We’re proud to be a media sponsor for the 2012 Municipal Art Society Summit for NYC. In addition to live tweets, Instagram feed  and an ongoing Branch conversation on the livability of your neighborhoods, we’ll be live blogging on this page. Day 2 live blog is available here.

4:48 PM: Grand Central Terminal: The Next 100 Years with Justin Davidson (New York Magazine), Claire Weisz (WXY Architecture), Roger Duffy (SOM) and Brandon Haw (Foster + Partners)

MAS President Vin Cipolla said, “There is perhaps no building more important in New York City than Grand Central. It is the anchor of a major commercial business district, a critical piece of infrastructure, and one of our most important urban transportation hubs. It is also one of the world’s great public spaces.”  Earlier this year, MAS launched Grand Central…The Next 100, and commissioned three prestigious firms, Foster + Partners, Skidmore, Owings & Merill (SOM) and WXY architecture + urban design, to create a vision for the future of the public areas around the terminal and east Midtown.

Grand Central is one of the greatest railroad terminals in the world surrounded by a dense, urban fabric. Although costing millions, new transportation connections fail to inspire and promise little better experience. Our challenge begs the question: “What should the new community around Grand Central and east Midtown look like?” There is a proposed re-zoning of Midtown that will mean obstacles ahead, but, the potential benefits offer great opportunities for our future. To see the proposed re-zoning for the neighborhood, read a brief overview on the New York City Department of City Planning’s webpage.

4:15 PM: Vibrancy in Neighborhoods: Secret Ingredients? The Arts with Patricia Cruz (Harlem Stage), Nicholas Baume (Public Art Fund), Karen Brooks Hopkins (Brooklyn Arts Museum) and Elizabeth Streb (Streb)

Preserving and honoring space for the arts is critical. The power of the arts brings about new ways of problem solving, and is a part of the ecosystem of neighborhood business and its residents. A community of practices has come together under the heading of “creative placemaking”, which illustrates how places are using the arts to shape their social and economic futures. Says Rocco Landesman, “Arts shape place.” The quality of life of a neighborhood at-large benefits from having access to the arts, and the impacts of that social climate is widely felt and exciting for everyone involved.

Since many parties contribute to the creation and maintenance of our environs, one party omnipresent through the process is a city or town’s mayor. What is a mayor’s role? The position implores a mayor to be Chief Urban Designer, since all decisions impact the built environment over which the mayor presides.

New York City is a vibrant place for innumerable reasons, of which the arts are a large part. “It is a microcosm of the whole world,” said moderator Patricia Cruz. “Art in culture is a value we all share.”

3:45 PM: The Future of Midtown East with Thomas Woltz, Amanda Burden (NYC Department of City Planning), Charles Bagli (The New York Times), John West (MAS Planning Committee), Tony Hiss (New York University), Michael Chappell (DEGW) and Edith Hsu-Chen (NYC Department of City Planning)

“How do we continue to create civic spaces and design places that are reflective of our values? How do we  build upon our history? How do we plan carefully and ambitiously–maybe even daringly to meet infrastructure needs? How do we build buildings that will inspire us?” asked Thomas Woltz of MAS.

The future of East Midtown is one of the most important initiatives of this administration, and the context within which it exists is supportive of transforming the current zoning into a powerful tool to exact pervasive change. Mayor Bloomberg has dedicated himself to a multi-faceted economic development plan. Creating great spaces with vibrant street life and designing them to be places people want to be in has been a priority.

East Midtown is a regional transit hub and a vital job center, home to premier tenants, and is one of NYC’s major tax base. Virtually no incentives currently exist for development there now, and the current zoning could even be perceived as restrictive. Says Amanda Burden, Chair of NYC Planning Commission and director of the Department of City Planning, only 1 sizable transfer of air rights has happened in the last 20 years. The pedestrian realm would benefit from the proposed rezoning, since the streets are narrow and dark, but support a tremendous amount of pedestrian traffic. The design of the public realm of East Midtown should reflect its vibrant life and accomodate the many thousands that traverse it daily.

