Posts tagged with "Municipal Art Society":

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Four Firms Radically Re-Envision a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden

When Madison Square Garden’s 50-year special permit expired last year, it launched a fiery debate over the future of the arena atop Penn Station.  Critics, urban planners, and government officials have called for a 10-year term limit to encourage the relocation of MSG allowing for an overhaul of the crowded station. Today the Municipal Art Society of New York unveiled four different visions for a re-imagined Penn Station and MSG from firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Each firm offered up its own rendition—some focused more on expanding infrastructure, while others honed in on opportunities for cultural and educational programming and new amenities within the station. But all the firms decided to relocate the arena, make room for green space, and create a new light-filled and spacious train terminal. And on the more far-reaching side, they envisioned and described this new station as a civic hub that will anchor and reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhood and serve as a “gateway” (a buzz word liberally used at the unveiling) for the city. The presentations were a fantastical exercise in design if all variables—funding, political might, and private interests—miraculously came together. H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture was the first to take the stage. The firm recommends re-locating Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre site on the waterfront by the Javits Center, which would then pave the way for a new Penn Station to be built with an eight-track high-speed rail, a three-acre park, retail space, and a roof garden. The Farley Post Office would then be transformed into a Center for Education and the four corners of the station would be privately developed  “hybrid buildings.” SOM has concentrated on providing a robust infrastructure with a network of high-speed rail lines for the North East Corridor, better commuter rail service, and rail lines linking to the major airports in the area. The station will have a ticketing hall in center of building and then two concourses below with retail spaces. The firm would move Madison Square Garden to an adjacent location and imagines private development will crop up around the station. Charles Renfro of Diller Scofidio + Renfro described their “Penn Station 3.0” as a “grand civic space founded on growth and innovation.” The transit node would become “both a front door and living room” that would be “alive 24/7” and organized by “fast, transit-oriented programs” and “slower” activities including retail, cultural space, and restaurants. MSG would then be moved to the west end of the Farley building. “In closing, we basically would put a wrecking ball to the site,” said Elizabeth Diller. SHoP Architecture’s Vishaan Chakrabarti started off talking about safety as a critical challenge to the current Penn Station aggravated by a “lack of air” and “disorientation”  caused by MSG. The firm envisions an open, light-filled station that would be at the heart of a new district they’ve dubbed “Gotham Gateway.” They would relocate MSG to the Morgan site and create “a link from east to west and north to south” connecting the station, a new park, and the arena. While the other presenters focused on design, SHoP dipped its toe in public policy side of the equation. The firm is calling for the creation of a “Gateway Task Force” consisting of the Vice President, US Transportation Secretary, the governor, and the mayor, which would serve to facilitate a relocation of MSG, spearhead the Gateway Project (including funds for new tunnel, track and station), and provide necessary amenities.
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Nominations Sought for Jane Jacobs Medal

jane_jacobs_medal_01 After announcing the winners of the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal last month at Frank Gehry's IAC Building in west Manhattan, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society are in search of nominees for this year's prize (the awards ceremony was pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy). The groups are accepting online nominations on the Rockefeller Foundation's website through April 30. Among the qualities of a Jacobs Medal winner are that they "Open our eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding our city" and "Challenge traditional assumptions and conventional thinking." Winners will be announced this September.
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Opposition to Madison Square Gardens Heating Up

