Enduring Culture

Supporting, 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 community identity, yet often lack resilience in the face of change. And as our policies and practices shift to adapt our built environment to meet the needs of our climate crisis, address our housing crisis, and deconstruct the legacy of racist planning and marginalizing policy, the field of preservation also has the opportunity to evolve to do more than one thing for more than one purpose.

How can preservation practiced in non-traditional forms provide the opportunity for our urban fabric to be flexible, adaptable, and reflect layers of history to support multiple communities over time? How can preservationists better use data to represent cultural legacies to advocate for innovative & inclusive change? What city policies and practices, in addition to landmark status and historic designation could support the preservation of intangible culture and sites that provide neighborhoods with unique character, history, and a sense of place? How can our systems better support practitioners across New York City who are creatively building ways to support historical and cultural heritage in the ever-shifting landscape of our city?

Shifts in urban policy and frameworks for support 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.

  • Graphic Capture via Zara Fina Stassi, Good for the Bees.
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  • Street vendors in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. A dragon dance at a parade in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Rhododendrites.
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  • 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.
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  • Break dancing and a garden party in the South Bronx. Photos: Edwin J. Torres.
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  • Ray's Candy Store in the East Village, Manhattan. Mamoun's Falafel in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Photos: James and Karla Murray.
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  • A lamp post mosaic in Alphabet City, Manhattan. Photo: Aislinn Klein. Lefferts Place Community Garden in Lefferts Place, Brooklyn. Photo: Keri Butler.
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  • Hi-Tech Electronics Service Center in the Lower East Side. Photo: Keri Butler. Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village, Manhattan. Photo: Aislinn Klein.
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  • 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.
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  • "Photoville," in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn. The Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Photos: Stephen Albonesi.
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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

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