The curent focus is targeted and limited as-of-right commercial development. A district improvement fund has been proposed to pay for pedestrian improvements. Vanderbilt Avenue is slated for large-scale revision as well. Because the skyline is integral to NYC, it is crucial to deploy this zoning in the upcoming year to help launch the change for East Midtown, so that it may be metamorphosed into the greatly improved public realm it needs to be for the future.

3:00 PM: Job Creation and Sustaining a Diverse Loca, Green Economy with Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas (RBF), Yeohlee Teng (MAS Board), Miquela Craytor (NYCEDC), Debera Johnson (Pratt Incubator), David Dyssegaard Kallick (Fiscal Policy Institute) and Yorman Nunez (Bronx Community)

What does job creation mean for our labor pool? How can local jobs be created who are green, sustainable and improve our economy?

The population in NYC is back. After years of decay, it is now over 8 million residents. While this is true, the U.S. born population has not grown at all. All of the growth in New York City’s population is primarily due to first-generation immigrants who make up a great deal of the labor force, especially as small business owners. We have the challenge of creating the “right” kind of jobs. “The world is in need of new innovative jobs,” said Debera Johnson at the Pratt Incubator. Design, function and form play critical roles in the creation of green jobs.

The new jobs are in the food production industry, manufacturing and fashion design, among others. The NYCEDC’s Industrial Study points out that 15% of the industrial sector, specifically food manufacturing, sees positive trends in growth and stability. The pockets of growth are also in construction and transportation fields. The Future Focus program assists businesses to move towards reinvention and success. According to Yorman Nunez, “It is about  harnessing  what we already have [in terms of local resources].”

2:22PM: Mixed Use, Mixed Income, Mixed Up? with Mary Rowe (VP of MAS, Margaret Anadu (Goldman Sachs, Urban Investment Group), Jeffrey Rosenblum (Acumen Capital Partners), Jonathan Bowles (Center for an Urban Future)

What’s the relationship between the built environment and how that impacts our livability, including our economy?

Many of these manufacturing buildings in the outer boroughs are being converted into residential, which is a notable shift. Tech is moving to Brooklyn & Queens because Union Square and Flatiron rents are at about $60/foot. These types of developments are increasingly important. The entrepreneurial-manufacturing wave is important to Brooklyn and the city. As a city, it’s important that we keep these buildings because they are flexible.

1:50PM: New York City and the New Economy: Fostering an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem with entrepreneur and author Lisa Gansky, entrepreneur Phil Cooley, Stephanie Perreira (Kickstarter), Sandy Ikeda, Sunny Bates

Lisa Gansky: “The Mesh”: where access to goods, services and talent will triumph over ownership. Why is this happening now? Social networks and technology are making the physical world legible.  These things coming together are taking the friction out of sharing. Sharing is now more convenient and less costly than ownership.  People are far more open to trying new products, experiencing new brands.

Private homes are the fastest growing element of the travel industry, not hotels. The core of this is that value unused is waste. Cities are an amazing opportunity to look at how to convert waste into real value.

Stephanie Perreira: Most current stats at Kickstarter, a platform for creative categories. 2.5 million people have pledged over $380 million to nearly 75,000 creative projects. Over 30,000 have been successfully funded. Kickstarter is a space that is absent of the gatekeepers. Anybody with an idea can connect with the people who have most to gain from that idea. New category to be launched in the coming months: CIVIC, supporting projects like the Lowline.

Sandy Ikeda: If yo’re going to create a condition to enhance the new economy, you don’t know where the new ideas are going to come from so you have to be flexible. Local government has to enable people to use space in ways that people haven’t thought of before.

Phil Cooley: We’re seeing success where our community is together, when neighborhoods can connect, that’s where we’ve seen innovation and change.

1:30PM Conversation between NY Post political columnist and Bill Thompson, NYC Mayoral Candidate

Bill Thompson: Is New York bouncing back? Absolutely, but is everyone bouncing back in that recovery ? I think the answer is no. It’s uneven. Unemployment in Brooklyn and the Bronx is over 14%. 75% of NYC public school graduates can’t get into the 4 year institutions, can’t do college level work. They need remediation. Homeless is at an all time high. We all believe in prosperity, but we also want to see prosperity for everyone, and the opportunities for prosperity for everyone.

