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South Bronx Hero Shows the City ‘the Way’

yolanda garcia way streetThe bright sun reflected off the many new buildings of Melrose Commons in the South Bronx, as elected officials, activists, developers, friends, family, and other admirers gathered on East 157th Street to honor the memory of Yolanda Garcia yesterday. Third Avenue between 156th and 157th Streets is now known as “Yolanda Garcia Way.” Ms. Garcia’s family owned a carpet shop in the Melrose section of the Bronx, where she was working in the early 1990s when she learned of a City urban renewal plan that called for displacing local residents and creating low-density housing. Incensed that those residents who stayed in the South Bronx despite decades of disinvestment were going to be displaced, Ms. Garcia founded Nos Quedamos/We Stay. This grassroots group was dedicated to rethinking the plan, including the community in the process, and preventing displacement. The resulting Melrose Commons plan helped to create over 1,500 units of affordable housing in the area, kept thousands of residents from being displaced, and even brought green building principles to the South Bronx. Continue Reading>>

MAS Seeks Nominations for 2009 Annual Awards

Every year, we ask our members to nominate candidates for our annual awards, which are given at our annual meeting to those groups, individuals, structures, and events we believe have contributed most to making New York a more livable city. Last years’ winners included: American Ballroom Theater’s Dancing Classrooms a program for NYC’s 4th graders; the customer service line for all New Yorkers, 311; Solar One; the Long Island City Cultural Alliance; and the amazing comeback of the very mammal that appears on the seal of New York City, as a symbol of industriousness, but has not been seen in the city since the early 1800s, the beaver (specifically José the Beaver in the Bronx River).

Call for Nominations to 2009 MASterwork Awards Extended

iac building frank gehry nycThe deadline for nominations to our 2009 MASterwork Awards has just been extended from this Friday, January 30, to noon on Friday, February 13. Each year, the Municipal Art Society honors the year’s top building projects for their excellence in architecture and urban design, and their contribution to New York’s built environment. The photo above is of Frank Gehry’s brilliant IAC Building which won a 2008 MASterwork Award for Best Building. Continue Reading>>

Hello, New York City. May I Help You?

311 call center nycLast week, the MAS Urbanists got a behind-the-scenes look at New York City’s state-of-the-art 311 call facility. Winner of a MAS Annual Award in 2008, 311 was launched five years ago and now receives more than 40,000 calls per day. Executive Director Joe Morrisroe and members of his staff enthusiastically presented the ins and outs of this information hub. Even though most calls are predictable (noise complaints in the summer, heat/hot water in the winter, parking questions year round) there are always important anomalies. They offer social services, and have provided informational services for over 2,000,000 callers during peak times like during  the NYC transit strike of 2005. Continue Reading>>

MAS Invites Nominations for 2009 MASterwork Awards

Now that 2008 is drawing to a close we are again seeking nominations for our 2009 MASterwork Awards.  Each year, the Municipal Art Society honors the year’s top building projects for their excellence in architecture and urban design, and their contribution to New York’s built environment. This year’s Awards Committee will be considering New York City projects that are completed within the 2008 calendar year. If you have been responsible for, or know of a recently completed project that you wish to nominate, please download and fill out a nomination form. Nominations are due by January 31, 2009. Continue Reading>>

Kent Barwick Awarded MAS’ Highest Honor

Departing MAS President Kent Barwick was awarded the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal at the MAS Gala Benefit earlier this month in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the city of New York. Held in a clear tent on the plaza of the iconic Seagram Building on Park Avenue and surrounded by some of New York’s most important buildings, a series of guests, including New York Governor David Paterson and a chorus line of former Rockettes, toasted Mr. Barwick and his excellence in leading the Municipal Art Society. Click on the images below to watch a slideshow of the event. [All photos: Steven Tucker] [AFG_gallery id=’12’]

For MAS, It’s Never Just Another Black Tie Dinner . . .

midtown east seagram building park ave 52ndFor 58 years now, the Municipal Art Society has honored a New Yorker who has made an outstanding contribution to the city of New York. Starting in 1950, this great honor has been bestowed upon an impressive list of personalities including legendary architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable (1982), Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., (1991), William (father of Wallace and New Yorker writer) Shawn, Philip Johnson (1983), Senator Moynihan in 1992, and for the revival of Tribeca, Robert DeNiro and Margot Gayle in 1997 and (dare we say it?) Robert Moses in 1959. But the magic of the evening comes in our steadfast and stubborn refusal to hold the event in a hotel ballroom. We pick, every year, a place in New York that is architecturally or historically fascinating. We’ve held the event on an empty floor of the Raymond Hood’s 1931 Art Deco masterpiece, the McGraw Hill building, with candlelight and stunning views. Or, how about our 2001 dinner at Gordon Bunschaft’s late Modernist skyscraper Lever House? Or, in 2006 at the-then partially restored, but still magnificently decorated, Park Avenue Armory. This year is no exception. This Tuesday evening, MAS supporters will enjoy cocktails at the Four Seasons, then dine under a clear tent on the plaza of the extraordinary Seagram Building which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. Continue Reading>>

