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Municipal Art Society Releases Framework for a Better Midtown

“The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) today announced the release of its report on the future of East Midtown, available for free download.

The MAS report, “East Midtown: A Bold Vision for the Future,” provides a plan for how to develop a stronger and more vibrant neighborhood in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preliminary proposal for major zoning changes, announced last summer, to spur the modernization of East Midtown. While MAS applauds the administration for considering the future needs of this iconic area, MAS fears that in the absence of a careful and comprehensive vision, the City’s proposal will fall short.

MAS President Vin Cipolla said, “An improved Midtown cannot simply mean larger office buildings; it must mean an improved experience for all New Yorkers.  MAS doesn’t believe the City’s proposal as currently outlined gets us there. A plan for Midtown’s future must address comprehensively the area’s transportation, public realm,preservation and economic challenges.”

“All of these elements are not only at the heart of an optimistic future for this key job center, but are also central to creating a more livable city. We urge the City to be as ambitious about the public realm and infrastructure of the area as it is about stimulating office space development.  We can and must do better—our city deserves it,” Cipolla continued. 

The specific recommendations outlined in the MAS report are influenced by a set of four core principles: 

REINVIGORATED PUBLIC REALM
Improving the experience of all of Midtown streets and investing in public space willhelp create the conditions for additional private investment and a more inviting and engaging central business district.

CONNECTED MIDTOWN
Investment in infrastructure has been the key driver of East Midtown’s development. Future investment and reliable funding mechanisms to secure those investments are essential to the growth of Midtown.  

VIBRANT MIX
A plan for Midtown should nourish the diversity that draws people and businesses to New York City. Preservation is an important tool in sustaining this mix.

DESIGN FOR THE NEXT CENTURY
New development must aspire to the highest quality design and environmental standards. Buildings need to connect to transit, improve the pedestrian experience, and support an active street life. 

The full report, available at mas.org, offers detailed background and many additional recommendations that amplify these principles.

MAS has a long history in East Midtown, advocating for Grand Central’s continued role as one of New York’s premier civic spaces and thriving transportation hubs. When Grand Central was faced with the prospect of demolition in 1968, MAS, along with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis embarked on a successful campaign to save the Terminal.

MAS has been developing this report and its recommendations since last summer, when the organization tapped three top design firms (Foster + Partners, SOM, WXY Architecture + Urban Design) to reimagine the public space surrounding Grand Central Terminal. MAS has also been convening monthly meetings with East Midtown stakeholders since the late summer.

Cipolla concluded, “We look forward to working closely with the City and many other stakeholders to build on this research and to seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to shape a generation of development in one of our city’s most significant neighborhoods.”

Read the report and tell us what YOU think.  Use the hashtag #BetterMidtown or comment on to our Facebook.