Dear Members and Friends,
Our advocacy has usually related to actions of the City or State. We detoured briefly, and to a limited extent, at the end of December to address a critical action being taken by the Municipal Art Society. For the fourth time in approximately six years, the MAS is changing leadership.
This time, at a meeting called for December 29 on a week’s notice, the MAS board approved hiring a new President to replace Gina Pollara. Gina had assumed that position in early 2016. She brought to the job her professional expertise as an architect, and recent administrative experience as executive director of the Roosevelt Memorial on Roosevelt Island.
More than that, she seized upon MAS’s apparently recovered will to engage in its traditional advocacy function. She conducted a series of public policy forums. She worked to promote better governance of privately owned public spaces. She spoke out in support of the City Club’s position on Pier 55. She participated in meetings of the City Club’s Urban Design Committee. And we participated with her on MAS projects.
In short, she generated a sense of institutional revival and a spirit of cooperation that the City Club warmly welcomed.
The day before the MAS acted, the City Club took the unusual step—one we would not regard as a precedent to be followed routinely—of emailing the entire MAS board to express our concern over its impending action to remove Gina. We felt that precipitate and ill-considered action would set back the MAS’s ability to continue the progress that it had recently begun.
In an announcement the MAS board published almost immediately after its meeting, the board said that it had hired Elizabeth Goldstein and described Ms. Goldstein‘s estimable credentials especially in the field of park conservation. We certainly wish her well.
While we have appreciated Gina personally as a shining light in the MAS’s recent history, our motivation in writing to the MAS board was institutional. The MAS has a long and highly productive history and we, like the public in general, have a big stake in the MAS’s future. Two articles of The Architect’s Newspaper can be found here:https://archpaper.com/2016/12/pollara-fired-mas/
https://archpaper.com/2016/12/city-club-responds-mas-boards-special-leadership-meeting/These contain verbatim transcripts of our letter to the MAS board, and of the board’s announcement. The New York Times covered the action in an article on January 7 available at http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/arts/design/municipal-art-society-abruptly-ousts-its-president.htmlBest wishes for the new year.
Michael S. Gruen
The City Club of New York
249 West 34th Street, #401-402
New York, NY 10001
Just before MAS’s Board of Directors recently dismissed of President Gina Pollara, The City Club of New York, which describes its members as “long time members and supporters of MAS,” urged the organization to defer any action and consider alternatives. The City Club has just issued a second statement: