The Future of NYC–MAS Summit 2012

What a treat to be viewing a classic Central Park landscape and listening to thought leaders discuss the challenges and the opportunities for making our city more livable. On October 18, I attended the MAS NYC Summit 2012 held at the Allen room-Jazz at Lincoln center (www.mas.org). With a view of the Christopher Columbus installation, it was fitting that one of the speakers asked: “Will the Christopher Columbus living room serve as a prototype for the smaller NYC apt models being considered for future development? (Unlikely -) The annual MAS Survey on Livability in New York City was overall very positive: • 84% of New Yorkers are satisfied or very satisfied with their life in NYC. • Employment is the #1 overall threat to being able to live happily in NYC (reported by 22% of participants) • NYers recognize the importance of infrastructure and transportation improvements and are willing to tolerate short term inconveniences for the longer term benefits. Identifying with their local neighborhoods, it is not surprising that meaningful community engagement builds exponentially on both the creative solutions to today’s challenges and the support needed during the implementation of same. As conversation continued around the breadth of opportunities and critical planning needed to deliver smart and sustainable urban planning — the point was made that the current boondoggles affiliated with zoning, landmarks and ULURP — must be simplified. Today’s industries are filled with examples of industries that have streamlined their activities and approval processes using the efficiency and intelligence offered by today’s digital economy. While this conversation took place in the morning, I laughed when the afternoon conversation surrounding plans for East Midtown was emphasized as a long term plan necessitating some 20-30 years to complete! Hmmmm Innocuous comments that make for great cocktail party conversation included: • The projection of bridge tolls reaching the $25 mark in 2020. • In the quest for the creation of middle class jobs- what constitutes a good job? What jobs are more likely to create wealth for the individual and for the economy? Economic data highlighting the job growth in low skilled industries since September 2009 emphasized this point further. What can we learn from the positive evolution of the manufacturing job status in previous years which generated very positive economic activity? How can we maximize the melting pot of local area residents, technological advancements and changing consumer attitudes and behaviors for ourselves and for our children? • NYC has more students than the general Boston population. • Within 15 years, 20% of NYers will be 60-plus years of age, representing a bigger segment of the population than school aged children at that time. No discussion would be complete without addressing the role of the arts. Rich stories demonstrating how best to re-purpose space that is not maximized exemplifies the magic in smart alliances. Reasons for this vacant space range from the building use and design to the economic factors which present under-utilized real estate today. The best examples of the alliance with the arts community brought real time revenue for the artists and the landlords; other examples ensured local manufacturing opportunities. My day ended with one of the most exciting presentations: Grand Central Terminal-The Next 100 • With the facility soon to celebrate its’ 100th birthday and plans to rezone the district around the terminal offering a rare opportunity to change the City’s skyline, three prestigious architectural firms presented their vision for both GSC and the surrounding area. • All spoke to the need for an improved pedestrian experience; taking their visions both above ground and below ground. • The challenge in balancing private developer interests with urban interests, and consumer needs cannot be under-stated. • And, I learned a new phrase during this presentation: “making the urban fabric more permeable”. Here comes the Jetsons Age! Kudos to the MAS Summit team for a wonderful event—you mastered the content, the logistics and so much more. So much wonderful food for further thought and discussion! Join the discussion #SummitNYC

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