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January 2016
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Archive for January, 2016

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

Pour yourself an extra strong cup of coffee for this weekend’s reading, as a lot has happened over the past few days! Of course the big news inside MAS this week is the announcement that Gina Pollara will join us as our new MAS President.
“We are deeply pleased to name Gina Pollara our next President after a long and thorough hunt for a suitable leader,” said MAS Chairman Frederick Iseman. “She is dynamic, our issues run through her veins, she is respected throughout the city as a doer, an entrepreneur, and as a force for the improvement of civic life.”
And the rest: Curbed: Four Starchitects Predict the Future of NYC’s Skyline The biggest names impacting New York’s skyline — from Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier to Bjarke Ingels, whose firm was chosen to design Two World Trade Center and Annabelle Selldorf, known for her timeless work on NYC museums, libraries and historic renovations, and Rick Cook, a leader in environmentally responsible, high-performance buildings — come together to discuss the projects that now epitomize the city, the ever-evolving real estate market and what’s next for New York’s neighborhoods. NY Times: Community Gardens Imperiled by New York’s Affordable Housing Plans Many of the gardens occupy plots of land owned by the City of New York, leaving residents who have tended them for years with few options to oppose the changes. Developer ices plans for Central Park luxury condos Developer Steven Witkoff is holding off on converting Manhattan’s Park Lane Hotel into luxury condominiums—for now. Bloomberg: A Different Perspective on the Future of Penn Station “Critics slammed plans for New York’s Penn Station—but sometimes building for posterity shouldn’t be the most pressing concern. ” Curbed: MoMA Expansion Scaled Back With Revised Timeline Two years after the Museum of Modern Art unveiled plans for its massive expansion (which included the controversial demolition of the much-beloved American Folk Art Museum building), it looks like some progress will finally be made. Continue Reading>>

Your Invitation to Visit Gracie Mansion

MAS is happy to share the news that the recently restored Gracie Mansion is once offering tours to the public. We invite all members of the MAS community to check out a new series of free tours offered on Tuesdays at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm. Don’t forget to register!   Gracie-Mansion-in-winterBackground on Gracie Mansion In 1799, a prosperous New York merchant named Archibald Gracie built a country house overlooking a bend in the East River, five miles north of the contemporary City limits. More than two centuries later it stands overlooking the Hell Gate rapids and the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge skyway as one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan and a member of New York’s Historic House Trust, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gracie Mansion Conservancy continues to operate as a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing and enlivening its namesake address. Its mission is to preserve, interpret, and safeguard the Mansion with contributions for the landmark and its art and furnishings, including periodic changes to illuminate its Federal Period origins through to the New York of today, as well as harkening forward to changes ahead.  

MAS Statement on the Release of the Penn/Farley RFP

On Friday, January 22, Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development Corporation, Amtrak, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a joint solicitation to developers for the redevelopment, design, and construction of Penn Station and the Farley Post Office building as part of the Empire Station Complex. Responses are due by April 22, 2016. Read the full Request for Proposal on ESD’s website (PDF) »» MAS issued the following statement on the news:
“We are pleased to see the Governor’s detailed Request for Proposal for the redevelopment of Penn Station and the Farley Complex released today. However, we believe the framing of the project for Penn must demand more. Any long-term plan to meaningfully address the problems at Penn Station must include the relocation of Madison Square Garden. MAS calls on all responding firms to harness the creativity, ambition, and talent of New York’s development community: be bold and propose a grand new Penn Station worthy of our great city.” Mary W. Rowe Executive Vice President Municipal Art Society of New York

