A Message from the Board

January 6, 2017

Dear Members,

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and our work fighting for responsible growth in our city. As we begin 2017 and prepare for our upcoming 125th anniversary, we would like to recap some of the best work of the last year and offer a preview of our year ahead.

The Manhattan Skyline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Lesekreis.
The Manhattan Skyline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Lesekreis.

In February, MAS will welcome its new president, Elizabeth Goldstein. She is nationally-known as a tenacious and remarkably effective advocate for parks, open spaces, and historic preservation. If you have not yet been introduced to Elizabeth and her incredible track record of leadership in New York and as president of the California State Parks Foundation, we encourage you to read our special announcement of her appointment.

Elizabeth joins MAS on the heels of much activity in the last calendar year.

MAS continues to be a key force in shaping the discussion over the future of Penn Station and the West Midtown neighborhood. The Governor’s plan to address some of the most visible deficiencies at the station – low-slung ceilings, rundown public spaces, poor signage, limited amenities, and cramped corridors – is laudable, but we urge all parties to address the more difficult track-level improvements that are urgently needed. MAS submitted comments in December regarding the preservation of the landmark Farley Post Office as it is redeveloped into the new Moynihan Station. Later this month, we will advocate in support of the proposed closure of 32nd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues for pedestrian use at the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee meeting.

In November, we released Public Assets: City Owned and Leased Properties, a report and online mapping tool that found that the City controls a total of 14,000 properties around the five boroughs. Incredibly, 22% of them – an area double the size of Central Park – are classified as having no use. MAS will advocate for the City to make use of these spaces in 2017, maximizing their public benefit and equitable potential.

Our Accidental Skyline project has new releases planned for later this year, which will build on our last three years of analysis, mapping, and renderings that have helped shape the debate on supertalls and as-of-right development. We continue to fight for transparency and public review in large-scale development projects across the five boroughs.

The new rezoning of East Midtown, informed by the East Midtown Steering Committee’s work over the last two years, enters the City’s Unified Land Use Review Process this week. MAS served as a key stakeholder in the steering committee and will review the Final Scope of Work for comment later this month. During 2016, the advocacy of MAS and our preservation colleagues helped preserve 12 individual landmarks in East Midtown through Landmarks Preservation Commission designation.

In the fall, we updated the curriculum, materials, neighborhood selection criteria, and outreach strategies for MAS’s Livable Neighborhoods Program (LNP.) LNP workshops train community stakeholders and advocates on the fundamentals of New York City’s development process. Later this month, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, we will select neighborhood partners for a creative and cultural asset mapping workshop series. We are also developing a neighborhood-based series in Manhattan Community District 5 to launch later this year.

In October, MAS partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to present the first-ever global Jane Jacobs Medal to Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, and PK Das, a Mumbai-based architect and urban activist, at the United Nations Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador. On May 5-7, we will host our annual Jane’s Walk festival, honoring Jane Jacobs’ legacy and leading thousands of New Yorkers on neighborhood walks celebrating the art, architecture, history, and culture of our great city.

MAS’s Adopt-A-Monument program has conserved 51 works of public art since 1987. In October, the elaborate marble Heinrich Heine Fountain by Ernest Herter in the South Bronx was cleaned and repaired thanks to a grant from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, long-time supporters of the fountain. Last summer, we restored one of the greatest statues in the American Renaissance style, Brooklyn’s famed Henry Ward Beecher Monument by John Quincy Adams Ward. This project was made possible by a generous grant from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation. In 2017, the Porzelt Foundation’s support will also allow MAS to take on the conservation of the Grand Central Stones in Van Courtland Park. The “Stones” are thirteen pillars placed along the Putnam Trail before 1903 to test durability for the construction of Grand Central Terminal.

Finally, we will soon announce our events for the first half of 2017, including the Annual Members Meeting and the presentation of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal.

This is an incredibly exciting time for MAS. Thank you for being part of it.

With warm regards,

Board of Directors
The Municipal Art Society of New York