The Municipal Art Society of New York logo

Hamilton’s New York City Program recently traveled to Midtown for a visit and presentation from the Municipal Art Society of New York. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving legacy spaces, engaging in thoughtful city planning and design, and fostering inclusive neighborhoods across New York City. The presentation centered on MAS’s on-going project, the Accidental Skyline and their most recent report, A Tale of Two Rezonings: Taking a Harder Look at CEQR (City Environmental Quality Review), which debuted on Nov. 8.

The Accidental Skyline initiative originated in 2013 and attempts to bring attention to out-of-scale developments that threaten public assets such as light, air, and open space. A Tale of Two Rezonings exposes the unplanned consequences of the Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City rezonings. The presentation highlighted how unintended high-end residential development in these areas, paired with meager mitigation measures, led to a dramatic change in demographics and socio-economic levels of new residents, extreme overcrowding in elementary schools, and buildings that overshadow open spaces and parks. As a result, these factors contributed to a decreased overall quality of life.     

A lively question and answer period followed and Hamilton students jumped right in, relating their own experiences working in areas that have recently been rezoned in the city. MAS planning team staff members recalled their involvement in past projects and provided their take on tougher questions like what would be MAS’s ideal city.

MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein provided valuable insight on the vast changes that New York City has undergone since she was a child, stating that not all of it has been positive. She emphasized the need for a city to take into account the voices of local residents as well as to consider the harmful impact of out-of-scale development on public resources like mass transportation. The conversation that ensued was engaging and at times combative, with the mention of author Edward Glaser and his support of high-density cities.

At the end of the visit, the class enjoyed views of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral from the conference room and a brief impromptu tour of MAS’s Greenacre Reference Library, located right off the office’s main workspace.

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