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December 2015
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Archive for December, 2015

“Corrected” Advertisements for New York’s New Supertall Skyscrapers

New York City’s skyline is changing with dozens of supertall skyscrapers rising across Manhattan, and now in Brooklyn. However, from the marketing materials of these new skyscrapers, one might assume that they’re singular entities, with sweeping views unobstructed by their competition. Here, we’ve “corrected” those ads:
53 West 53rd Street
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What Do New Yorkers Really Think About Penn Station?

Last updated: Tuesday, December 22 As part of MAS’s continuing advocacy around the urgent need for a new Penn Station, we took our cameras into the eye of storm and asked real Penn Station commuters what they think about our city’s decrepit, overcrowded transit hub. Over the next two weeks, MAS will share a new video every day in which riders delve into the myriad ways the current Penn Station lets us down. To kick off the series we have a supercut video that gives you a taste of what 600,000 riders experience every day inside the rabbit warren of Penn Station. New York needs a new Penn Station »» See how you can help »» Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: Governor Cuomo Considers Action on Penn

Re: Cuomo Considers Reset for Long-Delayed Penn Station Expansion, Charles Bagli, New York Times, December 15, 2015 PennpeopleMAS has been the leading advocate for a new Penn Station for over two decades, and we are encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s interest in addressing the station’s significant shortcomings and expanding capacity. With more than 600,000 daily commuters passing through the station every day – 300% more than the station was designed to handle and more than the daily volume at all three regional airports combined – Penn Station is the transportation lynchpin to the entire northeast corridor and is critical to the continued economic success of our city, state, region, and nation.  As such, Penn Station needs a bold reinvention to secure our shared economic future. MAS believes the best path to making the necessary improvements at Penn Station is to wholly relocate Madison Square Garden as soon as possible, and this remains our objective. Governor Cuomo is reportedly considering relocating the Madison Square Garden theater, which MAS and Woods Bagot proposed in 2014. This a worthy near-term early phase project that would dramatically improve street life along Eighth Avenue as well as pedestrian access to the station. Moving Amtrak to the Farley Post office is also a great first step, which will create the opportunity to completely rebuild the concourse areas and significantly improve circulation, safety, and public spaces within the station. However, these improvements, on their own, are not enough to fully address Penn Station’s severe overcrowding or meet the growing needs of a rapidly developing West Midtown. MAS is leading the development of a robust district plan for West Midtown, centered on a grand new Penn Station. We are eager to partner with the Governor, and other public and private stakeholders, to realize our shared vision for Penn Station and West Midtown. The economic success of the city, state, region and nation depends on it. Lend your voice and support to MAS’s Campaign for a New Penn Station »»

Testimony: City Planning Commission Hearing on the Zoning for Quality and Affordability Proposal and the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Proposal

Delivered December 16, 2015 by Mike Ernst, Director of Planning Good evening. My name is Mike Ernst and I am Director of Planning with the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), a 123-year old organization that fights for intelligent urban design, planning and preservation through education, dialogue and advocacy. Housing affordability has reached crisis levels in New York. Citywide, 55% of renter households are “rent-burdened” and 30% are “extremely rent burdened.” The situation only worsens as average rents have gone up dramatically in the last decade, while incomes have not risen to match. We applaud the City for attempting to address the housing crisis through the proposed Housing New York Plan. We support the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing proposal (MIH) as an important step toward addressing the city’s housing crisis, though we think it should be expanded to provide deeper levels of affordability. The Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal (ZQA) includes a number of worthwhile elements that would update outdated rules concerning parking, while creating better streetscapes and more senior and affordable housing. However, we are unable to support ZQA in its present form. We hold concerns that the proposal doesn’t fully consider the impacts of increased massing and height on historic and contextual districts. Additionally, we believe that the City could draft a bolder proposal that creates affordable housing, strengthens unique neighborhoods, and reinforces the urban fabric. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: COP21 & Urban Resilience

MAS applauds the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21), which concluded this weekend with more than 190 countries signing on to the historic Paris Agreement, making commitments to cut greenhouse emissions, limit global temperature increases and, perhaps most significantly, help developing nations adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

MAS invites you to use this weekend to catch up on some of our favorite reads this week, in case you missed them. New York Times: Mayor de Blasio Seeks to Rebuild Momentum for Affordable Housing Plan [Affordable housing] was a signature issue for a populist mayor determined to make a more equal and inclusive city. But 11 months in, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, is struggling to find support for his housing plan from the very middle- and working-class communities that he pledged to help. New York Magazine: Thomas Heatherwick Will Redo David Geffen Hall After decades of cogitating, a few false starts, two renamings, and a $100-million starter gift, Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic have given the job of gut-renovating David Geffen Hall — formerly Avery Fisher Hall, and Philharmonic Hall before that — to the professional visionaries at Heatherwick Studio and the auditorium experts at Diamond Schmitt Architects. Curbed: Can This Architect Remake the New York Public Library? Houben’s most quoted line on libraries is that they are the “cathedrals of the 21st century.” I ask her what she means by that and she says, “I think that they’re the most important public building nowadays, for everybody.” Wall Street Journal: Union Theological Seminary Searches Soul Over Condos Seminary officials say to pay for a $100 million renovation, Union is left with no choice but to sell its approximately 350,000 square feet of development rights, which are also known as air rights, and team up with a developer. The new plans haven’t been well received by some students at Union, which was founded in 1836 and has a reputation for progressive, social justice-oriented teaching. Happy reading!

