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June 2009
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Archive for June, 2009

Prospect Heights: The Making of a Historic District

Last week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the 850-building Prospect Heights Historic District, the largest district designated in two decades. MAS made a video about the process of creating the historic district, featuring Councilmember Letitia James, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert B. Tierney, historian Francis Morrone, and Gib Veconi of Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), and showing how we worked with PHNDC to survey the historic buildings and promote the area for designation. The result was not just the designation, the act of engaging residents in the process brought the community together and provided a new sense of neighborhood identity. Continue Reading>>

2009 Jane Jacobs Medal Recipients Announced

The Rockfeller Foundation announced today that the recipients of the 2009 Jane Jacobs Medal are Richard Kahan and Damaris Reyes. The medal, which is administered by the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), was created in 2007 to honor the author and activist who died in April 2006. It is awarded annually to two New Yorkers whose work creates new ways of seeing and understanding the city. Founder and CEO of the Urban Assembly, Richard Kahan is a former President of the New York State Urban Development Corporation and former Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority. Since 1999, the Urban Assembly has created, and now manages, 22 public secondary schools located, by design, in many of the lowest income neighborhoods in New York. Mr. Kahan will receive the 2009 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership. Continue Reading>>

10 Architectural Walks in Manhattan:
25% Off Today Only

Visit the MAS bookstore, Urban Center Books, today and purchase your copy of the new book The Municipal Art Society of New York – 10 Architectural Walks in Manhattan and receive a 25% discount on the regular retail price of $29.95. This offer is for one day only and is not available online. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, the book is a detailed, engaging, and lavishly illustrated guidebook to ten of the city’s most compelling districts. Francis Morrone and Matthew A. Postal, preeminent MAS guides with over 10 years experience leading visitors to all parts of the city, serve as your leaders as you navigate the city on foot. The bookstore is located at 457 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, and is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; and Saturday: 12:00 – 5:30 p.m. For more information about the book, visit

MAS Applauds Prospect Heights Historic District Designation

191 sterling in prospect heightsToday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Prospect Heights Historic District. At 850 buildings, it is the largest historic district designated in two decades. “MAS applauds the Landmarks Preservation Commission for moving to protect this very special neighborhood,” said Lisa Kersavage, senior director of advocacy and policy for the Municipal Art Society. “This is an important act that will protect one of Brooklyn’s finest and well-preserved historic neighborhoods. Designation will protect the neighborhood from pressure from the Atlantic Yards project and other developments.” Prospect Heights is rich in historic architecture, with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings. Continue Reading>>

It’s Raining Landmarks at the LPC

The Landmarks Preservation Commission agenda is packed today with numerous worthy designation items. Check out our slideshow below of the items being calendared, heard, and designated today. MAS is particularly pleased with the proposed designation of the Prospect Heights Historic District in Brooklyn. For nearly three years, the MAS has worked closely with community members, elected officials and the LPC towards protecting the unique character of this largely intact neighborhood with landmark designation for over 800 buildings. Click here to read more about its history. Continue Reading>>

Increased Capacity Equals Stronger Communities

In mid-May, MAS hosted the third annual Livable Neighborhoods Program (LNP) at Hunter College. This year, the program, which offers free training to grassroots community-based planners and community board members, reached new heights having its highest turnout ever. Nearly 150 residents from all five boroughs joined us for a full day of training in topics ranging from community organizing to using data and maps to zoning. See a slideshow below. Launched in 2007, with generous support from the Altman Foundation and the Mizhuo USA Foundation of the Mizuho Corporate Bank, the LNP continues to help New Yorkers access the tools and resources needed to effectively plan for their neighborhoods. To learn more about the Livable Neighborhoods Program, contact Sideya Sherman at [AFG_gallery id=’22’]

The Amato Opera, A Place that Matters

amato operaThe Amato Opera, which closed its doors on May 31st 2009, may have been called the “world’s smallest opera house,” but it was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for having a huge impact on opera in New York. For over 60 years, the modest company located at 319 Bowery in the East Village provided inexpensive tickets to both opera-lovers and many first-time viewers. And more importantly, like CBGBs, another lost institution on the Bowery, the Amato Opera was a popular showcase where upcoming and amateur performers could earn their chops. The opera company was founded in 1948 by husband and wife team, Sally and Tony Amato, just three years after they married. It opened with a performance of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” staged in the auditorium of Our Lady of Pompeii Church. By 1962 the company had moved to its third and final home on the Bowery. From the beginning, the Amatos had a hand in every aspect of each production – from Tony’s stage direction and lighting schemes, to Sally’s costume and set design. In addition to the familial atmosphere the couple created, with only 107 seats, the small theater offered matchless intimacy, all but eliminating the line between the audience and the performers. Continue Reading>>

