March 2017
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Archive for March, 2017

President’s Letter, March 2017

President of The Municipal Art Society of New York Elizabeth Goldstein

Elizabeth Goldstein

Like sliding into a comfortable coat, I have returned to the city that I grew up in and lived a considerable amount of my adult life. Despite the admonition of friends that I should never refer to the fact that I had forsaken New York for another city – wait for it, San Francisco – I am confident I bring refreshed eyes back to this metropolis I love.

There is so much that is familiar and gives me an odd déjà vu feeling that my life in California was a dream. And then I am brought up short by places that are so transformed that I do not recognize them. (My old neighborhood of Fort Greene has places like that.)

This is a city that is constantly changing but one that remains timeless in its vitality, and its structure. I have spent much of my professional life thinking and working on parks and historic preservation. Returning to New York City has reminded me of the press of architecture and the demands of concrete. As I write I look down on the top of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a view I never imagined seeing. It is wondrous in its changing colors and moods, responding as it does every day to the sky and the weather.

But returning to New York City has also reminded me of the press of the small things… the garbage piled up in black plastic bags in the center of the business district and my temporary home (Sugar Hill) alike. The crowded sidewalks and subway platforms teeming with people just trying to get to work on time – or home again. (The city has grown by a million people since I last lived here, and it shows.)

As I have immersed myself in the work of MAS, I have begun to hear themes of frustration. The powerlessness to affect planning, the sense that neighborhoods have no control over their fate, the assumption that we have to stand by while the light in our neighborhoods is lost to the next new building because that is just the way it is done.

MAS must be the voice of the city calling out the obvious and the obscure. I am excited to take up the challenge. Thank you for welcoming me back to this city we all love.

Elizabeth's signature

Elizabeth Goldstein
President
The Municipal Art Society of New York


MAS Comments on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in Downtown Far Rockaway

Full Testimony Title: MAS Comments on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) Nos. 170243 ZMQ, N170244 ZRQ, 170245 HGQ, 170246 HUQ, 170247 HDQ, and 170248 PPQ, and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Downtown Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project, CEQR No. 16DME010Q, Queens, NY

Background

The City of New York, in collaboration with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and several city agencies, is proposing a series of land use actions, referred to as the Proposed Actions, including zoning map amendments, zoning text amendments, disposition and acquisition of property, and the designation and approval of an Urban Renewal Area (URA) and Plan (URP) as part of an effort to redevelop and revitalize an approximately 22-block area of the Downtown Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, Community District 14.

According to the project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Proposed Actions would result in a net increase of 3,027 dwelling units, of which 1,638 would be market-rate and 1,389 would be affordable; 152,935 square feet (sf) of retail space; and 86,947 sf of community facility space. The project also would provide a new publicly accessible open space area.

Downtown Far Rockaway has been in need of revitalization for generations. Over forty years ago, the Department of City Planning (DCP) reported the problem of disinvestment leading to decline in business conditions and vacancies. The area has been long plagued by underperforming retail corridors, deteriorated buildings, and underutilized lots. At the same time, residents of Far Rockaway have faced a chronic lack of community services, amenities, affordable housing options, and quality open space.

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Monument of the Month: Female Sculptors

The works saved by the Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Monument represent a Who’s Who of American sculptors and architects of the 19th to 21st century. Three of these artists – Anna Hyatt Huntington, Sally Jane Farnham, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney – are among the handful of prominent female sculptors of the first few decades of the 20st century.

We proudly celebrated these remarkable artists this March, the month that honors Women’s History.

Sally Jane Farnham’s Simón Bolívar

Simon Bolivar statue by Sally Jane Farnham

In 1916, Sally Jane Farnham was chosen from a pool of 20 other sculptors for the chance to depict Latin American military hero Simón Bolívar.

At the time, she was 30 years old, self-taught, and virtually unknown. Read more about Farnham’s incredible career and the celebrated Bolívar monument that now presides over Central Park South at Aristos.

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Saved! CM Rodriguez Will Support Loew’s 175th Street Theatre as Landmark

interior of the ornate 145th Street Loews Wonder Theatre

The 145th Street Loews Wonder Theatre

On March 22, 2017, MAS was delighted to join Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez for a press conference announcing his support for designating the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre. We are grateful to all the MAS members who called and emailed to express their support for this treasured soon-to-be landmark.

Statement from MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein:

“MAS applauds Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez for committing to support the designation of the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, also known as the United Palace. One of New York’s five gilded age Wonder Theatres, The Loew’s Theatre is a jewel of Washington Heights that has waited 45 long years for landmark status. We hope its designation draws attention to the many other cultural and historic assets of Northern Manhattan that should be preserved for future generations.”

Read more about MAS’s support for the theater in our February 2017 Action Alert.


MAS Remembers Emeritus Director Hugh Hardy

Please read MAS’s tribute to Hugh Hardy in this weekend’s New York Times.

The board and staff of The Municipal Art Society mourn the passing of our director emeritus and former chair of the planning committee, Hugh Hardy, a giant of architecture and tireless advocate for New York City.

His passing is a profound loss to New York, but he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy. His impact on our city will resonate in civic spaces across the five boroughs – from Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music, to Radio City Music Hall and the New York Botanical Garden. He had a once-in-a-generation gift for mixing historic and modern design in a way that elevated both.

Hugh’s boundless talent made him a legend but it was his generosity of spirit that made him such a treasure to know. Our thoughts are with Tiziana Hardy, their children, and the entire Hardy family.