Enduring Culture

Documenting, celebrating, and preserving diverse cultural heritage throughout NYC

2023 - present

The latest MAS Initiative aims to develop an expanded and multivocal historic preservation vision for New York City, where intangible heritage and places that contribute to a neighborhood’s history and culture are protected and celebrated. Historic preservation, as traditionally structured and practiced, protects physical places and buildings with a focus on material architectural integrity and strict rules for maintaining a structure in time. However, defining a sense of place involves a larger set of layered histories, narratives, cultural traditions and practices, and community anchors — from legacy businesses to public artworks, to the havens of urban gardens. These stories, practices, and sites are intimately related to social capital and community identity, yet often lack protection.

  • Street vendors in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. A dragon dance at a parade in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Rhododendrites.
    photo 1 of 8
  • Nathan's in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. MoRUS hosts a film screening in a community garden, East Village, Manhattan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.
    photo 2 of 8
  • Break dancing and a garden party in the South Bronx. Photos: Edwin J. Torres.
    photo 3 of 8
  • Ray's Candy Store in the East Village, Manhattan. Mamoun's Falafel in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Photos: James and Karla Murray.
    photo 4 of 8
  • A lamp post mosaic in Alphabet City, Manhattan. Photo: Aislinn Klein. Lefferts Place Community Garden in Lefferts Place, Brooklyn. Photo: Keri Butler.
    photo 5 of 8
  • Hi-Tech Electronics Service Center in the Lower East Side. Photo: Keri Butler. Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village, Manhattan. Photo: Aislinn Klein.
    photo 6 of 8
  • An outdoor performance at the City Reliquary Museum in Williamsburg. Photo: courtesy of City Reliquary Museum. Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Queens. Photo: Stephen Albonesi.
    photo 7 of 8
  • "Photoville," in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn. The Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Photos: Stephen Albonesi.
    photo 8 of 8

What city policies and practices could support the preservation of intangible culture and sites that provide neighborhoods with unique character, history, and a sense of place yet do not qualify for traditional landmark status? And how do we reckon with the fact that historic preservation in New York City has a history of privileging residents who are wealthier, more educated, and more likely to be white? Expanded recognition and support (both technical and financial) will ensure that the benefits of preservation are broadly and equitably distributed, celebrating a fuller understanding of New York City’s diverse cultural heritage and making communities more resilient.

Enduring Culture Initiative Advisory Committee

  • Erica Avrami: Professor, Historic Preservation, Director, Urban Heritage, Sustainability, and Social Inclusion initiative, Co-Director, Adapting the Existing Built Environment Earth Network, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning (GSAPP)
  • Angel Ayón: Principal, Ayon Studio; Vice President, Save Harlem Now!
  • Amanda T. Boston: Professor, African Studies, University of Pittsburgh; Visiting Scholar, Urban Democracy Lab, New York University
  • Andrew Dolkart: Professor, Historic Preservation, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning (GSAPP); NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Project Director
  • Eduardo Duarte Ruas: Co-Founder, Preservation Side B
  • Paul Farber: Director, Monument Lab; Senior Research Scholar, Center for Public Art & Space, University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design
  • Molly Garfinkel: Co-Director, City Lore
  • Taylor Kabeary: Co-Founder, Preservation Side B
  • Natalie Milbrodt: Director, Queens Memory Project
  • Cassim Shepard: Distinguished Lecturer, The Bernard & Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; Principal, SQ Projects; Urbanist Storyteller
  • Cynthia Tobar: Associate Professor, Head of Archives, Bronx Community College; Artist, Oral Historian
  • Frampton Tolbert: Executive Director, Historic Districts Council
  • Vicki Weiner: Professor, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, School of Architecture, Academic Director, Historic Preservation, Pratt

Please take our short survey and share a photo of your neighborhood!

Take survey

Get Involved
Advocate with us online

Follow MAS:

Get updates about our work!
Become a Supporter

MAS members and partners are crucial to everything we do. Please consider contributing to MAS and joining our community of advocates.

Support Us
Contact Us

Contact a staff member to learn more or join the campaign. planning@mas.org >


This project is supported by the New York Community Trust and the J.M. Kaplan Fund.