How Would You Create More Affordable Housing in New York?

manhattan midtown night skyline from greenpointAt the first annual Jane Jacobs Forum last night, an expert panel considered how to house a million more New Yorkers over the next twenty years, and how to do this while retaining neighborhood character and diversity. Panelists also suggested ways of making housing affordable in an increasingly land-poor city, and described the kind of changes in city infrastructure they think are necessary to accommodate all these new New Yorkers. Panelist Jerilyn Perrine, director, Citizens Housing and Planning Council, said (jokingly) that she would like to see Staten Island swapped for portions of New Jersey that are well-connected to regional mass transit, and (seriously) the extension of the 7 train in both Manhattan and, more importantly, in eastern Queens where affordable housing could be built to serve growing immigrant communities. But, what would you do to make housing affordable? What improvements to the city’s infrastructure do you think the city and federal governments should focus on? Tell us. Continue Reading>>

From Burning to Blooming: Rave Reviews for South Bronx Tour

Alexie Torres-Fleming, winner of the Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism, led a South Bronx walking tour last Saturday (October 18) — titled From Burning to Blooming: Community-Driven Projects in the South Bronx — that none of the 30 participants will soon forget. Over the last 15 years, the organization she founded, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, has operated on the premise that the community residents can rebuild their neighborhood (the poorest Congressional District in the nation) and that youth can lead that movement. Alexie and staff members Dawn Henning and Stephen Olivera illustrated some of YMPJ’s work on environmental justice, watershed, and greening issues. Below are comments from participants that evoke their experiences:
“… a fantastic tour!” “Very interesting tour… it’s only by walking there that one can grasp the (hard!) realities of the neighborhood.”
Continue Reading>>

Join MAS for a Tour of Environmental Success Stories in the South Bronx

mural public art south bronxOn Saturday, October 18, join the winner of this year’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism, Alexie Torres-Fleming, on a walking tour highlighting several community-driven projects undertaken by her organization that have improved the health of the Bronx River watershed. HighOn Saturday, October 18, join the winner of this year’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism, Alexie Torres-Fleming, on a walking tour highlighting several community-driven projects undertaken by her organization that have improved the health of the Bronx River watershed.lights include the restoration of Concrete Plant Park — a once-contaminated property that was converted to parkland designed by local residents, and several storm water best management practices, including rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels. From Burning to Blooming: Community Driven Projects in the Bronx Saturday, October 18, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Space is limited. $15, $12 MAS members/students. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075. Leader: Alexie Torres-Fleming, founding director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. Meet outside the office of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, 1384 Stratford Avenue, Bronx, NY 10472, MAP. For details of upcoming MAS programs, visit

Margot Gayle: In Memoriam

margot gayleMargot Gayle, who died at her home on the Upper East Side on September 28 at the age of 100, was an active member of MAS for 61 years. She never understood inactive. As newsletter editor, trustee, chair of dozens of committees (several, now venerable organizations) and finally recipient of the Society’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis medal, Margot earned the right to relax. But the energy and spirit that saved threatened treasures from the Alice Austen House in Staten Island, to the Old Sun Clock in Lower Manhattan, to the Bogardus Fire Tower in Harlem kept her advocacy going right to the end. Before we had mayors who cared, she practically swept up City Hall, saved the Art Commission from extinction, and helped the Landmarks Preservation Commission become independent. Perhaps Margot’s most notable achievement is the 1973 creation of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District – earning her the moniker “Queen of Cast-Iron Architecture”. According to former MAS President Brendan Sexton, ‘’Margot Gayle is the only reason we have a SoHo. The only person who comes close or who shares with Margot that honor is Jane Jacobs… Margot turned her eye on the cast-iron district and it appeared like magic.’’ In fact, it is hard to imagine what New York might have become without her. Continue Reading>>

Join Us to Honor Kent Barwick with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal

skyline night midtownAt the Annual Benefit on November 11, with great pride and shared gratitude, MAS will present its highest honor to our President Kent Barwick who, after almost 40 years of service, steps down as president of MAS at year end. Kent Barwick has been the soul of the Municipal Art Society for almost four decades, leading the charge to save Grand Central, Radio City Music Hall, Lever House, St. Bartholomew’s Church, to name just a few of his accomplishments. In some of his boldest strokes, Kent stopped the plan for a massive tower that would have cast shadows across Central Park, and prevented a potentially disastrous rezoning of Times Square that would have extinguished its celebrated bright lights. He is an outspoken and passionate advocate for a magnificent new Moynihan Station, for a revitalized waterfront and, most importantly, for engaging citizens in the shaping of their city. Continue Reading>>