Madison Square Garden has been on the move since its inception in 1879 as a 10,000-square-foot boxing, bike racing, and ice hockey venue in an old railroad depot at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The facility later moved into an ornate Moorish-style building designed by famed Stanford White, architect of the Penn Station, which the arena notoriously replaced at its fourth and current home on 33rd Street in Midtown (after a brief stop on 50th Street). Now, if community boards, civic and planning groups, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer get their way, the venue will be sent packing once again. With MSG's special use permit to operate at its current site—originally issued in 1963 with a 50-year term—up for review, opposition is now mounting to relocate the arena, increase the capacity of one of the city's biggest transportation hubs, and restore some sense of "civic dignity" to the site of New York's most famous demolished train station. Last month, Community Boards 4 and 5 unanimously voted to deny the arena's owners request for a permanent extension of the permit, which would have guaranteed the arena's site for eternity. Seconding that decision, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, who has supported moving the arena for over a year, penned a scathing screed on why the arena must go:
The last thing New York needs is to enshrine the aging and oppressive Garden, which may be the world’s most famous arena but is also one of the ugliest and, for millions of commuters using the station trapped beneath it, a daily blight.
On March 21, the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Planning Association joined forces to push for reconsidering MSG's current site. According to a joint statement, the groups want "to overhaul Penn Station and reconsider the location of Madison Square Garden atop our busiest and most vital transportation hub." The two groups issued a statement:
Penn Station’s problems aren’t only aesthetic. The station is so space-constrained that it struggles to accommodate passenger traffic from the rail systems that currently use it or absorb future passenger growth and new services such as high-speed rail. While large cities around the world—and New York’s own Grand Central Terminal—have built and transformed rail stations into appealing destinations for residents and visitors, Penn Station has never been a magnet for west Midtown.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued his own opinion this week on the matter, proposing a limited ten-year extension to MSG's special use permit, noting that the arena "stifles" Penn Station's ability to grow, which could bring negative long-term consequences to the city and region. Stringer noted in his press release that Penn Station already operates at well over 100 percent of its capacity, handling more than 640,000 people daily, triple the 200,000 capacity the station carried 50 years ago. With expansion on Manhattan's West Side and proposed tunnels to New Jersey, estimates show that use will increase some 40 percent over the next two decades. “It is time to build a more spacious, attractive and efficient station that will further encourage transit use, reduce driving into the city, and spur economic growth throughout our city and our region,” Stringer said in a statement. “While we need to ensure the Garden always has a vibrant and accessible home in Manhattan, moving the arena is an important first step to improving Penn Station.” Among the challenges to updating Penn Station are the support beams for the arena, which land between tracks leading into the station. According to the New York Times, the station also fails to meet current fire codes and other safety regulations MSG's current site, Stringer continued in his press release, will ensure that Penn Station "remains a confusing, subterranean, three-level maze with indiscernible entrances, low ceilings, and exit points that are severely limited. It is simply unacceptable to continue to subject existing and future users to the current Penn Station. Failing to account for Penn Station’s current and future needs could have devastating effects and enervate New York’s ability to compete with world cities.” His proposal called for a comprehensive study of the Moynihan-Penn Station area to create a master plan that could guide growth. During the ten-year extension, an alternative site for MSG could be found. While there has been no official proposal for a relocation site, several observers have issued their own recommendations. In another New York Times piece, Kimmelman suggested another site on the West Side such as the giant Morgan General Mail Facility that covers two entire blocks. Kimmelman conceded, however, "The point isn’t deciding which possible site is best right now. It’s knowing there are paths worth pursuing, and focusing the next decade on exploring them." The Dolan family, owners of MSG, will appear before the New York City Planning Commission and eventually the full City Council this summer to make their case for renewing the permit and keeping the arena at its current site. A public hearing at the Planning Commission is scheduled for April 10 and the RPA will be hosting a forum on the arena on April 19.
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MAS Proposes 17 Midtown East Landmarks to Avoid “Out With The Old, In With The New”

