April 2014
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Archive for April, 2014

Congratulations to Julie Menin, Appointed Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs

Headshot - Julie Menin

The Municipal Art Society is proud to support Mayor de Blasio’s appointment of Julie Menin as Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Since joining the MAS Board in 2008, Julie has been a passionate advocate for our city and its citizens. Her strong business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and deep connections to neighborhood leaders, elected officials and civic stakeholders throughout the five boroughs will serve her—and our city—well in her new capacity as Commissioner.

We look forward to continuing our productive partnership with Julie as MAS’s own Committee for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) takes shape and works to support and sustain one of the strongest engines of the New York economy: start-ups and small businesses. In the meantime, we extend our sincere congratulations to Julie and to the Mayor on his inspired choice.


Creating Networks of Community Builders in Brownsville

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This past Saturday April 12, 2014, MAS kicked off its first Livable Neighborhoods Program in Brownsville. Grassroots organizers, and concerned citizens gathered at the Riverway Innovative Senior Center to gain knowledge and tools to advocate for improvements in Brownsville.

Starting off the day with a Community Planning 101 workshop, participants heard Christine Gaspar, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy about the basic tools for planning that are used in New York City. Following the first session, Transportation Alternatives, Jennifer Godzeno made a strong case for the need to advocate for improvements to streets and presented ideas on how to make the streets of Brownsville more livable.

The program will offer eight training workshops over four sessions. With a wide range of workshops to choose from, participants will be able to develop multi-faceted tools to improve their communities. Courses include: Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing, Advocating for Parks, Identifying Community Strengths and Addressing Vulnerabilities, How to Make it Happen, Historic Preservation and Neighborhoods Based Economic Development.

The MAS Livable Neighborhoods program will continue to provide community activists with the knowledge they need to effectively participate in decisions that impact the livability of their neighborhoods. Since Livable Neighborhoods started in 2006, we’ve provided hands-on training to over 1000 New Yorkers (including over one third of the city’s 59 community boards).

To learn more about Livable Neighborhoods, and future sessions that will be offered on April 26th, May 17th, and June 14th, visit mas.org/Brownsvillelnp.


MAS Defends Ladies’ Mile

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Before

On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, the Municipal Art Society testified before the Landmarks Preservation Commission against a pivotal Certificate of Appropriateness application to demolish two buildings at 51 and 53 West 19th Street within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District (see testimony here).

The proposal was to replace two buildings described in the 1989 historic district designation as “early 20th century commercial style” with a 14-story contemporary building. Smith-Miller & Hawkinson Architects maintained that the new structure would have a more positive effect on the historic district.

MAS believes these buildings are integral components of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. Built in 1854 and redesigned in 1924, their altered, vernacular style represents one of the area’s four major architectural development periods and embodies the history of smaller industry that proliferated along the side streets between 5th and 6th Avenues after the fashionable shopping district moved further uptown. Vernacular industrial and commercial buildings on the side streets, as well as avenue retail palaces, contribute to the area’s unique character. This remains the case despite the poor condition of the two buildings. MAS suggested that a more appropriate application would include restoration of these historic buildings with perhaps an addition.

Additionally, MAS is concerned that allowing the demolition of contributing buildings would establish a troubling precedent. The cumulative effect of demolishing low-scale historic buildings that contribute to the sense of place would forever change this and other historic districts.

After

After

Community Board 5, Historic Districts Council, The Society for the Architecture of the City, Flatiron Alliance, along with other preservation organizations, community representatives, and neighborhood residents expressed similar concerns in their testimony. The commissioners, voting against the proposal, stated that it was LPC’s obligation to protect contributing buildings in historic districts, and that there was no evidence that these buildings were beyond restoration. Chair Tierney and other commissioners reiterated that a historic district is not simply about individual style but a sense of place and that LPC is not charged with providing for the highest and best use of a site; they had not been persuaded that there was any justification for the demolition of 51 and 53 West 19th Street. Overall, most commended Mr. Smith-Miller on his thoughtful design and presentation, and said they would like seeing it built somewhere other than the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.


MAS Attends the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia

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This week the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) hosts its seventh World Urban Forum (WUF7) in Medellín, Colombia.  From April 5 – 11, 2014 nearly 25,000 urban practitioners from over 164 countries will participate in a series of lectures, roundtable discussions, exhibitions, and networking events seeking to examine the most pressing challenges facing our cities.  As part of the US delegation, the Municipal Art Society is participating in this year’s conference and hosting a session to forge new partnerships between city builders.  Hosted by MAS’s Global Network, Speed Dating for City Builders: Making Cities more livable and resilient provides an opportunity for urban practitioners to connect with our network partners in order to share common challenges, discuss new strategies and exchange knowledge concerning the resilience and livability of our cities.  The session will be hosted on Wednesday, April 7th and will include network partners from Bandung Creative City Forum, Commonwealth Association of Planners, the Grand Paris Alliance, The Nature of Cities, Penn Institute for Urban Research, African Planning Association, UN Habitat, The World Bank, and Architecture for Humanity.

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