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April 2010
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Archive for April, 2010

Preservation Community Celebrates 45th Anniversary of Landmarks Law

prospect-park-boathousePhoto: Prospect Park boathouse, Brooklyn. Just one of the many historic buildings protected under the New York landmarks law. Photo: Al Rabowitz Last week, MAS President Vin Cipolla joined a host of committed New York City preservationists, including Paul Goldberger, Anthony C. Wood, and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel in the landmark interior of the Four Seasons Restaurant to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the New York Landmarks Preservation Law. Enacted in 1965, with support from MAS, the law ensured that the historic character of New York City’s built environment would be protected with the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The New Yorker architectural critic and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Paul Goldberger reflected on the immense beneficial impact the Landmarks Preservation Law has had on the built environment of New York City, comparing the respective ages of the landmark Four Seasons Hotel (52 years) to that of the original Penn Station (also 52), when it was torn down immediately prior to the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Mr. Goldberger said, “Preservation assures us that the city will have the resonance, the layers of time always being visible, that we need it to to be a civilized place.” But, he said, New York should not become “some grotesque version of Williamsburg on the Hudson.” Continue Reading>>

Show Your Support for Moynihan Station at Tomorrow’s Hearing

madison square gardenThis Wednesday, April 28, the Moynihan Station Development Corporation (MSDC) is holding a hearing on the updated plans for Moynihan Station. They are seeking comments on two technical documents they released earlier this month, the Draft Amended General Project Plan and the Environmental Assessment. The two documents reflect how similar the project is to what was approved in 2006, and provide details on the few key differences. The project has now been broken down into manageable phases that are achievable (described below), and Amtrak is identified as the primary transportation tenant in the new station — something MAS and other civic groups have long advocated for. Phase 1, which consists largely of improvements below ground, will begin this year and be completed in 2015. This phase is fully funded and will result in improved circulation and greater access to platforms. The most visible part of this work will be two new entries into the Farley Post Office building, at street level on Eighth Avenue. Phase 2 consists of construction of the train hall in the Farley Post Office. Work will begin later than Phase 1, but, if everything goes well, could also be complete in 2015. The Train Hall has not yet been designed, but the recently-released documents describe it as, “A new, iconic, sky-lit train hall (including a grand concourse larger than Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse), constructed largely within original Farley’s courtyard, covered by a glass roofscape, with direct vertical access to train platforms below.” Phase 2 would also include private development within the Farley Post Office, which could be made up of retail and possibly a hotel. “This project is pivotal for New York City and the whole region. The work to improve circulation and access included in Phase 1 will provide much-needed breathing room for commuters who know how severely overcrowded Penn Station is now “, said MAS President Vin Cipolla.

Is the Second City First When it Comes to Beautiful and Sustainable Streetscapes?

indiana-14th-street chicagoPhoto: Landscaped medians, S. Indiana Ave. and 14th St., Chicago, IL Should streets be treated as places? How is the New York City Department of Transportation transforming our city streets? Will the entire city benefit? What are the possible economic benefits of this new holistic approach? As streets across the United States are being changed to accommodate the needs of all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, the old, the young, and car and truck drivers), this Thursday’s program, The Complete Street, will feature four exceptional presentations — including one from Janet Attarian, director of Streetscape & Sustainable Design Program, Chicago — on urban streets as they are and could be. In Chicago, melding complete streets and ecological design has resulted in sustainable changes both practical and pleasing, such as permeable pavers and landscaped medians that reduce storm water run-off while offering visual pleasure (see image above). Here in New York, bicycle paths have opened and sections of Broadway have closed to create pedestrian plazas, an experiment that will become permanent. What are the best practices in contemporary streetscapes? What are the challenges? How can improvements be funded and maintained? How can civic momentum be maintained from one administration to the next? Join us for an engaging discussion of the city streets of today and tomorrow. Continue Reading>>

Tonight’s Francis Morrone Lecture Postponed

We apologize for the short notice, but Francis Morrone’s lecture How the Architectural Walking Tour Built the Preservation Movement scheduled for tonight (Friday, 4/23) at 7:00 p.m. has had to be postponed because Mr. Morrone has severe laryngitis and has lost his voice. The lecture will be rescheduled and ticket holders will be contacted soon via email or phone and advised of the adjusted timing.

MAS Supports New Efforts To Decongest City’s Parks

street vendors at central parkPhoto: Central Park along Fifth Avenue by the N, R, W subway station The City’s Parks Department will hold an April 23 public hearing on a proposal to regulate the sale of “materials or objects with expressive content” — such as books, paintings, photographs and sculptures — in the City’s parks. The proposed rule will designate the number of specific locations where vendors of expressive material may sell their goods in four Manhattan parks: Battery Park, Union Square Park, the High Line Park, and heavily trafficked areas on Central Park. Vendors would not be restricted in less congested areas of Central Park. The rule also regulates vendors of expressive matter in other parks. MAS testified in favor of the measures, which should improve pedestrian flow and overall enjoyment of the parks, at this morning’s hearing. To read our testimony in full, click here. “Since its founding, MAS has been both an advocate for the arts and for limited commercial activity in our parks,” said President Vin Cipolla. “We are extremely sensitive to the needs of entrepreneurial artists who need to make a living, but we also want to make sure the needs of the greater public are considered.” Continue Reading>>