In response to the New York City Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone Midtown East, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to give landmark status to 17 buildings in the 78-block area concentrated around Grand Central Terminal. It is a last ditch effort to preserve several prominent structures—with styles ranging Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival to Neo-Gothic and Mid-Century Modern—before Midtown gets the green light to raze old structures and erect new (and taller) buildings that provide modern features for tenants who “want open space plans” wrote the DCP in its proposal. The New York Times described the re-zoning as part of the Bloomberg administration’s vision to re-vamp midtown and turn it into a more competitive business district. Some notable buildings that have made MAS’ list include the New York Health & Racquet Club in Gothic Revival Style, the Graybar Building with Art Deco accents, the Neo-Gothic Swedish Seamen’s Church, and the Yale Club noted for its neo-classical façade.
  1. 445 PARK AVENUE, Kahn & Jacobs, 1946-1947
  2. 450 PARK AVENUE, Emery Roth & Sons, 1968-1972
  3. 4 EAST 43rd STREET, Andrew J. Thomas, 1916
  4. 661 LEXINGTON AVENUE, York & Sawyer, 1925-1926
  5. 111 EAST 48th STREET, Cross & Cross, 1925-1926
  6. 18-20 EAST 50th STREET, Rouse & Goldstone; Joseph L. Steinman, 1915
  7. 420 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Sloan & Robertson, 1925-1927
  8. 509 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Schultze & Weaver, 1928-1929
  9. 56 EAST 42nd STREET, J.E.R. Carpenter; Dwight P. Robinson, 1928-1929
  10. 17 EAST 47thSTREET, Henry Otis Chapman, 1932
  11. 5 EAST 48th STREET, Wilfred Edward Anthony, 1921
  12. 125 PARK AVENUE, John Sloan (York & Sawyer), 1921-1923
  13. 250 PARK AVENUE, Cross & Cross, 1923-1924
  14. 525 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Arthur Loomis Harmon, 1922-1923
  15. 270 PARK AVENUE, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1956-1960
  16. 52 VANDERBILT AVENUE, Warren & Wetmore, 1914-1916
  17. 50 VANDERBILT AVENUE, James Gamble Rogers, 1913-1915
Download a PDF with more info on each building here.
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Videos> The 425 Park visions of Foster, Koolhaas, Rogers, and Zaha Hadid

After today's announcement of Norman Fosters next project in New York, a luxury condo tower at the United Nations, we just can't get enough of the British starchitect. Luckily, a stash of video renderings and presentations from the firms behind the planned 425 Park tower can provide just the fix. It wasn't too long ago that the starchitect-filled competition for the new Park Avenue tower selected Foster + Partners as its winner. Now after the design presentations at the recent MAS Summit and the release of photo renderings from all players—including runners up Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid—we can indulge in the virtual demonstrations of their designs. For more videos of the MAS summit presentations, click here.
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Foster, SOM and WXY Explore Grand Ideas for the Next 100 Years at Grand Central Terminal

