The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), founded in 1893, is a non-profit membership organization that protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages thoughtful planning and urban design, and advocates for inclusive neighborhoods across the five boroughs.
January 2010, MAS relocated from its longtime home in the historic Villard Houses on 457 Madison Avenue to the equally famed Steinway Hall on West 57th Street (across the street and east of Carnegie Hall). In July 2014, MAS moved into the landmark Look Building at 488 Madison Avenue, across the street from its former Villard home.
MAS’s advocacy efforts have shaped the city a great deal since its inception in 1893. Some of their early accomplishments include passing the city's first zoning laws, contributing input to the planning of the city’s subway line, and commissioning 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.
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.