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Archive for May, 2014

MAS Resilience Practitioners Join Forces with NYC’s Technology Entrepreneurs


A community that thrives on disruption, New York City’s Tech Entrepreneurs have a lot of contribute to the resilience scene.  On Thursday, May 15 the Municipal Art Society hosted its Resilience Roundtable at the Urban Future Lab in Brooklyn, bringing together practitioners at the forefront of NYC’s resilience challenges with practitioners leading the charge on technology entrepreneurship, to discuss how we can Engage the Tech Community in Resilience Building.

The main principles held by the tech community – accessibility and openness, diversity, innovation and exchange – provide entrepreneurs in this community with the tools necessary to address a wide range of social, political, and economic challenges in our cities.  With more than 291,000 jobs in the city’s tech ecosystem, it is a growing industry with the capital and resources to make effective change happen.  Those in power at the City level recognize the value of cultivating this industry in New York City.  Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a $10 million “Tech Talent Pipeline” to train New Yorkers for tech-related jobs.  The New York Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has sponsored the BigApps competition to empower individuals in the tech, design and business industries to build an app, device or data tool that addresses the city’s toughest challenges.  They also initiated a competition specifically focused on identifying and deploying creative new technologies and solutions to make NYC businesses more resilient to the impacts of future storms and the effects of climate change, called RISE:NYC . Even those embedded within the tech community recognize the power they have to impact social change, with organizations such as Significance Labs bringing together ‘technology’s brightest minds’ to design ‘high-impact products for low-income Americans.’

With the plethora of challenges Sandy both highlighted and created, there is a significant need to encourage the tech community to turn their attention towards resilience.  At the roundtable we heard from entrepreneurs working at the forefront to improve the energy industry, facilitate a sharing economy, and provide open and accessible data and information.  Organized in partnership with the Urban Future Lab and NYC Acre, the following innovators shared their web products and services:

A discussion followed around the challenges to our city’s resilience and how new technologies and innovations could address them.  Various themes emerged, including the need to create matchmaking services between entrepreneurs and those in need, providing education and institutional knowledge to improve the capacity to respond to events and create new jobs in the resilience field, and to develop  connective tissue that pulls together community members and diverse professionals to encourage collaboration.

MAS’s Global Network is doing just that.  By connecting innovators working on granular interventions in their communities around the world, we are creating an exchange of ideas and strategies to address the world’s urban challenges.  At MAS, we know that resilience requires an ‘All Hands on Deck’ approach that engages all disciplines and community members in resilience building.  Bearing this in mind, our global network includes artists in Bandung, urban ecologists in NYC, information and communication technology specialist from The Hague, entrepreneurs focusing on the sharing economy in San Francisco, and more.  By bridging connections between disciplines – arts and the economy, the natural and built environment, technology and the public realm – a holistic strategy to addressing urban challenges can be assembled and new innovations emerge.  As New York City continues to address its challenges from Sandy, opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, including the tech community, are spurring new improvements and advancements to make New York City a model for resilience around the globe.

Congratulations to Raju Mann

Raju Mann

MAS congratulates Raju Mann on his appointment as New York City Council’s new land use director. As Director of Planning and Policy at MAS, Raju was instrumental in helping shape MAS’s positions on some of New York’s most challenging policy questions. From our work in rethinking the future of East Midtown to our campaign for a new Penn Station, Raju provided thoughtful and effective leadership and vision.

We look forward to working with Raju in his new role, and extend to him our sincerest congratulations.

Community Risk and Resiliency Act

Superstorm Sandy brought a level of disruption that many in our region have never experienced. Vulnerabilities in commercial, residential, transport and utility structures were revealed. Even more importantly, social capital and community cohesion were found to be strong in some areas, but less so in others.

From Sandy, a new awareness of planning for resiliency has started to take hold in the region: architects and, designers and planners have incorporated resilience as they plan, design and develop structures, and community groups have created emergency preparedness trainings and long term recovery planning groups. And, nearly everyone now sees the value of social capital: from knowing your neighbors, to creating networks where members of a community can rely on each other in the face of a disaster.

