President’s Letter, March 2017
Monthly observations and insights from MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein
Like sliding into a comfortable coat, I have returned to the city that I grew up in and lived a considerable amount of my adult life. Despite the admonition of friends that I should never refer to the fact that I had forsaken New York for another city – wait for it, San Francisco – I am confident I bring refreshed eyes back to this metropolis I love.
There is so much that is familiar and gives me an odd déjà vu feeling that my life in California was a dream. And then I am brought up short by places that are so transformed that I do not recognize them. (My old neighborhood of Fort Greene has places like that.)
This is a city that is constantly changing but one that remains timeless in its vitality, and its structure. I have spent much of my professional life thinking and working on parks and historic preservation. Returning to New York City has reminded me of the press of architecture and the demands of concrete. As I write I look down on the top of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a view I never imagined seeing. It is wondrous in its changing colors and moods, responding as it does every day to the sky and the weather.
But returning to New York City has also reminded me of the press of the small things… the garbage piled up in black plastic bags in the center of the business district and my temporary home (Sugar Hill) alike. The crowded sidewalks and subway platforms teeming with people just trying to get to work on time – or home again. (The city has grown by a million people since I last lived here, and it shows.)
As I have immersed myself in the work of MAS, I have begun to hear themes of frustration. The powerlessness to affect planning, the sense that neighborhoods have no control over their fate, the assumption that we have to stand by while the light in our neighborhoods is lost to the next new building because that is just the way it is done.
MAS must be the voice of the city calling out the obvious and the obscure. I am excited to take up the challenge. Thank you for welcoming me back to this city we all love.
The Municipal Art Society of New York