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October 2015
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Archive for October, 2015

Eyes on the City: East Midtown Steering Committee Recommendations

MAS identified the East Midtown Re-Zoning as one of our 2015 Watchlist items, our annual docket of issues we have identified as posing a significant opportunity for—or challenge to—the city’s success in the year ahead. The Steering Committee founded in May 2014 in response to MAS-led concerns about the previous proposal for rezoning East Midtown released its report this week. MAS was proud to serve on the steering committee, and we thank Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, and all of our fellow steering committee members for their collaboration over the last 18 months. Read the Executive Summary of the findings and the full report on MAS will continue to follow the recommendations as they come under consideration by city government.

Eyes on the City: Neighborhood Organizations Building Resilience

In our advocacy work over the three years since Superstorm Sandy, MAS has seen time and again that community resilience often depends on more than just official municipal resource centers. In times of great challenge, some of the most vital recovery outreach is performed by an unexpected constellation of neighborhood organizations and anchor businesses that know and serve communities year round. In commemoration of the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, MAS offers this short snapshot of de facto community-based resource hubs—libraries, pubs, churches, and non-profits that sprang into action on October 29, 2012, delivering supplies, support, and hope to thousands of New Yorkers. Many of these hubs were identified through MAS’s series of Community-Based Resilience Convenings this spring. Please join us in thanking these institutions for all they do to support New York’s neighborhoods on historic days and average ones. [huge_it_slider id=”3″]

Eyes on the City: East New York

Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious Housing New York plan calls for rezoning several neighborhoods across the city. One of the first, East New York, “sits at the crossroads of the administration’s plan to transform blocks of rowhouses, auto body shops and vacant lots into a community filled with new classrooms, bike lanes, trees and, above all, lower-cost housing.” (NY Times). Tonight, Brooklyn Community Board 5 will host a public hearing on the rezoning proposal. Karyn Williams, MAS’s Project Manager for Community Engagement, will testify: Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: Airbnb & Short Term Rentals

This week, the City Council will examine a controversial bill that would increase fines for New Yorkers who place their apartments and homes for short term rentals. This Friday, the Council’s Housing Committee will discuss a proposal to increase fines to up to $50,000 for repeat offenders. Council Members Jumaane Williams, Helen Rosenthal, and other sponsors of the bill have argued that the availability of Airbnb drives up housing costs and creates nuisances for nearby residents. Airbnb strongly opposes the measure and has called it the Freddy Krueger of bills. They, and others, argue that middle class families rely on the extra income visitors provide, and that Airbnb offers affordable choices for travelers, visitors, and residents. MAS supports the integration of new technologies into the life of our city. We look to the City to create a framework that allows Airbnb to operate in New York while protecting New York’s neighborhoods.

Eyes on the City: The Just City

MAS was proud to work with NextCity to create their fantastic new essay collection, “The Just City.” The ebook is now available for free download on NextCity’s website. We invite all urbanists to check it out! Download it now at:

Jonathan Gouveia and Tara Kelly Join the Municipal Art Society

New staff members will lead the organization’s campaign for a new Penn Station and historic preservation portfolios (October 21, 2015 | New York, NY) The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) announced two senior level hires this month, bringing on Jonathan Gouveia as Senior Director of Planning & Infrastructure and Tara Kelly as Director of Preservation & Design. “With the clock ticking on the Madison Square Garden operating permit and the Landmarks Law celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, there is no better time to add these two talented leaders to our team,” said Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President of MAS. “In 2016, MAS will orient all of its advocacy and policy toward three key campaigns—protecting New York’s legacy spaces, building a city by design, and promoting complete neighborhoods. Jonathan and Tara will be central to achieving this vision and we are delighted to welcome them.” Continue Reading>>

MAS Eyes on the City: Betsy Head Park, Brownsville

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback!

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback!

