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September 2009
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Archive for September, 2009

When Young People Talk…People Listen

youth neighborhood plannersMAS recently sat down with four young people from the Bronx and Brooklyn who are confronting neighborhood planning challenges head-on. Armed with information, enthusiasm and a supportive network of adults, these young people are taking the lead in addressing critical neighborhood issues. In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Caesar Alcaite and Celeste Del Brey (pictured at left) have been working with UPROSE, a community-based environmental justice organization. When they came to UPROSE, neither had much knowledge of environmental justice issues. However, after spending more time at the organization and working with youth organizers, these teens quickly learned that there is a connection between their local environment and their quality of life. Since coming to UPROSE these teens have developed strong leadership skills — reaching out to neighbors to inform them of local environmental concerns; helping middle school students map neighborhood assets and burdens; and leading neighborhood environmental justice tours for city officials, other youth groups, and most recently, a group of 50 Columbia University graduate planning students. Continue Reading>>

2009 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal

On Monday, October 26, the Municipal Art Society of New York will present its highest honor to two New Yorkers who have made extraordinary contributions to the city of New York. Peter L. Malkin and Robert A.M. Stern. The Medal is named for our former MAS board member as a tribute to her tireless efforts to protect New York’s great architecture. As the “voice for the future of our city,” MAS awards the Medal to individuals whose work and deeds have had an extraordinary impact on New York will continue to shape the city for years to come. Continue Reading>>

Re-Imagining Cities:
Urban Design After the Age of Oil

high lineRe-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil an exhibition co-sponsored by PennDesign opens at The Municipal Art Society of New York with a reception on Thursday, October 1, at 6:30 p.m. It stretches thinking about both sustainability and livability even further by boldly considering strategies from around the world. We New Yorkers can be provincial at times — this exhibition gives us an opportunity to glimpse what the rest of the world is doing in response to climate change and the complex movement toward increased urbanization. Join us for the opening reception, including a glass of local wine and sampling of canapés made from local foods. Limited space is now open to non-MAS members. Entry is free, but reservations are required. RSVP online or call Katie Skelly on 212-935-2075. MAP. The exhibition will be on display at MAS from Friday, October 2, through Friday, December 4. Click here for more information about MAS exhibits, including gallery hours.

Wrestling with Moses

perry street west village people crossing streetLast Monday evening, MAS welcomed Anthony Flint, author of the new book Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City, who gave an engaging lecture on the clash between these two influential figures. Flint portrays their battle as the ultimate David-and-Goliath story: Jacobs was the quirky “girl from Scranton” who shunned academics and would later turn down an honorary degree from Harvard. Moses was the “master builder” who graduated from Yale, continued his studies at Oxford, and returned from England with an affected English accent. He wielded his power through appointed positions, while she used savvy activism to mobilize the community and to court both the media and up-and-coming politicians like Ed Koch. Continue Reading>>

Where is Manhattan’s Largest Green Roof?

matt postal nytThis was a question tour leader Matt Postal asked about half-way through last Saturday’s Sustainable Design in Midtown walking tour. We were standing at the S.E. corner of 42nd St. and Sixth Ave., looking at skyscrapers in three directions, but the green roof was behind us — Bryant Park. In the early 1990s, 86 miles of underground book stacks were constructed behind the New York Public Library and underneath the park which was itself being redesigned and reconstructed. The rest of the stops on the tour were more expected. We began at The New York Times Building, which has a number of sustainable features, but didn’t try for LEED certification. (LEED is a green building certification process, which is time-consuming and can be costly.) The owners of The Times contend that they didn’t want to pay $100,000 for the honor. For other buildings, LEED status can be advantageous as proof of their commitment to sustainability. Continue Reading>>

NYT Editorial: New Plan is “Primarily a Transportation Project”