Heavy Rain, Neglect Cause Partial Collapse of One Admiral’s Row Building

admirals row front The rain has done more than just ruin our weekend plans recently.  Late this week it led to the partial collapse of one of the Admiral’s Row buildings near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Quarters C, seen in the right in this picture, was originally constructed prior to 1859 and is the second-oldest of all of the houses on the site.  It was altered with a mansard roof in the 1880s when Quarters H (pictured on the left) was built adjoining it.  MAS had known that Quarters C, unlike the vast majority of the other Admrial’s Row buildings, had major structural problems due to a fire, but we are disappointed that the National Guard, which owns the site, had not secured the buildings better to protect them from further damage from the elements. Thankfully, the New York City Fire Department determined that the remaining portion of Quarters C does not have to be demolished at this time. MAS is calling on the National Guard to make necessary repairs to stabilize the nineteenth century structures as the process deciding the buildings’ future moves forward.  It was recently announced that the National Guard may only require the retention of Quarters A and the Timber Shed.  Nonetheless, MAS is still advocating to save more, and hopefully all, of the significant buildings on the site.  MAS believes that as the owner of the site, the National Guard needs to ensure that the abandoned buildings do not deteriorate any further. For more information on Admiral’s Row and the efforts to preserve the buildings, watch this video. You can also write to the National Guard urging them to make all necessary repairs and do all necessary stabilization work in order to protect the buildings from further decay

Concrete Plant Park Tour This Saturday

concrete plant park bronx river greenwayJoin tour leader Alexis Torres-Fleming and her colleagues from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPG) this Saturday (June 20th) for a tour of Concrete Plant Park and adjacent areas of the South Bronx. The tour is really a window into the enormous challenges and impressive successes to be found in this section of the South Bronx. Here, dedicated residents have fought for environmental justice and a concrete plant ruin has become a beautiful park, designed with the help of the community. Saturday, June 20, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Concrete Plant Park and the Blooming Bronx Meet at YMPJ, 1384 Stratford Avenue, Bronx. (Transit: #6 train to Morrison/Sound View Ave., walk one block West to Stratford Ave., then North to YMPJ). $15, $10 MAS members. Please walk-up and pay. Tour will go ahead rain or shine. MAP.

Still Walking After All These Years

MAS originated the architectural walking tour in New York City in 1956 and we’re still at it — last year, more than 10,000 people participated in MAS tours. Now, we’ve published The Municipal Art Society of New York – 10 Architectural Walks in Manhattan (W.W. Norton & Company), a detailed, engaging, and lavishly illustrated guidebook to ten of the city’s most compelling districts. Francis Morrone and Matthew A. Postal, preeminent MAS guides with over 10 years experience leading visitors to all parts of the city, serve as your leaders as you navigate the city on foot. Can’t read maps? No sense of direction? Don’t worry – the book is filled with intuitive, easy to follow directions of recognizable landmarks, clear maps, and more than 200 color photographs by Edward A. Toran, to ensure that you never confuse your chapels or misname your buildings. Continue Reading>>

Make a Map! now links you directly to the City’s newest mapping resource: NYCityMap. Brought to you by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DOITT), the new map features a much expanded selection of data, aerial photos, and much more. You can search by address, block and lot, or intersection. To help learn to navigate this new tool, click here for a step-by-step training guide, or contact Sideya Sherman at the MAS Planning Center or for assistance and upcoming trainings.

2009 MASterwork Awards Celebrated at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design was the setting for the 2009 MASterwork Awards ceremony. The outstanding renovation/adaptive reuse of the Center was an exciting backdrop for honoring this year’s winners. Bob Kerry, President of the New School gave some welcoming remarks which were followed by the ceremony.  The video above captures the essence of each winner. Each year, the Municipal Art Society honors the year’s top building projects for their excellence in architecture and urban design, and their contribution to New York’s built environment. For more information, visit