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Archive for July, 2014

Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gene Norman, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, testifying to save St. Bart's Church. Credit: Albany Press, January 1984

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gene Norman, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, testifying to save St. Bart’s Church. Credit: Albany Press, January 1984

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, born July 28, 1929, would have turned 85 today. In 1975, she brought to the Municipal Art Society her commitment to the splendors of New York City — and sparked an unforgettable collaboration for which every New Yorker can be grateful for ever since.

Instrumental in saving Grand Central Terminal, Lever House and St. Bart’s Church, and preventing the intrusion of a shadow stretching from Columbus Circle to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ms. Onassis said at the start of the Municipal Art Society’s fight to save Grand Central: “If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for the future.” Today, we honor her. Happy birthday Ms. Onassis!


Re-Imagining the Civic Commons

Mary Rowe Bio Final

Mary Rowe, Director, Urban Resilience and Livability

In the past, cities included in zoning plans and land use guides provision for a variety of common civic spaces and places accessible to the public such as parks, libraries, settlement houses, post offices, community centers, health clinics and hospitals, markets and public schools. These key facilities formed the backbone of any city’s “civic commons”: a network of publicly financed and managed amenities to serve the broader, collective needs of local neighborhoods and to benefit the city as a whole. They provided much-needed public services, but also opportunities to foster neighborhood identities, cultural expression, learning, a sense of belonging, and serendipity and surprise. Throughout history, the civic commons has made the city a city: It’s where we voted, where key decisions were made, we expressed our collective aspirations, and where we went to celebrate, learn, trade, play, and maybe just rest.

But urban life is continually changing, and so too are people’s needs and use of the civic commons. Re-Imagining the Civic Commons is a national inquiry funded by Knight Foundation, managed by the Municipal Art Society of New York, a civil society advocacy organization focused on effective policy and leadership initiatives that foster urban livability and resilience. Our goal is to build a national provocation, and later this year to make the case for a reimagined civic commons which will be so compelling that city leaders will embrace it, and commit to new ways to create, manage and invest in it.

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MAS Testifies on One Vanderbilt Draft Scope

Photo: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Photo: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Today, MAS testified on the draft scope for One Vanderbilt – a proposed 1,350-foot tower neighboring Grand Central Terminal, one of the most attractive development sites in New York City.

MAS supports One Vanderbilt’s proposed public space improvements, gestures to relate the project to Grand Central with complementary building materials and a design allowing for new views of the Terminal, and the project’s seamless integration with Grand Central’s critical transit infrastructure.

Future development in this corridor needs careful thought. All new development in East Midtown needs infrastructure and public realm investments. We must make sure that the public is getting the best deal possible. There needs to be greater clarity of how $200 milion in public benefits was agreed upon, the relationship between FAR bonuses and the level of public investment required, and greater clarity on the mechanism and timing for these improvements.

We look forward to working with City Planning, elected officials and the community for a thoughtful approach to future development in East Midtown.

Read the full testimony (PDF), given by Kate Slevin, Vice President of Police and Planning.

Read our full written comments (PDF) on the Draft Scope.