madison square gardenThe New York Timeseditorial board writes that the “general agreement” reached between Governor Paterson, Senator Charles Schumer and Amtrak indicates a “concrete step” on building Moynihan Station. They also describe how the plan, and priorities, have changed in a positive way; “Instead of an elaborate mix of shopping, housing, sports arena and, oh, yes, a railroad station, the new plan is a primarily a transportation project.” The complete editorial is reprinted below. Moynihan Station, Maybe Commuters who endure New York’s gloomy Pennsylvania Station could be forgiven for shrugging off the latest press conference about a splendid replacement finally in the works. For two decades, we have had these promises, often accompanied by exquisite architectural drawings and elaborate talking points. What may be different now is that there are no models and no razzle-dazzle, only an actual concrete step toward finally moving the station into the elegant old Farley Post Office. Senator Charles Schumer, Gov. David Paterson and Joe Boardman, Amtrak’s president and chief executive, announced this week that there is a “general agreement” that Amtrak will move its operation into the old Farley building. If that deal really happens, this is a major step forward. Almost 20 years ago, Amtrak agreed to be part of turning the Farley building into New York City’s prime railroad hub. If the station could be as grand as Washington’s Union Station, for example, it would add luster to the railroad experience. But after a decade, Amtrak pulled out of whatever deal was still on the table. If the new agreement with Amtrak stands, it means Mr. Schumer has helped assure the passenger railroad that it won’t lose revenue by moving its main operations into the post office. And it means the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Mr. Paterson’s people have adjusted the focus of the entire development. Instead of an elaborate mix of shopping, housing, sports arena and, oh, yes, a railroad station, the new plan is a primarily a transportation project. For that reason, the first step will be making the train and commuter traffic work better underground. This next stage would cost about $270 million and take up to five years as the engineers make it easier for passengers and trains to move through and around the area under the post office. That first phase would, we hope, make it possible to build the showy part above ground — the elegant, sunlit hall for passengers. Then, that station can finally be named for the man who championed the whole idea: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Read Moynihan Station, Maybe in the New York Times.

First Shearith Israel Graveyard,
A Place That Matters

first shearith israel graveyardIn September 1654, twenty-three Jews from Recife, Brazil, held Rosh Hashanah services in New Amsterdam, thereby founding the Congregation Shearith Israel. It remained the only Jewish congregation in New York City until 1825. The early Sephardic settlement (along with those of the Quakers, the French and the English) helped to foster cultural diversity and religious tolerance in New Netherland. Civil and religious liberties won by this small Jewish community were important not only for the development of New York City, but for the United States as a whole. One such liberty earned was the permission to buy a parcel of land for burial purposes, granted by order of the Director General and Council in February 1656. The First Shearith Israel Graveyard at St. James Place in Manhattan is the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in the country.  Many of those who had fought arduously for full political equality and the right to hold public office are buried there. (Until 1788, New York was the only colony to offer these rights to its Jewish citizens). Continue Reading>>

Tribute in Light® 2009

tribute-in-light-nyc-8-600x420Last Friday, on the eighth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, MAS contributing level members and higher joined MAS staff and directors to view the illumination of the Tribute in Light® from the downtown rooftop that houses the great battery of lights, accompanied by a brief lecture from architectural historian Francis Morrone on the tradition of using light as commemoration. Though the lights were partially obscured by low cloud and inclement weather, many of the images in the slideshow were taken during this year’s illumination. The Tribute in Light honors those who were lost on September 11, as well as those who worked so hard to get our city through its greatest trial. The idea for the lights was independently conceived by several artists and designers, who were brought together under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society and Creative Time. The Tribute in Light is now produced annually by the MAS on the September 11th anniversary. It was designed by John Bennett, Gustavo Bonevardi, Richard Nash Gould, Julian Laverdiere, Paul Myoda and lighting designer Paul Marantz. Tribute in Light is made possible by a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and with the generous assistance of Con Edison. To learn more about the history of the project and how it is put together annually, click here to watch a narrated slideshow.

Vin Cipolla Statement on the Future of Moynihan Station

moynihan station current frontToday, MAS President Vin Cipolla released a statement (below) regarding yesterday’s announcement by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Governor David A. Paterson and Amtrak president Joseph H. Boardman that an agreement has been made on the future development of Moynihan Station. “After a decade of starts and stops, the future looks brighter for Moynihan Station. The agreement reached by Amtrak, Governor Paterson and Senator Schumer is a critical step towards expanding and improving the nation’s busiest train station. The plans include moving many of Amtrak’s services into a new train hall that will be built in the James A. Farley Post Office, just across the street from Penn Station. While design details have not been released, the agreement furthers Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s vision for a grand work of civic architecture that stands as an inspiring gateway to New York City. With Amtrak as the primary tenant of the new hall, the station can be designed to support the needs of its intercity rail travelers. According to Amtrak, roughly 25% of the nation’s Amtrak passengers pass through Penn Station at some point on their journey. Continue Reading>>

