The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is a non-profit membership organization for preservation in New York City, which aims to encourage thoughtful planning and urban design and inclusive neighborhoods across the city.

Headquarters at 488 Madison Avenue

The organization was founded in 1893. In January 2010, MAS relocated from its longtime home in the historic Villard Houses on 457 Madison Avenue to Steinway Hall on West 57th Street (across the street and east of Carnegie Hall). In July 2014, MAS moved into the Look Building at 488 Madison Avenue, across the street from its former Villard home.


Former headquarters, the Villard Houses at 457 Madison Avenue
The Richard Morris Hunt Memorial in Central Park, honoring the organization's founder

MAS's advocacy efforts have shaped the city a great deal since its inception in 1893. Some of their early accomplishments include passage of the city's first zoning laws, contributing input to the planning of the city's subway line, and the commissioning of public art throughout the city.

By the 1950s, scores of notable Manhattan buildings were lost to redevelopment around the city, and the mission of MAS broadened to include historical preservation. In 1956, the Society successfully lobbied for the passage of the Bard Law, which for the first time allowed cities to take aesthetics, history, and cultural associations into account for zoning laws. The law, named after longtime MAS board member and chief advocate, Albert S. Bard, provided a legal foundation for the New York City Landmarks Law, enacted in 1965.

In 1965, public outrage over the destruction of Pennsylvania Station and the Brokaw Mansion helped fuel the Society's mission towards preservation. With like-minded groups, they finally succeeded in establishing New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission, and New York's Landmarks Law.

In 2001, after the demise of Trans World Airlines, the original Trans World Flight Center, completed in 1962 and designed by Eero Saarinen, fell into disuse. During this period, the Municipal Art Society succeeded in 2004 in nominating the facility to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Places.[1]

In June 2007, MAS released with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance a new documentary about the future of the New York waterfront titled City of Water. In September 2007, the Society opened a major exhibition about Jane Jacobs sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Urban Center


The Municipal Art Society used to operate out of the Urban Center, a gallery on Madison Avenue.[2][3][4] The gallery, founded in 1980,[5] served to champion the fields of urban planning and design in New York, and was also the site of MAS' community development workshops, seminars, lectures, and other educational programs.[6][7] The Urban Center also included a book store which specialized in architecture, urban planning, urban design, and environmental studies.

The Urban Center was located in Villard Houses from 1980 to 2010 where upon it moved to West 57th Street.[2][8]

The Center no longer operates, since the Municipal Art Society moved to 488 Madison Avenue in 2014.[9]



Through its advocacy, MAS protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages thoughtful planning and urban design, and fosters complete neighborhoods across the five boroughs.[10] Since 2007, the organization has hosted the Livable Neighborhoods Program (LNP). This program helps local leaders in under-resourced communities throughout New York City develop the knowledge and tools that they need to participate effectively in public land use review processes, plus engage in creative, community-based design and planning.[11] Past alumni of the program include, Landmark East Harlem, Brownsville Community Justice Center, and Asian Americans for Equality.

A notable project supported and funded by the Society was the 1980 film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William Whyte.[12]

Tours and programs


Since 1956, the Municipal Art Society has offered walking tours about architecture and history across the five boroughs.[13] MAS offers both virtual and in-person tours throughout the year.[14] Additionally, the Municipal Art Society produces programming all across the city throughout the year, including book talks and panel conversations.[15] Since 2011, MAS has hosted the New York City chapter of the global Jane's Walk festival, which celebrates the legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs.[16] The walks range from any New York City topic, including culture, history, nature and more.[17]



Since 1987, the Municipal Art Society of New York has annually awarded the Brendan Gill Prize to the creator of a creative work that "best captures the spirit and energy of New York City."[18] The award was established in honor of Brendan Gill, New Yorker theater and architecture critic and long-time MAS Board Member. Past honorees have included Sufjan Stevens, John Wilson, Rebecca Solnit, Kara Walker, Ang Lee, and Gran Fury.[19]

Since 2001, MAS has annually awarded six MASterworks Awards to exceptional New York City architecture and landscape architecture projects from the previous year. The list of past winners includes Weeksville Heritage Center, the Tenement Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Little Island, and Moynihan Train Hall.[20]

See also



  1. ^ "TWA Terminal Named as One of the Nation's Most Endangered Places". Municipal Art Society New York, February 9th, 2004. Archived from the original on 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  2. ^ a b Sulzberger, A. G. (14 January 2010). "Urban Center Draws Its Curtains Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  3. ^ Rob Grader (15 April 2008). The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City: A Native New Yorker's Secrets of Living the Good Life--for Free!. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 256–. ISBN 978-0-7627-5159-4.
  4. ^ Museum Premieres, Exhibitions & Special Events. Museum Information Services. 1998.
  5. ^ Candace Ward (2000). New York City Museum Guide. Courier Corporation. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-0-486-41000-5.
  6. ^ Francis Morrone (September 2009). Architectural Guidebook to New York City. Gibbs Smith. pp. 221–. ISBN 978-1-4236-1116-5.
  7. ^ James R. Williams (30 January 2008). Inside New York 2008. Inside New York. pp. 229–. ISBN 978-1-892768-40-7.
  8. ^ Sulzberger, A. G. (2010-01-14). "Urban Center Draws Its Curtains Closed". City Room. Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  9. ^ "About Us – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  10. ^ "Livable Neighborhoods Program Training Sessions - Streetsblog New York City". 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  11. ^ "Livable Neighborhoods Program – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  12. ^ "William H Whyte". Project for Public Spaces. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  13. ^ "History – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  14. ^ "Tour – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  15. ^ "MAS Events – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  16. ^ "History – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  17. ^ "Propose Your Favorite NYC Walk For Jane's Walk | All Of It". WNYC. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  18. ^ "Brendan Gill Prize – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  19. ^ "Brendan Gill Prize – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  20. ^ "MASterworks Awards – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2023-07-17.