January 2010
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Archive for January, 2010

Chinatown’s Vision: A Uniquely Diverse Approach to Community-Based Planning

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Last month, Chinatown’s neighborhood advocates placed a strong vote of confidence in the power of proactive community planning. The Chinatown Working Group — comprising over 40 community-based organizations and three community boards — has been meeting for over a year to hash out the issues that matter most to the people who live, work, and go to school in the neighborhood. The MAS Planning Center provided support to the Working Group process early on by providing area maps and timely information on community-initiated planning.

The group voted to pursue a 197-a plan—one of the City’s most comprehensive planning tools. Named for the section of the City’s Charter that enables them, 197-a plans provide a way to capture a community vision and translate that vision into policies and strategies. The Chinatown Working Group has already begun work identifying themes and principles that will guide their work over the coming year.

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New York City Unveils New Design for Sidewalk Sheds

In late October 2009, we reported that the Department of Buildings and the AIA New York Chapter had teamed up with an array of other civic organizations to organize an international design competition to re-imagine the maligned sidewalk construction shed. Yesterday, the city announced that a winning design has been chosen from three finalists.

The winning design, chosen by a jury including MAS Chairman David Childs, is titled Urban Umbrella and was developed by Young-Hwan Choi, a 28-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania. His design will improve quality of life, reduce construction impacts on businesses, increase pedestrian safety, and increase available space for pedestrians on sidewalks, while also complimenting the city’s architectural beauty.

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Westbeth, A Place That Matters

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Westbeth was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for both its past role as the home of Bell Laboratories and its current role as a thriving artists’ housing project. Occupying the entire block bounded by West, Bank, Washington, and Bethune Streets, Westbeth is a remnant from the time when the Greenwich Village waterfront was an industrial neighborhood and is an early example of the rebirth of industrial spaces for artists’ live-work housing.

The Bell Laboratories, originally known as Western Electric and part of the larger American Telegraph & Telephone Company (AT&T), moved its headquarters to a newly-constructed building on West and Bethune Streets in 1898.  Over the years, the company expanded on the block while developing some of the most important technological advances of the first half of the twentieth century. These include the transistor, the transmission for both black and white and color television, high fidelity recording, “talkie” movies, the transoceanic telephone cable, and lasers, among many others.  In 1966, Bell Laboratories relocated its facilities to New Jersey, leaving the New York City complex vacant.

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