Letter to the Editor> The Municipal Art Society and the role of civic leadership

East Letter to the Editor
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[Editor’s Note: This Letter to the Editor is in response to an editorial in The Architect’s Newspaper’s December issue, “What Happened to the Municipal Art Society?” Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com.]

The Architect’s Newspaper editorial of December 11 reinforced the crucial role of civic leadership in advocating for land use policies, planning, and design approaches to keep New York City one of the most livable cities in the world—an effort the Municipal Art Society has championed for more than a century.

Most recently, MAS was the first to call out the “Accidental Skyline” developing along Central Park South—and in other pivotal neighborhoods—by demanding a moratorium on new supertall development, and calling for zoning code reforms to require transparency and public review for out-of-scale development. We halted the City’s shortsighted original plans to rezone East Midtown—we identified 17 potential landmarks—and we continue to be the voice for planning and zoning policies that foster the kinds of economic diversity and varied creative and entrepreneurial uses a mix of building types makes possible, across the City. New Yorkers deserve a city by design, not by accident. Nowhere is our mandate clearer than in our steadfast championing of a new Penn Station and a revitalized West Midtown, where we successfully campaigned for a limited permit renewal for Madison Square Garden, and are now doggedly urging public and private sector stakeholders to invest in this piece of pivotal infrastructure and placemaking, upon which the economic livelihoods of hundreds of thousands depends.

We spoke out firmly and early against the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s proposal to decalendar more than a hundred potential landmarks this fall, submitting testimony on 47 items in the backlog. We opposed the draconian timelines of Intro 775, and called on the commission to seek an alternative proposal for the Palace Theatre. And we, with countless partners, waited until late in the night to voice our serious concerns with the one-size-fits-all approach of the mayor’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan.

Since leaving the Urban Center, we’ve taken MAS to all five boroughs of the city we are mission-driven to serve. We’ve cohosted dozens of community-based planning and resilience sessions with partners across the city—equipping them to advocate for complete neighborhoods that strengthen existing civic assets—and worked with a wide range of organizations in post-Sandy planning efforts.

MAS is a vibrant, ever-changing, responsive organization committed to building an urban fabric that best serves all New Yorkers—from sidewalks to skyline. We are continuing to cultivate effective partnerships and to mobilize together to protect and promote a more livable New York City.

Mary W. Rowe
Executive Vice President
The Municipal Art Society of New York

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