Fight for Light

For the economic, environmental, social, and public health of New York

2019-present

In early 2019, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) joined together to build a broad advocacy campaign called Fight for Light. We believe that access to sunlight is essential to an equitable, sustainable, and economically vibrant city, and the health and happiness of its residents. Together, we are committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to sunlight within the public realm through protections, incentives, regulations, design quality, and coordinated planning.

Unlike many other cities of its size, including Paris, Los Angeles, and Boston, New York lacks a central position within its government for planning and maintaining the public realm. Composed of streets, sidewalks, parks, plaza, waterfronts, natural areas, and more, this system of public spaces represent roughly 40 percent of the city’s land mass.

If you agree that we need innovative, cross-departmental, and proactive planning of the public realm now and into the future, join us in calling for the creation of a New York City Director of the Public Realm. Use our OneClickPolitics module below to automatically contact your Council Member.

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  • graphic of New York City agencies overseeing the city's public realm
    The jumble of key agencies and entities that oversee elements of the public realm. Rendering: MAS
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  • pins and postcards for the Fight for Light campaign
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  • report cover for the 2019 Bright Ideas report by the Municipal Art Society of New York
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  • Cover for the Fight for Light policy brief, A Public Champion for the Public Realm, calling for the Director of the Public Realm
    Cover for the Fight for Light policy brief, A Public Champion for the Public Realm, calling for the Director of the Public Realm
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Research & Reports

Over the past year, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) have conducted significant research and held numerous conversations with experts from other U.S. and international cities about best practices for managing and maintaining access to sunlight within the public realm.

These key findings are summarized in the joint report by MAS and NY4P, Bright Ideas: New York City’s Fight for Light, which was released at MAS’s Summit for New York City in October 2019.

In August 2020, MAS and NY4P released a follow up policy brief, A Public Champion for the Public Realm, which makes the case for the creation of a New York City Director of the Public Realm.

Download 2019 Report

Download 2020 Policy Brief

  • Greenacre Park in midtown Manhattan
    Greenacre Park (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Eric Lopez)
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  • people at a Fight for Light roundtable discussion at the Municipal Art Society of New York's office
    Roundtable conversations held in June 2019 (Source: MAS)
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  • panelists on stage at the 2019 Municipal Art Society of New York Summit
    Panelists discuss planning for sunlight access at the 2019 Summit (Source: Vlad Weinstein at MAS)
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Background

Fight for Light gets its start from the Greenacre Foundation’s effort to protect Greenacre Park, a historic pocket park on East 51st Street that is filled dawn to dusk with neighbors and office workers enjoying a respite in one of the densest neighborhoods in New York. Situated just outside the Greater East Midtown Rezoning area, this intimate park is expected to be cast completely in shadow during peak summer days as a result of new development. This outcome received little attention during the course of the City’s planning process, despite the best efforts of MAS, NY4P, and other peer organizations.

Global Perspectives

Over the past year, the conversation has expanded to include perspectives from around the world, taking into account a variety of areas of focus such as the architecture, engineering, environmental justice, legal, planning, preservation, public health, and real estate professions. The 2019 Summit for New York City brought together experts in the field to discuss these issues and more.

These conversations generated numerous ideas for safeguarding sunlight in urban environments. Some of the most promising examples are from Boston, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Singapore, and Toronto. Together, they suggest that a range of solutions are available to ensure sunlight access across New York City’s diverse neighborhoods.

Ultimately, Fight for Light will advance legislative and policy approaches through engagement with elected officials, community boards, developers, and other stakeholders.

To learn more about Fight for Light, check out our downloadable poster.

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

Members of the media looking to discuss this project further, contact us at mbaron@mas.org >

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  • logo for the Municipal Art Society of New York
  • logo for the group New Yorkers for Parks
Fight for Light Funders
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  • logo for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
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joggers run through Hudson River Park in Autumn
2019

Fight for Light

At the 10th Annual Summit for New York City, MAS and New Yorkers for Parks launched a joint campaign entitled Fight for Light, which seeks stronger protections for the natural resources that are essential to an equitable city and the health and happiness of city dwellers. The Bright Ideas report is the first release from the campaign, which ‎ expects to announce additional recommendations in 2020 that respond directly to New York’s unique planning context.

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