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Archive for February, 2010

Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, a Place that Matters

langston hughesLangston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Corona, Queens, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter because it houses the largest circulating Black Heritage reading collection in New York State. The facility was established as a result of local community efforts in the 1960s to form a community-controlled library and cultural center focusing on the history and needs of the African American community in the Corona neighborhood. The library originally opened in 1969 in a former Woolworth’s store on Northern Boulevard. According to its Place Matters nomination, the original location provided the library with a storefront presence and also served “as a reminder of an earlier moment in history [when] this Woolworth’s was the site of a local civil rights struggle to break the color barrier for hiring in Queens.” Opening just two years after Langston Hughes’ death, the library was the first public institution named for the poet. The library’s Black Heritage Reference Center has grown over the years to more than 40,000 volumes of materials “written by, about, for, with and related to Black Culture.” In addition, the library has a special collection of works by and about its namesake, including Hughes’ own published works, analyses of his work, and even musical settings composed by Hughes. Continue Reading>>

More Good News: Amtrak and NYS Make Moynihan Agreement Official

amtrakYesterday, Governor Paterson issued a press releaseannouncing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Amtrak. That document secures the agreement that Amtrak will operate the new intercity passenger station in the Farley Post Office, named Moynihan Station. This announcement comes on the heels of the announcement that the Moynihan Station project was awarded an $83 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. With that award, Phase 1 of the project is fully funded and work can begin this year. Of the agreement, Governor Paterson said, “Finally, the State will be able to embark upon phase one of this project, which is good news for our construction workers, good news for the State and good news for the thousands of passengers that crowd Penn Station on a daily basis.” Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, voiced strong support for the agreement. “Amtrak is the ideal tenant for the new Moynihan Station, which can be designed to support the needs of its intercity rail travelers. With roughly 25 percent of the nation’s Amtrak passengers passing through Penn Station at some point on their journey, the new station will provide the great gateway to New York City that was envisioned by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”

Moynihan Station Back in the Spotlight

moynihan station current frontAfter months of relatively little media attention, Moynihan Station is back in the spotlight after Senator Schumer’s announcement yesterday that the project has received $83.3 million from the federal government’s Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The money will be used to complete funding for Phase 1 of the project. However, judging from today’s headlines, some are still weary of the project’s future, while others see this development as the “light in the tunnel for the long-delayed Moynihan Station plan” (NY1). From the New York Times: Money for Moynihan Station, but Future’s Still Murky “The long-delayed plan to build a grand annex to Pennsylvania Station beside the existing underground warren received $83.3 million in federal stimulus funds on Tuesday. But the billion-dollar project’s long-term prospects remained decidedly murky.”

Green Light for Moynihan Station

Moynihan StationOne of the Municipal Art Society’s most urgent priorities for New York – the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office to Moynihan Station – took a significant step forward today, when US Senator Charles Schumer announcedthat the federal government will award $83 million in stimulus funds to begin the first phase of the project. MAS President Vin Cipolla welcomed the news. “With today’s announcement, the federal government is recognizing what the Municipal Art Society has long known, that the construction of a new train station is critical to the future economies of New York City and State. The new station will create construction jobs in the near term; improve the capacity of Penn Station and the whole Northeast Corridor; and, once complete, will be a catalyst for development on Manhattan’s far West Side,” he said. “It was more than a decade ago that the Municipal Art Society began working with Senator Moynihan to conceive of a new station that would reclaim Penn Station’s lost grandeur and create a great new gateway into New York City,” he continued. “By awarding Moynihan Station this grant, the federal government is not only achieving its goals of creating jobs and improving the nation’s rail infrastructure, but also helping to create a station that will make all New York proud.” Plans for Moynihan Station include the construction of a new train hall for Amtrak in the Farley Post Office, just across the street from Penn Station and over the same tracks. Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit will continue to operate in Penn Station, but will have greater capacity once the train hall is complete. With the announcement of the grant, Phase 1 of the project is fully funded at $270 million. Work in Phase 1 includes expanding the passageway below 33rd Street between Penn Station and Farley’s west end concourse, which will double their width, increasing capacity and providing access to subways and the new New Jersey Transit station. Two additional entrances into the Farley building on Eighth Avenue will be created. Other work includes improving safety by adding six new ventilation fan rooms as well as expanding egress. Phase 1 is expected to begin this year and last until 2015. The current plan for Moynihan Station places the highest priority on improving the station’s infrastructure and developing the civic spaces. With Amtrak agreeing the be the station’s primary tenant, the station will serve intercity rail passengers and alleviate crowding at Penn Station, which is operating at 100 percent over capacity. Penn Station is the nation’s most heavily trafficked gateway, with more than 640,000 people a day moving through its corridors. Read the statement from the Friends of Moynihan Station on their web site.

MAS Urbanists Visit Time Out Magazine

During a recent tour of Time Out New York‘s offices, the MAS Urbanists were invited to design the cover for an upcoming issue of the magazine. Check out the ideas they came up with below, and watch the slideshow from member Anita Aguilar. urbanist redesign time out magazine cover february 2011urbanist time out magazine spread february 2011

MAS and Design Trust Collaborate on Garment District Study

MAS has partnered with the Design Trust for Public Space to analyze the fashion industry’s presence in Manhattan’s Garment District. As the City begins to evaluate its policies for retaining garment manufacturing in Manhattan, the Design Trust and its fellows are investigating the fashion industry ecosystem of designers, patternmakers, wholesalers, and others to get a better understanding of its composition to help inform the debate. The MAS/Design Trust collaboration is an exciting new venture in which we will provide research support for the Design Trust’s Made in Midtown report and website launching in April. Additionally, MAS will host a series of programs this summer to publicize the report’s findings and shape this issue into a public discussion. Learn more about this project here.

