July 2009
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Archive for July, 2009

History and Weather Combine for an Illuminating MAS Boat Tour

On Wednesday night, 300 courageous souls boarded the Circle Line for the MAS Annual Boat Tour, braving wind, rain, and ominous darkness. In honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage, the boat tour featured the upper Manhattan and Bronx sections of the mighty Hudson River. Architectural historian and MAS tour guide Francis Morrone expounded upon many architectural jewels of this stretch of the Hudson, including the Wave Hill, in the Bronx, the George Washington Bridge, and the magnificent 1904 IRT Powerhouse, which the Landmarks Preservation Commission is currently considering landmarking after much urging from MAS.

Mr. Morrone also pointed out the spire of the Cloisters, reveling in the thought that its outstanding location and unadulterated view of Palisades were solely the result of the patronage of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Firth Haring Fabend, an expert on the history of Dutch settlement in New York City, chimed in reminding passengers that the Rockefellers are proudly of Dutch origin and have made many other architectural and land-conservation contributions to the upper reaches of the Hudson River.

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Gantry Plaza State Park, a Place that Matters

Directly across the East River from the United Nations, Gantry Plaza State Park has stunning views of Manhattan, but it was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for its main attraction: restored gantry cranes. Now dramatic industrial sculptures, these gantries were the nexus for providing goods and supplies to Long Island via the Long Island Rail Road tracks that used to run to the water’s edge. Built in the 1920s, the gantries hoisted rail cars from floats and barges onto land and vice versa, opening up the Long Island waterfront for industrial activity and inland for residential communities.

But the gantries are just one feature that pays homage to the Long Island City waterfront’s industrial past, which is quickly giving way to residential buildings. The Long Island City waterfront was originally a site for tanneries and other factories, including the Pepsico bottling plant in Hunters Point. The iconic ruby-red Pepsi Cola sign was dismantled late in 2008 to be re-situated further north in the newest section of Gantry Plaza State Park, which just opened July 1, 2009.

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Frances Goldin Receives 2009 Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award

“A renewal effort has to be conceived as a process of building on the inherent social and economic values of the community. Neglecting these values through programs of massive clearance and redevelopment can disrupt an entire community.”

These words could easily have been written by South Bronx activist Yolanda Garcia. In the early 1990s, she founded an organization known as We Stay/Nos Quedamos, and led a movement of residents who wanted to remain in their neighborhood despite the City’s plan to redevelop it with low-density, mixed-income housing.  They created an alternative plan for affordable housing development at Melrose Commons that is still being implemented today.

However, the words above are actually the opening statement of the Cooper Square Alternate Plan, written in 1961 by a group of activists from the Lower East Side, including Frances Goldin. Known as the Cooper Square Committee, they opposed Robert Moses’ urban renewal plan to demolish and redevelop more than 2,500 housing units in their neighborhood.

On July 13, the Municipal Art Society celebrated the kindred spirits of these two community activists by presenting the annual Yolanda Garcia Community Planner (YGCP) Award to Ms. Goldin.

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James Ames Provides a New York City Legacy

James Ames was like so many of our steadfast MAS members: he came to many events, he supported our advocacy work and he renewed his membership every year. Mr. Ames was an MAS member for well over thirty years and he remained a loyal member until his death in 2008.

MAS was honored to learn recently that Mr. Ames had left a bequest to MAS: a generous, unrestricted gift of $20,000. “Everything will go to the programs he enjoyed, from advocacy efforts to public activities,” says James S.J. Liao, MAS Vice-President for Finance and Administration.

Born in the Bronx in 1926, Ames was a lifelong New Yorker who remained an active and involved resident of the city for his entire life. He worked for over four decades for the City as an engineer for the Department of Environmental Protection. He lived in Jackson Heights, within a historic district, and was active in the Catholic Church there.

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MAS Calls for Admiral’s Row Stabilization as Navy Yard Releases RFP

quarters b brooklyn navy yard historic photo

MAS and our colleague preservation groups are urging the National Guard Bureau, the owner of the Admiral’s Row site in Brooklyn, to undertake emergency stabilization work on the site’s ten historic houses and the timber shed. Abandoned for close to 40 years, the houses have suffered neglect and many of them are not protected from the elements.During this summer’s particularly rainy June, one of the houses, Quarters C, partially collapsed. Since then, no actions have been taken by the National Guard to prevent further deterioration of the remaining buildings.

The stabilization of the buildings has become more critical as the federal historic preservation review process has been delayed by several months to allow the Brooklyn Navy Yard (the likely purchaser of the site) to release its RFP for the site’s redevelopment. The RFP requires the retention of just two of the historic buildings on the site, Quarters B and the timber shed, as well as the construction of a supermarket of at least 40,000 sq. ft., additional neighborhood retail space, an employment center for the Navy Yard, and parking for the grocery store and retail.

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