The neighborhood around Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal is about to undergo monumental change as the Bloomberg administration pushes to upzone areas around Park and Madison avenues. Already, Norman Foster recently unveiled his plans for a new 425 Park tower, viewed as a precursor to what's bound to be a taller neighborhood and the NYC Department of Transportation announced intentions to close Vanderbilt Avenue to automobile traffic to help with already-overflowing sidewalks. But in anticipation of Warren and Wetmore's Grand Central celebrating its centennial next year, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) asked three firms—SOM, WXY, and Foster+Partners—to re-envision the Beaux-Arts masterpiece and its surrounding midtown neighborhood with an eye toward the train station's next 100 years. The results of the Grand Central…The Next 100 project were unveiled at this year's MAS Summit for New York City, which wrapped up on Friday and included both down-to-earth and fanciful visions for the future of Manhattan. Each of the three firms used the existing Grand Central as a springboard to create infrastructure that stimulates and interacts with the public realm, connecting the terminal to the street and larger neighborhood. These connections are vital considering the terminal handles up to a million visitors on peak days. Foster & Partners put it succinctly in a statement:
The result is acute overcrowding; connections to the rail and subway lines beneath the concourse are inadequate; and the arrival and departure experience is poor. Added to that, the surrounding streets are choked with traffic and pedestrians are marginalised. The rapid growth of tall buildings in the vicinity has all but consumed the Terminal.
All three proposals recognize the importance of the pedestrian realm and push for expanded public space, not only along Vanderbilt Avenue, but also along the terraced Park Avenue weaving around the terminal and along diagonal corridors carved through surrounding buildings. The three teams also proposed different ideas of layering spaces, connecting the street level with a terraced viaduct surrounding the terminal and connections to the activity happening underground. WXY peeled away portions of Vanderbilt Avenue to reveal the subterranean infrastructure that makes Grand Central tick, providing both interesting view corridors and easier access to the train station. The new pedestrian plaza is bookended by an proposed new super-tall tower at its southern terminus and a reimagined MetLife building planted with trees and repurposed as residential, office, and hotel uses with an ambitious cultural anchor at its base. The Park Avenue viaduct has been divided to provide separate automobile and pedestrian / bike access. In addition to turning Vanderbilt Avenue over to pedestrians, Foster reimagined the streets surrounding Grand Central as shared spaces where pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles share space in a slow-moving environment with faster traffic bypassing the area through an underpass. Through a series of small-scale interventions, Foster sought to provide "breathing room" around the terminal that allows visitors to linger and experience that place rather than simply rush through, accomplished in part through a series of cuts in the pedestrian plaza leading to retail zones. SOM similarly addresses the ground plane with more nuanced pedestrian space, also turning over the entire Park Avenue viaduct to pedestrian use. Their plans turned monumental with several large towers proposed flanking Grand Central with a moveable ring connecting the two floating over the station. SOM also reached out into midtown with a series of POPS, privately owned public spaces, forming diagonal pedestrian streets modeled after the recently opened Holly Whyte Way that connect to surrounding landmarks like the New York Public Library. As a major transportation hub, a historic building, and a commercial space, Grand Central is among the most important anchors in all of Manhattan, and MAS President Vin Cipolla emphasized the need to acknowledge the public experience in the midst of the ongoing rezoning initiatives. Foster added that MAS’s focus on the next century of Grand Central “represents an important and welcome debate that will help shape the future form of the city. The quality of a city’s public realm reflects the level of civic pride and has a direct impact on the quality of everyday life.” The results of The Next 100 will help the MAS is compiling its forthcoming report,The Future of Midtown.
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Archi-Spring Has Sprung: AN Takes in Three Events Across New York

It was a busy archi-spring night last night. The Municipal Arts Society held their debate on NYU’s 2031 expansion plan, the AIDS Memorial exhibit opened at the Center for Architecture, and Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century opened at the newly re-dubbed Walker Tower on West 18th Street. Read on for highlights of the MAS debate and to view few photos from the Center and Walker Tower... The MAS debate was the most sober event of the evening with a panel packed with academic all stars. The NYU opponents applauding statements they found to their liking lent the debate the air of a souped-up community board meeting. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hear ideas cleanly teased out by moderator John Alschuler, of HR&A, the real estate/economic advisory firm.  The community had an informed voice on stage in CB2 Chair Brad Hoylman. His point of view was largely backed up by Pratt’s Ron Shiffman, while NYU’s Hilary Ballon and Penn’s Gary Hack tipped the balance back in favor of NYU. Alschuler got the ball rolling by stating “nobody loves the Coles Gymnasium,” the bland brick bunker on the corner of Houston and Mercer, and that “some level of change is going to come there,” partly in the form of a hotel in the so-called Zipper Building. This immediately spurred Schifman to respond that there is little need for a hotel on the campus as NYC has plenty already. “People can get on the subway, why are we protecting them,” he said of the NYU visitors. “That’s a formula for disaster.” Hack argued that at Penn they began their expansion with a hotel, because that’s what visiting academics need most—a place to stay on campus. While Ballon, who is based at NYU Abu Dhabi, said the university’s international franchises mean they need a hotel more than ever. In the end, the southern super block with its two towers was the source of less tension, as opposed to the proposed Boomerang Buildings on the northern superblock. Schiffman went so far as to say that he likes the Kimmelman plan, which would keep the below grade space but nix the above grade structures. But Hack said the new proposal, including the buildings, would open the superblock up and provide better circulation. He added that the additional space would give students a place to gather instead of meeting at “third place haunts” like Starbucks. Hoylman said the north block proposal would more likely become a student thoroughfare, not a neighborhood square. “This is about NYU solving an identity crisis; they get their quad,” he said.
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2011 Jane Jacobs Medalists Champion City Life