While these broad undercurrents are changing our thinking, it is critical to look at ways policy and legislation can have a broader impact on the region. MAS has been on the forefront of this thinking. We’ve fought for zoning that seeks to enhance the city’s livability: preserving the qualities that make New York City a vibrant place to live, work and play. When Sandy hit, MAS rapidly responded with a series of multi-stakeholder discussions and launched a monthly roundtable for resilience practitioners. We’ve been a key part of Rebuild by Design, developing innovative solutions to rebuild our region in new, stronger ways. We’re also equipping communities themselves with the capability of building their own resiliency from the ground-up: incorporating resiliency into our Livable Neighborhoods Trainings and delivering Community Resilience Trainings.

nature conservancy largeGrassroots planning works best when coupled with planning on a wider, regional scale. Knowing that, our partner, the Nature Conservancy, is advocating for Community Disaster Risk Reduction legislation. This would require state-funded projects and permits to consider risk analysis data before construction begins. Sea levels are rising – we cannot stop them, as we found out clearly this week with the discovery that Antarctic glaciers are irreversibly collapsing. It’s time to require that all state-permitted and funded development, not just rebuilding efforts after a catastrophic storm, take into account our word’s changing climate. We simply can’t continue building with ‘business as usual’ – we have to plan for the world we’ll have tomorrow. Your voice is critical in making this effort happen. Contact your state Senator and ask them to pass the “Community Risk and Resiliency Act” A. 6558 (Sweeney) / S. 6617 (Savino).

The proposal bill and associated actions of the New York State Assembly are available online here.

MAS Introduces its Global Webinar Series

UN Photo

UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata.

MAS continues to grow its presence in the international field of resilience and livability with its MAS Global Network of urban innovators and practitioners. Through participation in global convenings and events, including a session we hosted with several of our global partners on Speed Dating for City Builders at the World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin Colombia, Executive Director Margaret Newman’s participation in NY-LON series of live video seminars on Tall Buildings with the NLA – the centre for London’s Built environment, and MAS Director of Urban Resilience and Livability Mary Rowe’s UN Habitat lecture on Fostering resilience through community based innovation, our network continues to expand, bringing to MAS new learning partnerships to not only share knowledge and experience from NYC, but also benefit from the lessons of others working in cities around the world. Increasingly urban challenges – including population growth, the need for diverse economic opportunities, affordability, and the threats from climate change – are common to cities around the world, and as solutions are being tried and tested we need global platforms to share innovations in a timely way. The MAS Global Network does just that by connecting practitioners both digitally and face-to-face to share challenges and opportunities, and approaches to addressing them. Through nurturing this exchange, community artists in Bandung are sharing strategies with planners in Lagos, urban ecologists in NYC are providing tips to architects in Irkutsk- innovative approaches created at the granular level that are strengthening cities.

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MAS Applauds the New York Public Library


MAS applauds the decision by the NYPL to halt its plans to turn the stacks of the Steven A. Schwarzman Building into a lending library. The plans, which would have changed the nature of research that now occurs within the building also included the closing and sale of the Science, Industry and Business Library and Mid-Manhattan branch library. MAS believes that this is a great moment for the city; the new mayoral administration is working closely with the NYPL leadership to ensure the best service for the public: readers, students, scholars and everyone who loves the building.

The glorious Fifth Avenue building is one of the most important and beloved landmarks in the city. Designed by architects Carrere and Hastings and opened to the public in 1912, the Library was designated a NYC landmark in 1967 and several portions of the interior were designated in 1974. Any changes to the exterior or designated interiors must be approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. And submitting testimony to the LPC for the 2013 version of the project was MAS’s only official way to comment. Despite the lack of a public process, many groups, individuals, writers and politicians continued to speak out about the library’s plans. As MAS said in our Ideas for New York’s New Leadership, “…New Yorkers deserve an ongoing transparent planning process that clearly reveals the long-term benefits and detriments of selling off public assets…” NYPL’s ability to listen to an engaged public sets the right tone for the coming years.