A Broadway Closing We Can All Applaud

times square people chairsMAS is pleased at the City’s announcement today that the two portions of Broadway around Herald and Times squares closed to vehicular traffic since June of last year are to be made into permanent pedestrian plazas. The goal of the Department of Transportation (DOT) pilot program was to reduce travel times around Times Square and Herald Square by eliminating the congestion where Broadway meets Sixth and Seventh avenues. This goal was achieved in part, but other direct consequences of reclaiming these streets for pedestrians, including a 35 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries, and the creation of 2.5 acres of new public space in one of the city’s densest neighborhoods, are the most exciting outcomes. MAS welcomed the experiment when it was first announced last March as a great step towards creating improved, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, and we congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today on having taken this bold step. MAS President Vin Cipolla said, “Making these two new public plazas permanent fixtures of our streets is a fantastic achievement that promotes what Jane Jacobs called the ballet of the sidewalk — the unrehearsed choreography of people moving through the city. It will be of enormous lasting benefit to New Yorkers and the vitality of our city’s street life.” Originally, the City had discussed extending the closures of Broadway further to the south, but there seem to be no plans at the moment to do so. To read more about MAS’ advocacy on New York City streetscape issues click here.

Claremont Stables, A Place That Matters

claremont stables riding academyFor those who yen to ride horseback in Central Park but find themselves without a horse, Claremont Stables is a place that matters. The Claremont Stables, known now as the Claremont Riding Academy, is one of the few stables left in Manhattan and is the only one open to the public. Still in its original 1892 home at 175 West 89th St., Claremont is one of the last remnants of the time that horses were integral to the city’s functioning. A city landmark, the stables retain many original features, like the word “Claremont” chiseled in the frieze, and is a true survivor. Claremont navigated the transition from vital community facility to valued community resource, then, with community support, overcame a proposed urban renewal scheme. Recently renovated, it is now an Upper West Side institution. More information about the stables is available here.

Now Showing at the LPC: Coney Island’s Shore Theater

shore theater coney islandThis morning, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to “calendar” (the first step in the landmark designation process) the Shore Theater building in Coney Island.  MAS President Vin Cipolla said, “MAS has long advocated for the renewal of Coney Island, and the Shore Theater represents Coney Island’s distinct status as a recreation and amusement destination. The Landmarks Commission took a huge step today to ensure that this wonderful theater will play a role in Coney Island’s future.” During the Coney Island rezoning process, MAS recommended to the City that the area’s historic resources, like the Shore Theater, be protected, as they are key to a revitalized Coney Island.  The Shore Theater has long been one of Coney Island’s most striking buildings.  Opened in 1925 as the Coney Island Theatre and designed by noted theater architects, Reilly & Hall, the Shore Theater sat nearly 2,400 people in its auditorium and featured both live vaudeville shows and moving pictures.  Although it has long been vacant, if reinvigorated, the Shore Theater could present a unique opportunity for theater and other performance space in the amusement area. Continue Reading>>

New Yorkers Invited to Nominate 2010 Jane Jacobs Medal Candidates

MAS to administer awards program on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation

2009 Jane Jacobs Medal Recipients Richard Kahan (left) and Damaris Reyes (center) with Judith Rodin, Mary Schmidt Campbell, and George Campbell. The Rockefeller Foundation announced today that it is opening the public nominating process for the 2010 Jane Jacobs Medal — awarded to two living individuals whose creative vision for the urban environment has significantly contributed to the vibrancy and variety of New York City. Nominations can be submitted by anyone, but must be made by Monday, March 1, 2010. Nominations should be made online here. The Municipal Art Society is honored to again administer the Jane Jacobs Medal nomination process on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation, as we have done since 2007 when the Foundation first established the award to honor the activist, author and urbanist who died in April 2006 at the age of 89. MAS will also sponsor a series of walking tours and the annual Jane Jacobs Forum this fall to coincide with the medal presentations. Continue Reading>>

Gage & Tollner, a Place that Matters

gage tollnerThe former Gage & Tollner restaurant on Fulton Street near Brooklyn’s Borough Hall is now the most beautiful Arby’s in the world, thanks in large part to its designation as both an exterior and interior landmark. Gage & Tollner was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter because for over 100 years it “gave diners a taste of old Brooklyn”. Although Gage & Tollner closed in 2004, its Victorian interior remains intact and open to the public, now as home of Brooklyn’s first Arby’s. The restaurant that became Gage & Tollner was originally opened by Charles M. Gage in 1879.  When Gage partnered with Eugene Tollner a few years later, the restaurant was renamed for the two of them.  In 1892, Gage & Tollner moved from its original location near present-day Cadman Plaza to the 1870s Italianate row house at 372 Fulton Street. The building’s wooden Neo-Grec storefront, which is still intact, was likely added at this time. Gage & Tollner’s clientele were among Brooklyn and Manhattan’s elite, and throughout the next century, the restaurant was renowned for its food quality and excellent service.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1974 designation report for the building’s exterior refers to Gage & Tollner as “one of Brooklyn’s best known restaurants.” Continue Reading>>

MAS Announces 10th Annual MASterworks Jury and Calls for Nominations

standard hotel chelseaThe Municipal Art Society has convened a panel of renowned architects, developers and design experts to serve on its 2010 MASterworks Awards Committee. Launched in 2001, the MASterworks Awards celebrate new development in New York City by honoring excellence in architecture and urban design. The 2010 Awards Committee members are Vishaan Chakrabarti, Marc Holliday Professor, Columbia University GSAPP and Founding Principal, VCDC, Thomas Woltz, principal, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA, Toshiko Mori, Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and principal, Toshiko Mori Architect, and Alan Suna, developer and CEO, Silvercup Studios. Continue Reading>>