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Archive for May, 2009

Wall Street Rising and MAS Announce Strategic Alliance

lower manhattan skyline aerial 516pxJulie Menin, founder and board member of Wall Street Rising, and Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, announced today a strategic alliance to bring new planning and public programming resources to Lower Manhattan. Wall Street Rising was established immediately after the September 11, 2001 to help restore vitality to the financial district. “With the explosive population growth that has occurred in Lower Manhattan over the past several years, the community is facing enormous infrastructure challenges,” said Ms. Menin, Chairperson of Community Board 1. “After considering several organizations, the board of Wall Street Rising was delighted to partner with MAS, the city’s premier planning and advocacy organization, as we begin to focus attention on new planning initiatives.” The WSR-MAS alliance has been accomplished through a transfer of stewardship in which Mr. Cipolla succeeds Ms. Menin as president of Wall Street Rising. Ms. Menin remains on the board. She also serves on the MAS board. Wall Street Rising’s financial assets of approximately $1 million will be available to provide funding for joint projects, including strategic planning initiatives and public programming and walking tours that celebrate the history, development and culture of Lower Manhattan. Continue Reading>>

Riverside Park South Walking Tour This Sunday

Join award-winning designer Tom Balsley, FASLA, and Michael Koontz, ASLA, of Thomas Balsley Associates, for a walking tour of Riverside Park South this Sunday. This park, notable for both its design and financing, celebrates the specific natural and industrial past of the site. It is a new sort of park landscape for New York, one of tall grasses, leafy trees, abstract forms and references to the site’s past as a mammoth rail yard. All of the park’s construction and maintenance is privately funded.

Riverside Park South Walking Tour

Sunday, May 31, 11:00 a.m. Meet at stairs at 73rd Street and Riverside Drive. Before 3:00 p.m. today (Friday 5/29/09), please purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075, or walk up on Sunday morning. $15, $10 MAS members. MAP.

Proposed Admiral’s Row Compromise Revealed

admirals-row-historic-building-b-brooklyn-new-yorkToday, the National Guard Bureau recommended that the Brooklyn Navy Yard be required to preserve two of the historic Admiral’s Row buildings if it purchases the site. Admiral’s Row is a collection of 11 19th century buildings that hold an important place in America’s naval history. MAS had proposed a compromise that would allow for the Navy Yard to develop the site with a grocery store and industrial space while retaining the historic buildings. MAS has also requested that the National Guard lower the sale price of the property to reflect the cost required to rehabilitate the buildings (law requires that the land is sold at fair market value). “MAS developed feasible plans that show that we can have preservation and development at the Admiral’s Row site. We have hoped, and continue to hope, that more of these very significant historic buildings will be retained and incorporated into the development (see our video feature on Admiral’s Row),” said MAS director of advocacy and policy Lisa Kersavage. Continue Reading>>

Urban Parks in the 21st Century Tonight at MAS

Join MAS President Vin Cipolla and an expert panel tonight for a fascinating discussion of the future of parks in New York City. The city’s parks system is currently undergoing an ambitious expansion that seeks to intertwine natural and designed environments, and the primary focus of this panel is a trio of exciting new parks that have been developed through a variety of innovative approaches in this regard. Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx would never have been created without the hard work and thoughtful programming of the community; Riverside Park South offers 21st century design, telling references to the past, and private financing; and Freshkills Park, at two and a half times the size of Central Park, was a beautiful wetland that became a despised landfill, and is now being transformed into a place for play and pleasure.

Urban Parks in the Twenty-First Century: Creating a New Model

Wednesday, May 27, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society MAP Tickets are $15, $10 MAS members. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075. Moderator: Vin Cipolla, president, Municipal Art Society; vice chairman, National Park Foundation. Panelists: Eloise Hirsh, administrator, Freshkills Park, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; Thomas Balsley, FASLA, founder and principal designer, Thomas Balsley Associates; Linda Cox, executive director, Bronx River Alliance; and Peter Harnik, director, Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land.

Admiral’s Row Update

Admiral’s Row on the edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is in danger of being lost. MAS will attend a meeting tomorrow at which the negotiations between the National Guard, the owner of the property, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) will discuss the buildings’ future. The meeting is part of the federally-mandated Section 106 process that requires federal agencies to study the impact of their actions on important historic buildings. MAS has been a part of the Section 106 process and has developed alternatives to demolishing the buildings that show it is possible to preserve them while also accommodating the Navy Yard’s program. In March, rumors surfaced that the National Guard may require the Navy Yard to retain only the Timber Shed and one of the houses on the site, which MAS believes is an inadequate solution. Continue Reading>>