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

This weekend, make some hot chocolate, cozy up to the f̶i̶r̶e̶ WPIX yule log, and catch up on the week’s top stories. New York Times: By Finding a New Home for Carriage Horses, Solving a Problem That Doesn’t Exist Jim Dwyer writes that “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ill-conceived plan to house commercial animals in Central Park is a costly solution in search of a problem.” New York Times: At Art Students League, Air Rights and Airing Grievances A lawsuit is challenging the way decisions are made — including selling rights to a high-rise next door — at the nonprofit art school in Manhattan. Crain’s: The little loophole helping developers build their supertall towers even higher Developers are constructing skyscrapers on stilts New York Times: New Life for Staten Island’s Derelict Farm Colony Part of the colony, where the bank robber Willie Sutton once hid, is being sold to a developer who will create housing for older adults and open space for the public. Wamu 88.5: D.C. Has A New Zoning Code. Here’s How It Could Change The City’s Look And Feel D.C. residents may never have read the D.C. Zoning Code, but its impact is visible throughout the city. The thousands of pages of granular rules and specifications determine how land can be used in D.C. — and, consequently, how the city looks and feels. New York Times: What Donald Trump’s Plaza Deal Reveals About His White House Bid The mogul’s purchase of the Plaza Hotel in 1988 offers insight into the methods and thinking of a deal maker turned presidential candidate. Commercial Observer: Lapsed 421a Break Leaves City’s Real Estate Community Scrambling to Get the Program Back Concerns over transparency prompted the Municipal Art Society to publish a map showing every building that gets 421a with the amount of the tax break and the number of affordable units. The unbelievable story of why Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s dad “Donald did inherit his father’s racism,” the professor who uncovered a long-lost lyric said. And please join us in sending your thoughts and prayers for MAS’s former Chairmain, David Childs, recovering from a lifesaving liver transplant made possible by his son, Josh. NBC New York »» Stay warm and dry. All MAS tours are canceled tomorrow, Saturday, January 23.

Letter of Support, United Nations Plaza Hotel Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge

Sent to the Honorable Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission January 22, 2016 The Municipal Art Society writes in strong support of an expedited public hearing for the interior landmark designation of the United Nations Plaza Hotel Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge located at One United Nations Plaza. Its current operators, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, have closed the restaurant and are now planning the demolition of this significant and intact example of New York City Late Modernism. Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: NYC Wins $176M Resilience Award as Jonas Approaches

As the East Coast prepares for Winter Storm Jonas, which carries with it warnings of heavy snow, high winds, ice and coastal flooding, HUD made the exciting announcement on Thursday that the tri-state region will receive $281 million of the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) allocation. Continue Reading>>

East River Fifties Alliance Proposes Community Rezoning

ER50sAllianceToday, the East River Fifties Alliance announced that their community-generated proposal for one of the most sweeping community residential re-zoning plans in City history has been filed with the Department of City Planning. It would restrict megatowers and out-of-scale development in that neighborhood, while allowing for affordable housing in line with the Mayor’s current plan. MAS is proud to support the East River Fifties Alliance’s efforts:
“Many neighborhoods in New York are still governed by zoning rules that are three decades or more out of date—rules that could never have anticipated the technological feats or market forces that have given rise to this new era of supertall towers,” said Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President of the Municipal Art Society of New York. “This plan creates a model for engaged citizens to be part of shaping the new rules for New York: we shouldn’t have to settle for an ‘Accidental Skyline.’”
Full release: Continue Reading>>

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

We hope you enjoyed your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and thank everyone in New York City that contributed to this year’s Day of Service. Recently, in the news: New York Times: New York City to Get $176 Million from U.S. for Storm Protections New York City may soon be one step closer to building a new flood protection system around Lower Manhattan to guard against another storm like Hurricane Sandy. Observer: Cuomo and de Blasio Lament the Collapse of 421a Tax Break Both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo are lamenting the expiration of the 421a program. The program expired this weekend, as labor unions and the real estate industry failed to come to a deal on construction wages for 421a-eligible buildings. What’s in store for the future of New York’s most expensive tax exemption? Bloomberg: Fox, News Corp. Won’t Move to New York’s World Trade Center The decision is a major setback to plans to complete the World Trade Center rebuilding project. Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Condos planned for Sunset Park’s landmarked 68th Police Precinct Station House and Stable The Romanesque Revival-style landmark at 4302 Fourth Ave. has been vacant since the mid-1970s and in dire need of repairs for decades. The proposal has not yet been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. DNA Info: Judge Denies Developer’s Bid to Overturn Landmark Status of UES Buildings A developer has again been denied the ability to knock down two landmarked buildings it owns along York Avenue. The Real Deal: Shvo and Bizzi’s 125 Greenwich to house 275 condos Another supertall tower is coming to downtown Manhattan, rising to 91 stories and possibly over 1000 feet. Citylab: Mapping the Carbon Footprint of New York City Real Estate Certain properties are sometimes responsible for high amounts of greenhouse gases. How does your home or office building stack up? Happy reading!

