Go 3 and 1 for Landmarks

williamsburg fillmore place street angleYesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted in favor of designating 3 new individual landmarks: the Museum building and the Fountain of Life and Tulip Tree Allée at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx; Jamaica High School in Queens; and the Rutan-Journeay residence in Tottenville, Staten Island. In a disappointing turn of events, the Greek Revival-style Dissosway-Cole House on Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island was deemed too altered for NYC landmark status after incurring fire damage and subsequent replacement of some of the building’s original fabric. MAS had testified in favor of all four designations, stating in particular that there was enough remaining material and documentation at the Dissosway-Cole House to allow for an authentic restoration. The commission also held public hearings on 11 designation proposals, and MAS testified in favor of all of them. Continue Reading>>

By Way of Broadway Opens Tonight at MAS

Renowned architectural photographer and long-time Broadway resident Cervin Robinson chats with Elizabeth Werbe of MAS about the images and inspiration behind his exhibition By Way of Broadway: New York Photographs by Cervin Robinson, which opens with a reception tonight, Wednesday, March 25, 6:00 p.m., at MAS. This collection of black & white and color photographs explores New York’s visual landscape with thirty views of the 17-mile length of Manhattan’s main street taken over the course of three decades. The exhibition opens to the public tomorrow, Thursday, March 26, and will be on display through Thursday, May 7, 2009.

March Madness: Landmarks Gets in on the Action

A new crop of individual landmark and historic district hopefuls are being considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission next Tuesday, March 24th at its spring Designation Day. Two houses in Staten Island, Jamaica High School in Queens, and the New York Botanical Garden’s Museum building are set to become NYC’s newest landmarks.  Just behind them are three historic districts, including Fillmore Place, and eight individual sites which will be given a public hearing in anticipation of a future designation.  Lastly, a small historic district on Perry Avenue in the Bronx, a Bayside house, a Midtown mansion, and the Paramount Hotel will be “calendared,” the first step in the designation process.  Check out all the contenders in this slide show and start your bracket picks now. [AFG_gallery id=’41’]

Celebrate the Life & Work of Dorothy Miner on April 16

The friends of Dorothy Marie Miner invite you to join with us on Thursday, April 16, at 4:00 p.m. for a celebration of her life and work. The tribute will take place at Columbia University’s St. Paul’s Chapel. Dorothy was one of New York’s sharpest minds, iron wills, and gracious hearts. As the counsel for the Landmarks Preservation Commission for two decades, she furiously protected the integrity of the Landmarks Law. After leaving the Commission in 1994, Dorothy continued to be active in the preservation world, offering her expertise to many non-profit and civic organizations, including MAS. She not only served on our Preservation, Planning, and Law Committees but she was also a mentor to the staff. In addition, Dorothy was a dedicated and inspiring professor at Columbia’s Historic Preservation program, Pace University School of Law, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. We hope you can join us on Thursday, April 16 to celebrate the life of this remarkable lawyer, preservationist, teacher, and friend. For more information, click here.

Urbanist Members Enjoy Open House with MAS Staff

urbanist open house 2009The Urbanists — the MAS membership group of young New Yorkers in their 20s and 30s —  joined advocacy staff on Wednesday night for an informal, insider’s presentation of the advocacy campaigns MAS is championing this year. Over drinks, Urbanist members learned about the critical role that historic preservation plays in the future of a sustainable city (“the greenest building is the one that is already built”); saving the irreplaceable 19th century buildings of Admiral’s Row, adjacent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and adapting them to new uses; and, the new vision and plan for Coney Island, one of America’s most iconic neighborhoods. Continue Reading>>