Last Saturday, MAS joined the Brownsville Partnership, Partnerships for Parks, and other community based organizations to get our hands dirty: cleaning, planting, and painting Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn. While we were busy potting soil and filling trash bags, we worked with neighborhood park-goers to identify their priorities as we advocate for an improved Betsy Park. Over the past two years, MAS has been collaborating with Brownsville Partnership and other community organization to advocate for a change at Betsy Head Park, and in February 2013 the park was identified as an area for intervention during the annual Hope Summit. Since then, we’ve helped to conducted several workshops and meetings with diverse stakeholders, from city agencies to the general public. These engagements helped us narrow down the issues at Betsy Heady Park, to design, circulation, activities (public space programming), and the condition of facilities and park furniture. Continue Reading>>

MAS Eyes on the City: Housing New York

East New York rezoning plan (

East New York rezoning plan (

MAS identified the de Blasio administration’s Housing New York plan and the Cromwell-Jerome neighborhood in particular as part of our 2015 Watchlist, our annual docket of issues we have identified as posing a significant opportunity for—or challenge to—the city’s success in the year ahead. Of the Mayor’s 15 rezonings, the East New York rezoning is farthest along, and the city started the formal city land use process on September 21st. The proposal seeks to add density, revitalize commercial corridors, improve street safety, mandate affordable housing, and add new community facilities. Over time, it would transform the East New York/Cypress Hills area by allowing 12-14 story buildings along Atlantic Ave and portions of Pitkin Ave, 6-8 stories along Fulton Ave, a greater mix of uses, and the construction of over 6,000 housing units, half of which would be affordable. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: The MTA Capital Construction Program

Photo: MTA

Photo: MTA

MAS identified the MTA’s capital budget deficit as one of our 2015 Watchlist items, our annual docket of issues we have identified as posing a significant opportunity for—or challenge to—the city’s success in the year ahead. MAS supports the funding agreement announced this week for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) capital construction program. New York cannot remain a vibrant, livable and economically sound city without a reliable and resilient public transportation system. In fact, the revitalization of the subway system from a state of disrepair in the late 1970s/early 1980s is one of the best urban revitalization success stories in New York’s history, and has allowed the city to flourish. Continue Reading>>

On the American Museum of Natural History Expansion

rose-center-AMNH-parkSeveral museums across New York City have recently put forward plans to grow their campuses and add new square footage for exhibitions, public programming, and archival space. While the success of these beloved institutions should be celebrated, many of these expansion plans come with potential impacts on our skyline, historic landmarks, cherished public spaces, and the surrounding neighborhoods. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is the most recent institution to announce plans to expand. AMNH serves millions of visitors a years, a number that continues to grow rapidly. The proposed Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation would provide the Museum with more space for visitors and room to house its growing educational programs. Although detailed designs have not been released, the expansion will potentially encroach on green space in the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park. Though small, this park is a vital community asset. Any proposal that requires the loss of park space—even to allow beloved institutions to respond to growing user demand—must be rigorously evaluated. Continue Reading>>

Landmark Preservation Commission “Backlog” Hearing on Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn Properties

Written Testimony of the Municipal Art Society of New York Thursday, October 8, 2015 In the nine months since the proposal to decalendar more than a hundred potential landmarks across the five boroughs was withdrawn, the Municipal Art Society and the MAS Preservation Committee have analyzed the full stock of calendared properties–some of which have been in limbo for decades–to determine which warrant designation or further examination. Read our October 8 testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission outlining which properties in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn we support for designation as landmarks (PDF).

Community Rally for Rezoning

Community Rally for Rezoning: Wednesday, October 7.

Community Rally for Rezoning: Wednesday, October 7.

A 900-foot mega tower has been planned for East 58th Street. There’s no precedent for this type of skyscraper on a narrow, purely residential, side street. From our recent testimony to Manhattan Community Board 5, a district seeing a large influx of super tall skyscrapers:
The fundamental problem here is outdated zoning regulations. New York City’s current zoning resolution was devised over 50 years ago and could not account for recent advances in building technologies or the changes in the real estate markets that have led to the construction of super tall towers. Fifty years is an eternity in the lifespan of building design and construction. Fifty years before the Empire State Building topped out, the tallest structure in Manhattan was the steeple at Trinity Church. Using 1961 zoning guidelines in the era of 432 Park is like applying colonial construction standards to the 1930s skyscraper boom. These buildings are largely being built as-of-right and without any public review, even though they will be among the tallest structures in the country.They will have a dramatic impact on the surrounding neighborhood, Central Park and the New York skyline. Beyond Central Park, out-of context development continues to be an issue for neighborhoods throughout the city. New York City must grow and change, but new development should positively contribute to the surrounding communities.
Join us and the East River Fifties Alliance at a rally on Wednesday, October 7. 10AM. Details here or on the flyer to the right. And learn more about this citywide issue in our comprehensive Accidental Skyline portal.