Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Art Society

Gregory Gilmartin, Author
Gregory Gilmartin, Author Clarkson N Potter Publishers $35 (532p) ISBN 978-0-517-58574-0
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This is the involving story of a century of skirmishes between a dedicated group of New Yorkers committed to creating and preserving a beautiful, livable city and powerful real estate interests and indifferent or corrupt politicians. Founded in 1893 by architects and artists, the Municipal Art Society grew to include many of the city's elite, who joined in its battles. Among its notable recent victories were its campaigns to save and restore Grand Central Station; to oblige Donald Trump to modify his plans for skyscraping the Hudson River front and Mort Zuckerman to alter his designs on Columbus Circle; to prevent demolition of many architectural gems and historic sites; and to protect the city's diminishing light, air and open spaces. But it could not prevent the destruction of the old Penn Station and the encroachment by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on public areas of Central Park. The society has sparked more broadly based citizens' groups, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and legislation on building codes. In detailing the history of its valiant battles, Gilmartin (New York 1900) bares 100 years of power plays and manipulations that have made the cityscape a horror and a wonder. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
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