There seems to be a rush to get Midtown East done in the next 14 months. I believe that is a mistake. It’s a recipe in the long run for disaster.  Smart growth–growth that listens to the voices in the community.

12:09PM:  Jerold Kayden, Harvard University

How can something be privately owned, yet open and accessible and useful by the public, as required by law? The reality is NYC has 525 privately owned public spaces (POPS). Some of the spaces are quite good, some of the spaces are quite bad. Many reasons why these spaces have a mixed record. There were problematic laws, although they’ve been improved, problematic designs, problematic ownership. Improvements can be tracked back to the 1970s.

Spaces today remain oddly unclaimed. The issue is, can we do more with these 80+ acres of space–10% of Central Park, disaggregated. Announcement of new website on POPS, information about each individual one apops.mas.org

11:44AM: Sam Schwartz Short Talk: A More Equitable Transportation Formula

MTA system of tolls can’t go on. 50,000 extra cars, buses and trucks are trying to avoid the toll. They’re leaving the highways, going onto city streets.”The tolls are in the wrong place.” Apply pricing where you have serious congestion, and make it performance driven. Lower the tolls in some areas. How do you get Manhattenites to contribute more? (Taxi surcharge, for hire-vehicle surcharge, on-street parking surcharge). The plan would generate $56 billion over 40 years.

11:18AM: It’s the Economy: The Importance of the New York City Economy to the Resilience of America with  Genie Birch, Bruce Katz (Brookings Institution), Barbara Byrne Denham (Eastern Consolidated), Kevin Stolarick (Rotman School)

Bruce Katz: “I think we’re going through a shock decade. We’re recovering from this great recession. It’s obviously no bounce back, we need to purposely restructure our economy…We need to basically grow 11.2 million jobs to make up the jobs we lost in this recession and to keep pace with population growth. It will take us to August 2020 to make up that job deficit.” Important to also look what type of jobs to create: middle wage jobs.  Whoever wins this election, we’re going to see Washington DC scale back at monumental proportion so it can live within their means. Is this going to be a decade where we finally get our act together, or is this a lost decade?

Barbara Byrne Denham: National recession started before the New York City recession. National economy lost disproportionally more jobs than NYC, and NYC has recovered more jobs. NYC has a very cyclical economy, which is endemic to the history of NYC.

Kevin Stolarick: Innovation really matters here. There is this understanding that the manufacturing jobs for the most part are gone…what’s coming back are the kinds of manufacturing that you’re seeing in Brooklyn.” What you’re seeing is “conspicuous production,” (showing how local products are made), interesting and creative ways forward, even with manufacturing…We are always been industry agnostic [here in NYC], it’s about being creative and innovative. Successful firms can be in any industry, it’s how you tap into that creativity and industry…those are the kinds of things that will be really important going forward for the world and New York.

11:05AM: Philip Howard, MAS Board says  Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that he discovered someone starting a restaurant has to get approval from 9 different agencies. Bloomberg has created a one-stop shop to enable someone who needs to get important government approvals to have one person to deal with, so you can actually move forward. We don’t need to do that just for restaurants, we have to do it for everything.

10:35AM:  State of the City from the Ground Up Panel with Pat Kiernan (NY1), Craig Hatkoff (Tribeca), Dr. Ruth Finkelstein (NY Academy of Medicine), Richard Kahan (Urban Assembly), Elizabeth Yeampierre (UPROSE)

Dr. Ruth Finklestein: Income and education was a larger driver was than race, ethnicity or age in the survey. This data shows that “Ageism” is not the issue that people perceive it to be. In fact, older people are equally as willing to see improvements in the neighborhood. What are the human assets that we’re overlooking and failing to invest in? Survey showed me the incredible generosity and willingness to see the city improve, across age and ethnicity barriers.

