President’s Letter: February 2020

February 28, 2020

I was sitting on a very crowded M train on my way home on Valentine’s Day. My husband was playing jug band music somewhere deep in the Sacramento delta and I was headed to dinner with a friend. My cell phone rang but, of course, I couldn’t answer it and then my email inbox started to blow up.

We had just gotten the word that we won the 200 Amsterdam case!!! And what a win! Justice Perry overturned the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decision, ordered DOB to revoke the building permit, and instructed the developer to remove enough bulk from the tower to conform with their underlying zoning lot. Never has a simple application of common sense been so thrilling!

The developers will appeal, of course, and the City is likely to do so as well. So we have a long way to go before we are done. But this affirmation of our cause is a powerful reminder of the importance of this kind of legal engagement.

exterior of the New York State Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street
New York State Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street. Photo: Flickr, Jeffrey Zeldman. Modifications: photo cropped.

This victory is especially sweet because it is the first case that our Menapace Fellow, Rachel Mazur, took on just days after she arrived. As you know, Rachel is our first Menapace Fellow in many years, so this decision feels like a testament to the value of this program in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, the MAS team has spent the last couple of weeks kicking off Jane’s Walk; hosting a book talk for the new Monument Lab publication; filing an appeal on the Marx Brothers Playground decision; delivering a training for the Livable Neighborhoods Program; building the coalition for Fight for Light and CEQR reform; and providing fabulous, unrivaled tours of New York, to name but a few of our projects. Oh, and we are filing another amicus brief in the appeal over Two Bridges. (That land use fight also got great news this week—the third of four decisions came down on the side of community groups. We congratulate them wholeheartedly!) All of these things are our day-to-day business, but sometimes a win like 200 Amsterdam ties a nice bow around it.

There are some moments in life that you remember, if not forever, then for a really, really long time. Though rare, most of us can think of a few. For all of us at MAS, the 200 Amsterdam win is one of those. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Elizabeth's signature

Elizabeth Goldstein
The Municipal Art Society of New York