June 2012
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Archive for June, 2012

Preserving the Character of New York City’s Neighborhoods

New York is a city of neighborhoods. Our local grocery stores, coffee shops, dry cleaners, neighborhood restaurants define where we live and give our communities their singular identities.  In recent years, however, with the wave of big box development and new construction, there has been a palpable change in the character of many communities across the city. This change is especially acute on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Key thoroughfares like Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues and Broadway, once largely the domain of mom-and-pop retailers, have been overrun by chain stores, large residential lobbies and banks.  Put them all on the same block and you’ve created an uninviting streetscape, crowding out–and pricing out– the small businesses that were once the lifeblood of the community.

The City Council is scheduled to vote today on a proposal developed by the Department of City Planning, working closely with Upper West Siders and Council member Gale Brewer, to restrict the amount of space banks and building lobbies can occupy on the ground floor on the Upper West Side.  The zoning change would also require multiple stores to occupy larger development sites, instead of allowing one large store.  The proposal, if signed into law, would create streets that support a broader mix of retail options for which the Upper West Side, like many neighborhoods in the city, is well-known.

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Heating and Cooling the Henry Street Settlement

henry street heating cooling system

Recently we conducted a walkthrough at the Henry Street Settlement with Phil Steiner of AltieriSeborWieber consulting engineers to develop a game plan for the eventual replacement of the heating, ventilation and cooling systems. Our energy audits determined that the Settlement’s mechanical systems were inefficient and many of the offices were overheated, resulting in uncomfortable conditions for the staff. (video below).

Starting in the boiler room and ending on the roof, we inspected every space in the Settlement’s headquarter buildings, focusing on temperature spikes, air infiltration, radiators (both hot water and steam) and air conditioning.

The Henry Street Settlement was recently awarded a grant from the American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Partners in Preservation initiative which will help them continue this energy retrofit, and will allow the Settlement to update their heating and cooling systems and make their buildings more energy efficient overall.

Two MAS Projects Awarded Partners in Preservation Grants

The conservation of the “Rocket Thrower” sculpture and the energy retrofit at the Henry Street Settlement, both MAS partner projects, were awarded Partners in Preservation grants last week.  The projects were two of the 40 finalists of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Partners in Preservation in New York City initiative.

Partners in Preservation is a competition that solicits the input of the community, via social media, to provide preservation grants for local historic places. The program achieves its goal of increasing the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States while simultaneously preserving America’s historic and cultural places.

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MAS Announces 2012 MASterworks Winners

8 spruce

MAS is pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 MASterworks Awards.

New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street (Gehry & Partners for Forest City Ratner) has won the top honor, “Best New Building,” while “Best Restoration” goes to New York City Center (Ennead Architects).

“Best Neighborhood Catalyst” awards were given to the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College (Cooper, Robertson & Partners) and the Queens Central Library<: Children's Library Discovery Center (1100 Architect), with an honorable mention going to El Museo Del Barrio (Gruzen Samton).

A new category, “Best New Urban Amenity,” was created for Ateliers Jean Nouvel’s Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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NYU Plan Moves to City Council

nyu expansion plan debate

Last week, the City Planning Commission approved, with modifications, NYU’s plans to expand its campus in Greenwich Village. MAS has carefully monitored the University’s expansion plans as they’ve evolved over the past several years. We believe the Commission’s modifications are appropriate and in line with MAS’s recommendations but more changes to the plan are still necessary to ensure NYU expands in a responsible and responsive manner.

MAS recognizes the University’s critical need for space, however NYU’s development would add roughly 2 million square feet to two Greenwich Village area superblocks, forever changing the character of the neighborhood. This proposed redevelopment provides an opportunity to reimagine the superblocks to help knit them back into the surrounding grid, enhance the community’s access to much needed open space and ultimately result in a plan that supports the goals of NYU, its neighbors, and New York City as a whole.

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