Statement from MAS on Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Speech

Statement by Mary W. Rowe, Executive Vice President, Municipal Art Society of New York
“We continue to applaud the Governor’s commitment to addressing the crisis at Penn Station. However, we await the release of the State’s Request for Proposal, which will lend needed clarity to the scope and ambition of the proposals sought. We urge the Governor and RFP respondents to think comprehensively about the future of both Penn Station and the West Midtown neighborhood, which depends on the inevitable, eventual relocation of Madison Square Garden itself. “We must challenge the best minds in development, transportation, architecture, preservation, and planning to seize this historic opportunity to realize the future of Manhattan’s west side. The success of this effort will also depend on city leaders taking initiative to develop a robust district plan for West Midtown, which will make this area the vibrant, innovative, and economically diverse neighborhood it should be. Now is the time to be bold.”

Eyes on the City: A Better Penn Station

farley3_farley4Penn Station has been all over the news since last week’s announcement that Governor Cuomo would propose an overhaul of the station (Read MAS’s statement on the governor’s plans.) Yesterday, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman implored New York City and State to think beyond the current proposal to include the relocation of Madison Square Garden. And today, fellow New York Times reporter David Dunlap explored the history of proposed redesigns for the Farley Building and analyzed why the latest, “Farley 5,″ has failed to impress. How to Transform Penn Station: Move the Garden »» Michael Kimmelman, Jan. 12, 2016 Penn Station’s 5th Redesign Fails to Charm Some Critics »» David W. Dunlap, Jan. 13, 2016 Stay tuned starting at 12:30 today for Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech. We’ll be following it closely.

Eyes on the City: What We’re Reading

On the heels of this week’s big news on the overhaul of Penn Station, Governor Cuomo Announced A $1 Billion Expansion for Javits Center and a series of upgrades to the MTA subway service. This week saw the announcement of two more potential supertall towers in Manhattan: An 1,100 ft tower at 45 Broad Street »» And a 700 ft tower at 6 Columbus Circle »» Check out MAS’s recent release mapping which neighborhoods in the city have enough unused air rights and lax enough zoning to allow future supertalls to be built »» And Macy’s announced it was considering one or two sliver towers over its Herald Square flagship. Finally, history lovers will delight in the New York Public Library’s latest trove of more than 180,000 photographs, postcards, maps and other public-domain items that are now publicly accessible on its website. From everyone at MAS, we hope your 2016 is off to a great start.

Statement from MAS on Governor Cuomo’s Penn Station Overhaul

Statement by Mary Rowe, Executive Vice President of the Municipal Art Society of New York
“We echo the Governor’s conviction that Penn Station is in need of urgent and ambitious change. As MAS identified in its 2014 report on the future of West Midtown, finishing the Moynihan project and relocating the MSG theater is critical to improving Penn Station by opening up a grand entrance hall, bringing more light and air into the congested station, and creating better circulation for passengers.” “However, in the long term, these improvements won’t be enough to fully address Penn Station’s severe overcrowding or meet the growing needs of its rapidly developing neighborhood and our regional economy. We are optimistic that today’s announcement can be a first step to creating a new Penn Station, at the center of a revitalized West Midtown. The confluence of bold political leadership, rising private sector interest, and growing user demand makes this our moment to act: the economic success of our city, state, region, and nation depends on it.”
Visit to view all of the Municipal Art Society of New York’s research on Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and the future of West Midtown.