Streets are for People

This piece was first published on March 11 of this year, shortly after the City announced its proposal to pedestrianize portions of Broadway as of this past weekend. When Washington Square Park was closed to traffic in 1959, prominent residents of Greenwich Village, including Jane Jacobs and Eleanor Roosevelt, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting and by burning a car in effigy. Their ceremony marked the conclusion of a decade-long fight with Robert Moses, who had insisted that the park must be traversed by cars in order to ease the city’s traffic congestion. New Yorkers today are reaping the rewards of Jacobs’ victory. Moses’ predictions of traffic coming to a halt proved false, and Washington Square Park is one of the city’s best-known and best-loved public places. Continue Reading>>

City Council Considers Dock Street Project

brooklyn bridge cables net MAS testified last week before the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee of City Council in opposition to the Dock Street project in DUMBO. The proposed 18-story building would be located directly adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge, and, if approved, will alter views of the Bridge from DUMBO’s streets and block views of the East River, Manhattan Bridge, and Williamsburg Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge’s public walkway. The Brooklyn Bridge is an indisputable icon of New York City, and protecting it from encroaching large-scale development is of utmost importance to MAS. No ordinary historic structure, the Brooklyn Bridge has been afforded the highest level of recognition and protection in the United States, National Historic Landmark status. MAS therefore asked the Council Members to reject the zoning changes which would allow this development. Continue Reading>>

City Launches New Street Design Manual at MAS

MAS was delighted to host Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on Wednesday night for the premiere presentation of the city’s first truly comprehensive set of guidelines for street design, Designing Streets in New York City. David Burney, Commissioner of the Department of Design & Construction, Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation, and Amanda Burden, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission, were also in attendance. Constituting 26% of the total area of the City, the streets and sidewalks are by far its largest public space, and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new manual represents a rethinking of the way city government works with regard to this vital resource. Continue Reading>>

MAS Board Member to Head NEA

MAS congratulates long–time board member and President of Jujamcyn Theaters, Rocco Landesman, on his recent nomination as the next Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). His appointment, which is expected to be officially made by the White House today and later confirmed by Congress, signals a new direction for the arts community throughout America. “Rocco brings fantastic energy and enthusiasm to everything he does,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla, “I am convinced that through his great entrepreneurial experience and savvy, and thorough understanding of the nonprofit world, the arts in America stand to gain enormously.” Continue Reading>>

Today at the LPC: St. Vincent’s, Fillmore Place & More

williamsburg fillmore place street angleThe LPC’s agenda today is full of projects MAS has been following.  This morning, the agency addressed the St. Vincent’s hospital and new residential development projects, and this afternoon the Commissioners are scheduled to vote to make Fillmore Place in Williamsburg a historic district. More designations are taking place this afternoon too – keep reading for details. In another split vote, the LPC today voted to approve a “notice to proceed” with the demolition of St. Vincent’s 1960s O’Toole building and the construction of a new hospital on the site. This was the final step of the hardship process, which started about a year ago, allowing the project to move forward to seek other required land use and State Department of Health approvals. Despite its name, the “notice to proceed” does not allow for the immediate demolition of the Modernist icon. Continue Reading>>

The Smartest Guys in the Room

nyc trivia winnersThe winners of the 2nd NYC Trivia Night, Art Deco Society, (l-r) Jeff Kroessler, Tony Robins, Kathy Hausman, Peter Derrick, John Tauranac. Last night, deep in the heart of Alphabet City, some of the best minds in New York City joined MAS and hosts, Greg Young and Tom Meyers, (hosts of the very popular Bowery Boys podcast) for our second NYC Trivia Night event. The teams were truly put to the test last night; the questions were not for the faint of heart. Like, “The Coney Island ice rink is named after a former Brooklyn politician and former suitmaker, whose original shop was next to Ebbet’s Field. Name him.” or “Name one of the two men who were mayor of New York City during the 1920s.” The team names were as colorful as ever, and included “MTA Bailout”, “Bagel and Lox, Hold the Capers” and “Lords of Midwood.” Ultimately, the “Art Deco Society” (pictured) prevailed and took home the grand prize: the eight DVD set of New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns. Congratulations to all who joined us!

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, A Place That Matters

bohemian hall beer garden astoria queensBohemian Hall & Beer Garden at 29-19 24 Avenue in Astoria, Queens was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for serving up Czech culture by the pitcher. In 1906, the Sovak family, together with the Bohemian Citizens Benevolent Society (which had been founded in 1892), purchased three parcels of farmland along 24th Avenue in Astoria, Queens. Designed by Frank Chmelik, the modest, two-story Bohemian Hall was completed in 1911. From the very beginning, a collection of lots that adjoin the Hall were used as an outdoor gathering space.  In the 1930s, this land was donated to the Society and it was officially put to use as a beer garden.  During the first half of the century, the courtyard at Bohemian Hall was just one of many European-style picnic parks. Continue Reading>>