November 2010
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Archive for November, 2010

Livable Neighborhoods Program Training

Livable Neighborhoods Program Training at Pratt Institute, November 13, 2010

On Saturday November 13th, Pratt students and local residents came together for an afternoon of training on local planning issues. Hosted by MAS, in collaboration with Pratt Institute’s Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development, this semi-annual Livable Neighborhoods training provides incoming students and area residents with an opportunity to connect and learn how to participate more effectively in New York City’s planning process. With facilitators from MAS, Pratt and the Department of City Planning, participants received timely information on topics ranging from zoning, to 197-A planning, to economic development.

Since 2007, Livable Neighborhoods has provided hands-on training to over 600 New Yorkers (including over one third of the city’s 59 community boards). Our next citywide training will take place this spring at Hunter College.

Just How Walkable (or Rollable) is New York City? 2010 Jane Jacobs Forum Recap

Jane Jacobs Forum 2010: The Walkable (& Rollable City) - Photo by Giles Ashford

Walking and rolling took center stage at this year’s MAS Jane Jacobs Forum, as we considered these forms of transportation that are so often overlooked.

MAS president Vin Cipolla opened the evening by pointing out that more people walk to work in New York City (9.2%) than in any other major U.S. city. But, Nicholas Turner, a managing director at the Rockefeller Foundation, noted that walking is not even classified as transportation at the federal level—walking is considered merely an “enhancement.” This is especially surprising since, as tour leader and panelist Francis Morrone commented, “It’s only very recently in human history that we’ve been transported by other means than walking.”

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MAS On NYU’s Decision Not To Build on Landmarked Site

Silver Towers - Photo by davem_330 via Flickr

New York University announced last week that it was abandoning plans to add a 38-story tower to its landmarked Silver Towers complex, designed by I. M. Pei. The proposed tower was part of the university’s 20-year expansion plan, NYU 2031, which seeks to add six million square feet of campus space throughout the city.

MAS Chairman David Childs said, “NYU’s plan for growth has implications for our entire city. A vibrant, viable New York needs the creative and intellectual capital that universities provide. It also needs to ensure that residents have a voice in how our communities are developed. NYU has demonstrated a willingness to work with and listen to opposing voices as it plans for its future. MAS urges robust debate, and our board plans to participate in this very crucial conversation for our city.”

“NYU’s decision to withdraw its application to build on the Silver Towers site is prudent,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla. “The controversy surrounding this one proposed building drew attention away from the more significant issue – balancing the legitimate needs of the university to expand with the community’s legitimate concerns about that expansion. MAS intends to weigh in on that issue in the coming months.”

Lessons Learned at the Conference on Preservation and Climate Change


Two themes emerged during the MAS Conference on Preservation and Climate Change in New York City on October 16: there is a substantial amount of common ground between the goals of preservation and sustainability, but it is largely unrecognized; and the preservation community needs to be much more actively engaged in shaping green building and sustainability policies. Over 200 architects, planners, preservationists, local and national policy makers, and students participated in the conference, which was co-sponsored by MAS and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

One of the conference’s many highlights was a keynote presentation by David Bragdon, the newly-appointed Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. He began his keynote on PlaNYC by describing the inherent sustainability of preservation. Other speakers included a scientist discussing how climate change will impact the city’s infrastructure and historic buildings, architects sharing case studies in energy retrofits to landmarks and policy makers discussing how the goals of preservation and LEED can be better integrated.

Star Gazing in Grand Central

Grand Central Terminal ceiling thumbnail - Photo by Lisa McGee via Flickr/lambatofa

On Monday, the stars in Grand Central Terminal’s sky ceiling were once again shining. For several months, electricians have been installing energy efficient LED lights, which are now burning bright, just in time for the holiday season. Having helped save Grand Central Terminal in the 1970s, we at MAS are particularly pleased that the mural designed by J. Monroe Hewlett in 1913, has not only been preserved, but also updated with the latest efficient technology available.

Originally, the mural depicting the zodiac used incandescent bulbs to light the 59 largest stars in the constellation, but changing the bulbs in the 125-foot ceiling proved to be a difficult, and labor intensive, feat. When the mural was restored in 1997, a fiber optic lighting system was put in place, but within ten years, many of those lights had dimmed or faded out.

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