This Wednesday: Parks, Plants and People with Lynden Miller

book parks-plants-peopleLynden Miller was a painter with a passion for plants when Betsy Rogers, as administrator of Central Park and head of the Central Park Conservatory, handed her an assignment: restore the Conservatory Garden at 105th St. and Fifth Ave. That was 1982, when that end of the park was often considered dangerous. In addition to restoring the garden, Lynden was also charged with raising the money to do it and finding a way to bring people back to it. The Conservatory Garden was the beginning of her career as a public garden designer. Gardens all over town followed, including those at Bryant, Wagner, and Madison Square parks. Now Lynden Miller has written a book, Parks, Plants and People, which tells others how public gardens can be created, including a resource directory on everything from the art of garden design to park advocacy and funding sources, plus a plant list of those she has found to be hardy, reliable and relatively low-maintenance. She dedicates the book to William H. Whyte, from whom she learned the elements of a successful public space. In addition to practical advice, Lynden Miller provides telling anecdotes. When a taxi driver dropping her at the Conservatory Garden in the early 1980s expressed concern for her safety, she invited him to accompany her into the partially restored garden, where the crab apples were in bloom. One down. This Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m., join us at the Municipal Art Society for an engaging and inspirational talk with Ms. Miller, buy an autographed book at a 25% discount, and talk with fellow urban garden lovers over a glass of something refreshing. $15, $10 MAS members. Reservations recommended. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-3960. MAP.

Moynihan Station Plans Get Green Light

moynihan stationAfter a decade of starts and stops, there may be hope that New Yorker’s may finally get the train station they deserve. Today Senator Charles E. Schumer, Governor David A. Paterson and Amtrak president Joseph H. Boardman announced that an agreement has been made on the development of Moynihan Station. The plans announced today include moving many of Amtrak’s services to a new train hall built in the James A. Farley Post Office, across the street from Penn Station. While no design details were released, the proposed plans could realize the dream of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to have an dignified and elegant new entry into New York. While the plans for the new train hall have been on the boards for years, it’s very good news that Amtrak will be the station’s tenant. The train hall can be designed to serve the needs of long range travelers, whose needs are different than commuters. The number of Amtrak travelers is large, and expected to increase. Pennsylvania Station is the busiest rail station in North America, with roughly 25% of all of the nation’s Amtrak passengers passing through Penn Station at some point on their journey.
Governor David Paterson said today, “I am extremely pleased to announce that an understanding has been reached between New York State and Amtrak on the future of Moynihan Station. New York City is the lynchpin of Amtrak’s service network in the Northeastern United States, and I welcome this long-term partnership with Amtrak to preserve and enhance the role of rail in New York State and across the region. This project has been a top priority of my Administration, and today is an important step toward delivering on its promise.” Senator Charles E. Schumer said: “This is a critical step forward in the effort to get the Moynihan Station back on track and keep it that way until it’s done. Amtrak has truly stepped up the plate here to make a commitment to Senator Moynihan’s vision to transform the Farley Post office in to a world class gateway to New York City.” Amtrak CEO and President Joe Boardman said: “This mutual understanding developed between the parties will the help lead to the development of a world-class passenger station for Amtrak service in New York City and commits all of us to the long-range task of expanding rail and terminal capacity so that Amtrak and the regional commuter operators can collectively meet the growing needs for passenger train service in New York and throughout the Northeast. The building of Moynihan Station will provide the grand entrance that this great city deserves.”
Coverage of the announcement : Read Amtrak Deal May Revive Moynihan Station in the New York Times. Read Moynihan Station Pact Reached, N.Y.’s Paterson Says , Read Manhattan’s Moynihan Amtrak station gets go-ahead in the Newsday (note the undated Getty rendering of the station).

MAS President Leads Economic Diversification Panel

nyc-londonThis morning, MAS President Vin Cipolla moderated a panel discussion considering how to diversify New York City’s traditionally finance-heavy economy in light of the ongoing global financial crisis. One of four major topics to be addressed at the conference Thinking Big, New York and London: Heading Back to the Top beginning today, the panel focused on issues germane to the economies of both these cities, including: what urban governments can do to encourage start-up ventures and emerging industries; what the implications are of slowing real estate development; how to sustain cutting-edge arts-based creative economies and niche manufacturing in a future of increasingly high costs; and what the role of landmarks and historic preservation is in that future. Continue Reading>>