As we all know, Jane Jacobs was a visionary urban activist and author, whose 1961 publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities had a tremendous impact on how we think about cities and urban planning today. She challenged prevailing assumptions in urban planning at a time when slum-clearing was the norm and emphasized the intricacies and sensitivities of an urban fabric. In 2007, the year after Jacobs died, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Jane Jacobs Medal, an annual award given to those who stand by Jacobs' principles and whose "creative uses of the urban environment" renders New York City "more diverse, dynamic and equitable." Two awards covering New Ideas & Activism and Lifetime Leadership are presented each year. Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation and Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives took the New Ideas & Activism title for their contributions to public space and transportation while Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal were presented with Lifetime Leadership awards for their contributions to the Tribeca neighborhood. Sadik-Khan was lauded for her standout efforts to increase access to public space, improve traffic flow, and promote sustainable transportation. Her work includes the creation of select bus service routes in the Bronx and Manhattan, the installation of 18 pedestrian plazas, the addition of over 250 miles of on-street bike lanes, car-free summer streets, and a new Street Design Manual. Steely White's leadership is responsible for championing public campaigns to make New York's streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists including traffic calming initiatives and the Safe Routes to School and Safe Routes for Seniors campaigns, which were later adopted by NYC DOT. His organization also led the government call to install new pedestrian spaces and 200 miles of bike lanes between 2006 and 2009. The Lifetime Leadership awards went to Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and driving force behind the Tribeca Film festival. Together, the pair not only founded the Tribeca Film Center, the first commercial space in Tribeca dedicated to film, television, and entertainment companies, they also responded to the devastating consequences the 9/11 attacks on Lower Manhattan by founding the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, whose active presence heavily contributed to the city's long-term recovery. The recipients were decided by a jury comprised of Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Richard Kahan, founder and CEO of the Urban Assembly and recipient of a 2009 Jane Jacobs Medal, Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and Bruce Nussbaum, professor at Parsons The New School for Design.  The 2011 Jane Jacobs Medal was administered by the Municipal Art Society.
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Pictorial> Tribute in Light Pierces a Calm New York Sky

As night descended on a memory-laden New York City on Sunday, September 11, 88 light cannons were powered up, shooting beams of light into the air representing the profiles of the original Twin Towers. We stopped by Saturday night, as crews were putting the finishing touches on the display and double checking that all the lights performed flawlessly, and the close-up result was nothing short of amazing. The Tribute in Light display is perched atop a parking garage adjacent the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, standing close to One World Trade Center, which itself was wrapped in red, white, and blue lights for the commemoration.  On the garage roof,  two twin 48-foot square rings of light projected four miles into the partially cloudy Saturday night sky, creating an aura of tranquility that brought to mind sitting in a great cathedral or perhaps superman's lair. The only movement around the solid blue beacons were millions of circling insects drawn to the display's beams, occasionally flying too close to the hot lights and catching fire, leaving small trails of smoke wafting from the tops of the cannons. The twin beacons could be seen for miles around, up to 60 miles on a clear day, and we spotted them from several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. For the first time this year, Tribute in Light was powered entirely by biodiesel fuel, making the powerful light display not just a moving gesture but also a green one. Now the Municipal Arts Society who sponsors the annual light show is hoping to make it financially sustainable as well and has launched a fundraising campaign to establish an endowment. Donations can be made online or an instant $10 can be donated by texting TRIBUTE to 20222. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
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Remembering 911: Tending to a Tribute in Light

