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A Message from MAS President Vin Cipolla

MAS President Vin Cipolla

MAS President Vin Cipolla

Dear MAS Members,

The first half of 2015 is off to an incredible start. MAS has been driving the advocacy for an even better, more diverse, more affordable, livable, culturally rich and resilient New York, through a bold sweep of initiatives—our most ambitious policy efforts ever. At MAS, we are driven by pursuing excellence in the choices we as New Yorkers make in shaping our city for generations to come. We have a lot to gain in demanding the best for our city’s extraordinarily distinctive and dynamic environment (and a lot to lose if we’re not smart.)

Our annual MAS Watch List released in January highlights many of the important planning issues facing the city from vanishing local retail, to the impact of as-of-right super tall towers, to the urgent need for a new Penn Station and the redevelopment of Midtown West, to our demands for responsible planning at our water’s edge. MAS’s work targets the most important developments in design and planning across our five boroughs—issues that affect all of us.

And a big part of MAS’s mission is to keep all of us better connected and close to the spatial city, its streets and neighborhoods. The better we understand New York, both its glorious past and its aspirations for the future, the better job we’ll do as the city’s stewards—and all of us are in fact her stewards. So parallel to MAS’s ambitious policy agenda is our robust public programming schedule. Just this month, Jane’s Walk NYC weekend was our biggest yet, bringing together more than four thousand New Yorkers on 200+ walking tours celebrating the art, architecture, history, culture, industry, and economy of our great city.

And since last fall, we have been convening regular meetings with 150 of the leading minds in urban innovation to incubate the best ideas for protecting the diversity of New York’s local economy—from tech start-ups to mom-and-pop businesses. Under the banner of CUE: The Committee for Urban Entrepreneurship, this group held its inaugural conference in early March and outlined key policy outputs that will drive MAS’s work in this area in the year ahead. We’re also preparing for a key event next month where we’ll unveil the first findings of MAS’s Civic Commons project, which looks at the future of our city’s shared public spaces in an era of increasing privatization of churches, schools, libraries, and parks.

Only just 20 weeks away, our annual blockbuster conference, the MAS Summit for New York City, now in its sixth season, will thread together the toughest city issues and the most innovative solutions—leveraging the expertise of over 130 speakers and thousands of participants, both live at the Times Center and via live-stream throughout the world.

This spring has also been a time of celebration and growth on the MAS Board of Directors. Our dedicated Board Chair, Dr. Eugenie L. Birch, completed her term of service in early 2015 and we welcomed the opportunity to honor her incredible leadership over the last three years. With Genie at the helm, MAS grew into a leading voice in innovative urban planning on the international stage. Genie introduced MAS to UN Habitat, where we now serve as a Lead Partner, and she anchored our annual international resilience convenings, which positioned New York City as a global leader in urban sustainability. We are grateful for all she does to keep MAS strong, nimble, and creative during the first moment in human history when more people live in cities than anywhere else. She will remain on the Board as a valued member and chair of our Penn Special Advisory Group and our Complete Neighborhoods Task Force.

We also welcomed the election of our new Board Chair, Frederick Iseman, founder of CI Capital Partners. We’ve had the honor of having Fred serve on the MAS Board as a member for many years, during which time he has consistently challenged us to be visionary, ambitious, and solutions-driven in our advocacy. A passionate supporter of the arts with a keen eye for aesthetics, Fred has been closely involved with MAS’s emerging Design First project, which advocates for reforms to the building, land use, and development process that will promote more thoughtful design outcomes in New York’s built environment. Please join us in welcoming Fred—who previously served as Vice Chairman and Chair of our Executive Committee—to this expanded leadership role.

MAS has never been stronger. Our net assets have increased dramatically. We’ve had several years of operating surpluses. We’ve developed a fundraising engine generating on average $4.5 million in new program and operating support each year. Our policy and program work—conducted by a small and very skilled, savvy, energetic, and devoted staff—is strong and comprehensive. And it all relies on the strong continued financial support of all of our members and friends. Without your support, this important work can’t be done. Whether it’s our City Hall victory to limit Madison Square Garden’s operating permit and unlock the redevelopment of Penn Station; or our powerful advocacy for better plans for East Midtown, the Garment District, intelligent resilient planning, and waterfront rezoning; or our countless landmark campaigns and commitment to the public realm through advocacy for our parks and important works like Tribute in Light, MAS is at-the-ready in its efforts to help New York be at its best.

On a personal note, as I announced last year, 2015 will mark my final year as President of MAS. I have been so deeply honored to serve in this role for nearly seven years, cherishing the opportunity to work on the issues for which I’m so passionate and supporting an organization I believe in so completely, as MAS’s resident “CEO.” I look forward to continuing to serve on the MAS Board, fighting the good fight—and, as always, I want to thank each of our very dedicated Directors for all the incredible work and generous support, as I thank all of you for your own tremendous support. Very shortly, we’ll be announcing a formal search process to select and elect a new MAS President and CEO—and I’m very confident there will be great interest!

This is such an exciting time for the city… and for MAS! There is so much great work to do, and so much opportunity to do it well.

With warm regards,


Vin Cipolla
President, Municipal Art Society of New York