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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. Continue Reading>>

MAS Boat Tour Sails Along the Historic Hudson Tonight, Rain or Shine

hudson river boat view from new jerseyTonight, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage, we are heading up the river that bears his name. A limited number of tickets are still available ($75, $50 MAS members), but advanced sales are now closed. Please show up at Pier 83, at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue (MAP) to buy your tickets. Please note: The Circle Line boat will sail on time at 6:00 p.m., rain or shine. To ensure that you are boarded in good time, we recommend that you arrive at Pier 83 (at 42nd St. & 12th Ave.) by 5:30 p.m. if you purchased tickets in advance — and earlier if you need to buy them on-site — as we cannot delay departure for late-comers. Those who purchased your ticket/s online in advance, please remember to bring your e-mail receipt with you: it is your ticket. If you reserved over the phone, please check-in at the desk (look for the yellow balloons) to obtain your ticket before trying to board. You may bring a picnic supper with you, though food and beverages, including wine and beer, are available for purchase on board. Guests are not permitted to bring their own alcoholic beverages. Please call Katie Skelly on 212 935 2075 before 4:00 p.m. today (July 29) with any questions.

Full City Council to Vote on Coney Wednesday; Negotiations for Expanding Open-Air Amusement Area Ongoing

“I have been actively discussing this [expanding the area available for open-air amusements] with the administration. Those discussions have been fruitful and are ongoing. I hope that by the time the entire City Council votes on this plan, on July 29th, I will have great news for everyone.”New York City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. MAS believes that Coney Island has extraordinary potential and we strongly support the City’s goals towards revitalizing it. Over the past year, we commissioned an economic study; convened a charrette (an intense design workshop) of entertainment experts; held an call for ideas; held numerous public meetings and workshops; and submitted extensive testimony and a massing study to the City. Continue Reading>>

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. Continue Reading>>

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.  Continue Reading>>

Join Us on the Historic Hudson for the 18th Annual Boat Tour

In honor of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage, we are heading up the river that bears his name next Wednesday on the 18th MAS Annual Boat Tour. We’ll learn about the changing fortunes and some ongoing struggles concerning the river and its shoreline, as well as the storied past and present of the region. Early on, we’ll enjoy commentary by the inimitable Francis Morrone to accompany views of the buildings and parks lining the Upper West Side. Beyond Manhattan, we will continue with the Palisades to our port side and Spuyten Duyvil and Yonkers on the starboard, as we listen to historian and novelist Firth Haring Fabend talk of Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley and what they left behind. We’ll return as the sun goes down, sailing under the George Washington Bridge (and by the Little Red Lighthouse) and arriving back in Midtown as the streetlights come on.

18th MAS Annual Boat Tour: Along the Historic Hudson – New York Past and Present

Wednesday, July 29, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., at Pier 83, 42nd St. and 12th Ave., New York MAP The Circle Line Boat leaves promptly at 6:00 p.m., rain or shine. $75, $50 MAS members. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075. Join MAS now and save on the boat tour and on MAS walking tours and programs throughout the year.

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. Continue Reading>>

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

quarters b brooklyn navy yard historic photoMAS 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. Continue Reading>>

City Council Poised to Vote on Coney

cyclone coney island brooklyn

Credit: Jasper Goldman

The City Council is poised to vote on the City’s plan to rezone and revitalize Coney Island. MAS believes that Coney Island has extraordinary potential and we strongly support the city’s goals toward revitalizing it. Over the past year, MAS has been exploring how Coney Island – once the World’s Playground – can be revitalized. We commissioned an economic study; convened a charrette (an intense design workshop) of entertainment experts; held an call for ideas; held numerous public meetings and workshops; and submitted extensive testimony and a massing study to the City. (keep reading to learn what you can do). Continue Reading>>

MAS Reaches 501 Fans on Facebook

These days, you don’t have to visit the MAS website to get our latest news — the news can come to you. And, earlier this year, we invited our website readers to engage and connect with MAS news through the social medium of their choice — RSS feed, Twitter or Facebook — and you responded. Not only are we receiving more traffic than ever on our website MAS.org, but we now have nearly 300 followers on Twitter, more 400 people receiving our feed daily, and today we reached 501 fans on our Facebook page. We’re delighted that so many of you have subscribed, and we would love you to tell your friends about MAS and encourage them to sign-up for more information. If you’re already among our Facebook fans, Twitter followers, feed readers, or our regular website visitors, please consider becoming a MAS member. Membership levels start at just $50 a year and include reduced prices on all of our award-winning exhibitions, programs, panel discussions, walking tours, and special events. You’ll also get a free subscription to our quarterly newsletter and a 10% discount at the renowned Urban Center Books. Most importantly, you’ll become a vital part of our 116-year effort to promote intelligent urban planning, design and preservation through education, dialogue and advocacy.

Remembering Robert Isabell

Last week, MAS lost a friend and long-time collaborator with the sudden death of event designer Robert Isabell. Since 1983, when then Chairman Stephen Swid introduced him to MAS to work on a dinner at the Four Seasons honoring Philip Johnson, Robert designed all but one of MAS’s annual galas. “The one time we tried another designer, the party was terrible,” said Mr. Swid, “The next year we went back to Robert, and never stopped using him. He was the one of the most creative event designers New York has seen.” In partnership with Robert, MAS established a tradition of holding its benefit every year in an unusual and unique venue — a practice which, without him, we could never have successfully carried out. Together with Robert, MAS could pursue sites as distinctive as the top floor of the then unoccupied McGraw Hill building when we honored Hell’s Kitchen native Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1992. Continue Reading>>

MAS Announces Winners of 2009 Awards at Annual Meeting

MAS announced the winners of its Annual Awards honoring individuals and groups that help define the character of New York City at its annual meeting earlier this week at the Chelsea Art Museum. This year’s awards were highlighted by the Brooklyn Flea, the flea market that is becoming an essential weekend activity for all New Yorkers and IRT: A Tragedy in Three Stations, an original play that actually takes place in the subway. This year’s award-winners also included the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival; Sustainable Streets Strategic Plan for the New York City Department of Transportation 2008 and Beyond; and the Center for New York City Law. “It is an honor for us to be able to recognize all of these unsung heroes and institutions that contribute to New York City’s greatness and we are privileged to do so every year,” said Vin Cipolla, president of MAS. Continue Reading>>