Elizabeth Yeampierre: Communities emerging and becoming economic hubs that don’t have transportation amenities. Important to underscore how communities are different–survey doesn’t tell the whole story of Brooklyn. Was culture being defined in a very narrow Euro-centric way? Culture is the way we navigate around our community.

Takeaway: Solutions come from the community. Local neighborhoods and communities have the real answers.

10:22AM: Vin Cipolla introduces this year’s MAS Survey on Livability, top line highlights:

  • Are New Yorkers satisfied with living in the city? 84% are, a figure that has held steady since 2010.
  • % of very satisfied is up–30%
  • Satisfaction significantly higher in Manhattan and Brooklyn
  • 90% Brooklynites are satisfied with the city as a good place to live, most satisfied of New Yorkers
  • Employment is #1 concern across the boroughs
  • Housing options concerns are highest in Manhattan and the Bronx
  • Cost of goods and services are especially concerning for Staten Islands and Queens
  • When giving the choice of having more parks, as opposed to more housing, transportation and other issues
  • Newer transportation services are most important to Queens residents
  • 61% believe investment in world class transportation is a top priority, less support for airports
  • 64% feel being a city with major universities and high quality colleges is a top priority
  • Only 33% feel making sure neighborhoods were a blend of old and new
  • 61% rate neighborhood parks as excellent or good
  • More Latinos and African Americans rate their parks as fair or poor
  • Nearly half of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with their neighborhoods for experiencing the arts. Big disparity between boroughs.
  • 58% reported not having attended culture in their neighborhoods in the last 12 months at all.


9:56 AM: Richard Saul Wurman  has a chat with the audience, refusing to use the podium. On the form of conferences like the Summit, “Understanding precedes action…The best part of this meeting and any meeting is just talking to each other.” Wurman has been looking at 19 of the largest cities in the world and developing a way to measure and visualize them. What is an urbanized area? Addressing the issue of defining an urbanized area and its influence on statistics. Wurman says, “This is my passion–to understand cities of the world…It would be nice to know what [cities] are relative to other places. You can’t just transfer something they’re doing in Helsinki here. You have to understand it in context.”

9:53AM: MAS Board Director Michael Donovan introducing Richard Saul Wurman, architect and graphic designer, and the founder of TED.

9:26AM: Deputy Mayor Robert Steel looking to keep Midtown the premier business district for the world. “Pursuing economic expansion an job creation remains the mayor’s priority…Mayor Bloomberg rejects the false choice between preservation and development.”  Bloomberg has created 41 new historic districts, more than any administration since Landmarks agency opened in 1965.  He also contends that “Great design is great economics too.” Steel also speaks of the strength of students in New York as an asset, joking “NYC has more students than Boston has people.”

Robert Steel detailing new East Midtown development plan.  80% buildings in East Midtown are +50 yrs old with only 2 new in the last 10 years vs. 27 in Tokyo, 34 in London.  Developers would get bonus FAR from contributing to Business Improvement District, including transit, public space and pedestrian access to accomodate additional density. Additional permits for FAR up to 30 immediately around Grand Central, and up to 24 on Park Avenue. Proposals would have to meet “high planning, public space and design standards.” Reassures that the fundamental character of East Midtown will be preserved, while catalyzing significant economic development.” Sees only a few significant buildings to be built over the next 20-30 years.

9:22AM: Susan Freedman, who curated Discovering Columbus,  Tatzu Nishi’s re-imagining of the monument  at Columbus Circle. The art installation “connects past to the future. Modern life is a juxtaposition of innovation and tradition.” MAA will help “re-envision the city” as it moves forward.

9:15AM: MAS President Vin Cipolla welcomes those watching online from all over the world  https://mas.org/live.

9:11AM: Jay Cross, president of Related Companies (Hudson Yards development): Only 330 cities in the world with a population greater than a million, only 9 of them in the US….Our role [in New York] cannot be understated.”

9:07AM: Eugenie Birch, chair of MAS Board of Directors, welcomes the attendees to this year’s sold out Municipal Art Society Summit for NYC. “Development, density and diversity, you will hear this time and time again.” Birch adds a fourth, “We must remember design.”