Three Cheers for the MAS Docents

A beautiful night, for a beautiful group.

A beautiful night, for a beautiful group.

Three cheers for the MAS docents! In 2015, our exemplary volunteers welcomed more than 6,000 visitors to Grand Central Terminal! The 75-minute tour, held each day, highlights the history, architecture and operation of the world’s largest train terminal. This past Tuesday, to celebrate the wonderful work the docents do all year round, we held our annual Docent Appreciation Dinner at a fitting location: Le Train Bleu, a train-themed restaurant in Bloomingdales. We hope you’ll join us in thanking them! Perhaps on a tour? Book yours today »» P.S. Love the docents? Learn more about them and check out the newest docent-led tour, Tour34: Empire to Penn. From railroads to retail, sidewalks to skyscrapers, expertly trained MAS docents will lead guests on an exploration of the untold history and unfolding future of this bustling hub of transportation and commerce. Get your ticket »»

You Need An Atlas for Penn Station?

MAS invites all members of the Campaign for a New Penn Station to check out The New York Penn Station Atlas, an intriguing new project by designer John Schettino, who set out to map better wayfinding options for our overburdened rail station.
“John Schettino’s project is a valiant attempt to inject rationality into the human experience of Penn Station. His work underscores a key question: Should we really need an atlas to navigate our city’s main intercity railroad station? Should the busiest transit hub in the Western Hemisphere be saddled with a station that staggers along at 300% its intended capacity? Penn Station is a dangerously overcrowded rabbit warren decades past its natural lifespan. New York needs a new Penn Station that expands transit capacity, enhances circulation, improves safety, and serves as a worthy gateway to our city.” – Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President, Municipal Art Society of New York.
Is Penn Station Confusing? Clearly, Yes: See the Penn Station Atlas »» More information on our options for rebuilding and reimagining Penn Station »» See the future of the West Midtown neighborhood up close on Tour34: Empire to Penn »»

Tour34: Empire to Penn

Greenery on 34th Street? Yes, it's true!

Greenery on 34th Street? Yes, it’s true!

Wading through the Black Friday crowds along Manhattan’s 34th Street, MAS docent Curtis Wayne (pictured) led the inaugural Tour34: Empire to Penn for a happy and hearty group of tour-takers last week. Together with the 34th Street Partnership, MAS is proud to offer this new tour focusing on the ever-changing West Midtown. In addition to celebrating the area’s unique history, stunning architecture, and commercial razzmatazz, tour-goers will hear the most-up-to-date information about the tough decisions New York will need to make concerning the futures of Penn Station, Madison Square Garden and Hudson Yards. Careful analysis and creative solutions can ensure the economic vitality of the New York region for years to come and MAS is on the scene each week to educate New Yorkers and out-of-town guests on what they need to know heading into 2016. Tour34: Empire to Penn is held every Friday and Saturday at 12:30PM. Get your tickets online or call 212-935-3960! tour34-slider2

Eyes on the City: de Blasio’s Housing Plan

Mayor de Blasio is finding himself in a tough spot with two key initiatives meant to spur more affordable and senior housing. The proposals were largely opposed by Borough Presidents and community boards over the past few months. Housing New YorkThe first, Zoning for Quality and Affordability, would increase bulk of buildings, loosen parking requirements, and ease production of senior housing. The second would require that a certain percentage of units (25-30% deadening on the location) in newly rezoned areas are affordable, codifying a practice that the city has used in the past for individual projects. Continue Reading>>

Landmarks Preservation Commission Backlog Hearings

In November 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced that they would be removing 95 items from their consideration through an administrative action. MAS staff, along with our preservation colleagues and elected officials, worked closely with the LPC to ensure that the public would have an opportunity to comment on each of these items. The LPC has since held four special hearings on the “backlog,” and with the guidance of the MAS Preservation Committee we have submitted favorable testimony on 47 of those sites. Some examples: 412 East 85th Street is a modest 19th century wood-frame house on the Upper East Side, one of six remaining and the only one that is not designated; the Edgar Kaufman Conference Rooms at the UN, designed by famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto; the Vanderbilt Mausoleum and Cemetery on Staten Island, designed by our founding president, Richard Morris Hunt, in collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted; and the Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens. Read our testimony »»

2016 Brendan Gill Prize: Call for Nominations

Brendan Gill PrizeNominations are now open for the 28th Annual Brendan Gill Prize, MAS’s signature award honoring art and culture in our city! The 2016 Gill Prize, endowed to permit a cash award, is given each year to the creator of a specific work, a book, essay, musical composition, play, painting, sculpture, architectural design, film or choreographic piece that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City. Whether the nominated individual or group is well known or just emerging, the goal of the Gill Prize is to draw attention to the varieties of artistic experience that enrich our contemporary life. Continue Reading>>