Jane’s Walks Honor Jacobs’ Legacy with Neighborhood Tours in Early May

janes-walk-2010In honor of the late activist and author Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walk USA — a non-profit that helps local citizens across America organize community walking tours — will be hosting a number of tours in New York City on May 1 and 2. Jane Jacobs believed strongly that local residents understand best how their neighborhood works, and what is needed to strengthen and improve them, so all Jane’s Walks are led by local people. Jane’s Walks are also all given for free. Events slated for New York City will include: the challenges facing the Columbia Street waterfront district of Brooklyn; little-known parts of Spanish Harlem; a Who’s Who tour of the Upper West Side; and a bicycle tour of Broadway led by urban critic and journalist Roberta Gratz. Continue Reading>>

Hudson North American Moving and Storage Company, A Place That Matters

Hudson North American moving and storage company, at 3229 Broadway (near 129th St.) in Manhattanville. You would never guess that Hudson’s was once a stable; housing horses, wagons, and milk delivery paraphernalia for the milk bottler and distributor, Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Company. Its distinguished appearance, with brick and terracotta façade, meant to convey an impression of hygiene and modernity in an era when tainted milk was a key cause of sickness and death for infants and children. Constructed in 1903, the building still retains features from its former life and was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Continue Reading>>

MAS Applauds NYC’s First “Green” Auction

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, MAS is supporting New York’s first “green” auction, which will promote awareness about conservation as well as raise funds for four prestigious environmental nonprofit organizations. On April 22, Christie’s will hold The Green Auction: A Bid To Save The Earth, featuring top celebrities, industry leaders, philanthropists and conservationists from around the globe. Funds raised from this silent and live auction will benefit Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Conservation International, and New York’s own Central Park Conservancy. Continue Reading>>

MAS Hits Awards Trifecta: Three Leaders to be Honored at Three Separate Events on April 19

Photo: Clockwise from top right: Tony Kiser, Hugh Hardy and Vin Cipolla (Photo: Jim Lafferty) The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is noted for its awards and prizes recognizing the excellence and achievements of individuals and organizations in the fields of urban design, historic preservation, architecture, and other cultural and artistic contributions that help make New York City more livable. But next week, MAS will itself receive some much-deserved recognition when three separate cultural groups in the city honor MAS leaders for their philanthropic and visionary work. In an extraordinary coincidence, all three will be feted at separate charitable events on the evening of Monday, April 19. Continue Reading>>

Founding Site of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids, A Place That Matters

The Founding Site of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids, a former Elks Lodge at 160 W. 129th St., between Lenox & 7th Aves., nominated by Bruce Kayton. In celebration of May Day — long associated with labor strikes and shows of worker power — we direct your attention to the place where the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded, in an event that the Amsterdam News called “the greatest labor mass meeting ever held of, for and by Negro working men.” On September 25, 1925, A. Philip Randolph called together 500 sleeping car porters in the local Elk’s Lodge of his Harlem neighborhood. On the stage, porters held a huge American flag and a brand new union banner, and on that day, a new union was born. The International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids was the first African-American union to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor. The union and Randolph also played an important role in the larger civil rights movement.

Join Us for “Light Fight” Tuesday, April 13

park lighting night eveningAhead of next Tuesday’s panel discussion Light Fight: What’s Effective, Sustainable & Affordable? in which she will feature as a panelist, internationally-renowned lighting designer Denise Fong talks to Tamara Coombs of MAS about the challenges and complexities of what is a fundamental issue of urban livability and public safety: street lighting. Selecting the best street lighting for the “City That Never Sleeps” might seem to be a straightforward task of choosing what costs least and illuminates most, but the question is more complicated. How do you factor in energy efficiency and sustainability? Do laboratory measurements of light sources accurately reflect the way light is perceived on the street? What are the advantages and disadvantages of high pressure sodium and metal halide lights? New York City is participating in a pilot project using LED-technology. Is LED technology the certain way of the future or does it have its own drawbacks? What choices have other cities made—and why?
Light Fight: What’s Effective, Sustainable & Affordable? Tuesday, April 13, 6:30–8:00 p.m. At French Institute Alliance Française, 22 E. 60th St. MAP $15, $10 MAS members. Please note that as of 4.30 p.m., Tuesday, April 13, pre-registration for this event is closed. You may show up at the event and pay at the door. Moderator: Randolph Sabedra, RS Lighting Design, chair, NYC public outreach committee, Illuminating Engineering Society New York City. Panel: Howard Brandston, Brandston Partnership, Inc.; Denise Fong IALD, LC, LEED AP, Candela, Seattle; Peter Morante, director of energy programs, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and, Margaret Newman AIA, LEED AP, chief of staff, DOT.

Are New York’s Streets Out of (Design) Control?

newsracks street disarrayOn Wednesday, April 7, MAS’ April panel and tour series New York’s Changing Streetscapes continues with architect and author of Twenty Minutes in Manhattan Michael Sorkin engaging an expert panel in a lively discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly of our city’s famous streetscapes. The panel, Are New York’s Streets Out of (Design) Control promises to be a fantastic opportunity to hear from people on all sides of the debate about the future of our city’s streets. Questions to be considered will include: Why are New York’s streets filled with the visual chaos of loud signs, tacky newsracks, graffiti–covered phones that don’t work and as many styles of street furniture as there are Business Improvement Districts?; Do other American cities do a better job?; Are we now heading in the right direction?; Do the NYC Street Design Manual, sleek bus shelters and award winning urbanSHED design signal a better future?; How do we learn from past mistakes and avoid turf battles?; And, what needs to happen next? Continue Reading>>