Perched on the rooftop of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, two groups of 44 light cannons pointing skyward will soon project high-intensity beams of light into the night sky for Tribute in Light, marking the tenth anniversary of the 911 World Trade Center attacks. Last week, as a crew of 30 workers was positioning the lights and laying cable to a large generator on the sidewalk, we stopped by to learn more what's involved with the massive display. Presented every year by the Municipal Arts Society, the display will shoot skyward at dusk on Sunday, September 11 and run through the night. Tribute in Light was initially conceived by three independent groups of architects and designers who each had a similar idea at the same time. Lighting designer Paul Marantz helped the groups merge their ideas into one viable lighting display, finding common ground between the three designs. "Light cannons," spotlights about 18-inches in diameter supported in metal frames, are arranged in square rings representing the footprints of the Twin Towers and staggered for optimum light density. Michael Ahern who is producing the display said the staggered pattern gives depth to the 48 foot by 48 foot squares. Once powered up, each of the 7,000-watt xenon searchlights will merge to form a beam of light that shoots four miles into the sky and is visible for 60 miles around. Ahern said such high-intensity lighting displays are rare, but noted that iconic beam shooting from the top of The Luxor casino in Las Vegas also projects light skyward in a similar fashion. Before the lights can be turned on, technicians must align each cannon so the entire array points in exactly the same direction to avoid the scattering of light. Spotters are dispatched to New Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Uptown Manhattan to make sure the lights come together as a single beam. This labor-intensive process can take up to eight days. Once the switch is flipped, the display takes about five minutes to reach full intensity. Ahern said standing on the roof watching the lights is "beyond awesome...looking up , it really is genuinely amazing." He compared the experience to standing in a cathedral of light. The beams emit a slight blue hue, the same color as daylight, according to Ahern. With this many lights drawing so much electricity, Tribute in Light is not cheap. Combined with a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Municipal Arts Society has funded the $500,000 show out of its operating budget, but now that the grant money has run out, funding for future years is in jeopardy. The MAS is now seeking to establish an endowment and to find a permanent location to keep the lights running for years to come. The group has launched a fundraising campaign with a goal of several million dollars. Donations can be made directly to MAS at their web site or by calling 212.935.2075 or an immediate $10 donation can be made by texting the word TRIBUTE to 20222.
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MAS(sive) Support

In an extended period of belt-tightening, it is often the arts sector that grapples with some of the harder aspects of fund-raising. With heavy competition from other non-profits clamoring for support from the city’s enlightened wealthy, institutions must be creative and resourceful to attract new and more generous donors. For the Municipal Art Society (MAS), this dedicated support has come in the form of Robert W. Wilson. A veteran MAS donor, a philanthropist, and a former Wall Street hedge fund manager, Wilson has committed $600,000 over the next three years to match new or increased gifts of $1,000 or more on a one-for-two dollar basis. Effective August 1st, the aim is to help MAS strengthen and sustain its base of unrestricted support, which puts control of distribution into the hands of MAS rather than a targeted program. “Unrestricted support is the lifeline for any non-profit organization, and for MAS it’s fundamental to our core advocacy, planning and public program activities,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla in a recent interview. Indeed, MAS has been a keen advocate of preserving and protecting municipal artwork and buildings for almost 120 years. Set up by a group of architects, painters, sculptors, and civic leaders to create murals and monuments for New York’s public spaces, MAS later took on a more expanded interest in public debates about the design of the city’s buildings, parks, and monuments and its role grew to bring public consciousness to private developers and city officials. Among its most significant work is the transformation of Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island into a lively, usable park, for which MAS sponsored a competition won by James Corner Field Operations in 2001. Earlier successes include ensuring the protection of Times Square as an entertainment district against becoming subsumed into Midtown in the 1980s and pioneering the preservation of some of New York’s most important landmarks including Grand Central Station and Radio City Music Hall in the seventies. MAS’s “Adopt-a-Program” has seen numerous murals, statues, and buildings saved from erasure. With Wilson’s support—he has already provided most of the underwriting for the restoration of a mural by Ilya Bolotowsky on Roosevelt Island—MAS’s challenge now is to fuel another highly competitive field: giving.