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.

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.

 

Greenacre Park in midtown Manhattan
Greenacre Park (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Eric Lopez)

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.

  • 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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  • a person holds Fight for Light postcards in her hands
    Looking through Fight for Light materials at MAS’s 2019 Summit for New York City (Source: Vlad Weinstein for 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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Protecting Access to Sunlight

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.

  • high angle view overlooking Boston Common
    Boston: The Public Realm Director works across departments and with the City’s Streets Cabinet to implement people-oriented projects on streets and sidewalks. (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism)
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  • buildings of downtown Los Angeles at twilight
    Los Angeles: The city’s environmental guidelines include a broad definition of shadow-sensitive uses. For developments that cast a shadow on sensitive uses for more than three hours, the City may mandate a height limit of 60 feet. (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Jeff Turner)
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  • aerial view of tall, modern skyscrapers in Melbourne
    Melbourne: The Sunlight to Public Spaces Local Policy mandates sunlight protection hours in public parks to support healthy living during the year. (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Chris Skitch)
    photo 3 of 5
  • exterior of large, modern building in Singapore
    Singapore: The Green Mark Scheme rating system allows additional floor area in exchange for achieving benchmarks that assess the amount of daylight received in a building’s interior and the reflection created by its exterior. (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Choo Yut Shing)
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  • boats in harbor in Toronto with skyscrapers in background
    Toronto: The city’s Tall Building Guidelines are intended to protect access to sunlight by providing instruction on a building’s angular planes, the minimum distance between structures, and building envelope. (Source: Flickr, The Commons, Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine)
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Release of Bright Ideas

These and other 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.

Download Report

report cover for the 2019 Bright Ideas report by the Municipal Art Society of New York

What’s Next?

A key outcome of Bright Ideas is our Call to Action, which outlines several immediate steps we’re taking to advance Fight for Light:

  1. Advocating for the designation and resourcing of a Director of the Public Realm position within City government.
  2. Conducting a baseline assessment of sunlight availability in New York City.
  3. Identifying places and populations that are vulnerable, and for whom protecting sunlight access is most critical.
  4. Prioritizing policy solutions that protect and enhance sunlight access in the public realm.

Take Action Today

pins and postcards for the Fight for Light campaign

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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Fight for Light Supporters
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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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