GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWING AND RESPONDING TO POLICY AND ADVOCACY ISSUES
ASLA-NY seeks to raise awareness of the field of landscape architecture and support policies which are aligned with values promoted by ASLA, including good stewardship of the environment, healthy communities, recognition and conservation of historic cultural heritage, greener transportation corridors, and effective, energy and cost-efficient landscape design. We are looking for better, more effective ways to bring our voice to the forefront.
Members are invited to alert the ASLA-NY Advocacy Committee of issues of relevance to the practice, advocacy and public awareness of landscape architecture in NY State. To facilitate the committee understanding the issue, forming an opinion and making a decision to create an ASLA-NY Position Paper, members are requested to provide, whenever possible, a basic outline of the issue and links to current objective information 3 weeks before any public hearing or deadline for filing a statement. The committee will then discuss the relevance to landscape architecture and ASLA-NY’s mission, whether we have enough information/insight into the topic to be credible, and what we think our response should be. If the committee agrees to take on the topic, it will write a draft position paper which is presented to the full board, along with the background information, and the board votes whether to proceed and make it a public statement or not. If the vote is yes, the paper is finalized, sent to the relevant decision makers, and posted on our website.
Our recent advocacy efforts and policies are found below.
ASLA-NY has joined 14 other NYC organizations who wrote a letter to the Mayor regarding improved public space for civil discourse. We are meeting with the DOT Commissioner on March 6 to discuss concrete actions and next steps. Please click here to read the letter (ASLA-NY was not a signatory to the original letter but subsequently joined the initiative).
ASLA-NY has signed on as a signatory to an open letter from Architects Advocate to President Trump regarding climate change. Click here to read the letter, and include your own name if interested.
ASLA-NY will be participating in Lobby Day in Albany on May 17. Please contact Diane Katz at [email protected] if you would like to join.
10 November 2014
The Frick Collection Board of Trustees
Att.: Ian Wardropper, Director
1 East 70th Street
New York, NY 10021
Dear Mr. Wardropper:
The American Society of Landscape Architects, New York Chapter, opposes the Frick Collection’s expansion proposal that would destroy the superbly designed Viewing Garden by British Landscape Architect, Russell Page. Our members are urging the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission deny the Frick’s request.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission defines a landmark as a building, property or object that has a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the city, state, or nation. The Frick’s viewing garden, which the Commission approved in 1974, is an inextricable element of the Frick’s architectural character that helps it meet this definition of a landmark. The Frick’s 1974 Landmarks designation was done before Page’s death in 1986. As the work of a master landscape architect and a rare American commission, the Russell Page-designed garden is today eligible under Criterion C of the National Register of Historic Places criteria when evaluating significance of a property.
Located in New York City amid the world’s most prestigious art museums, the Frick Collection offers art lovers a refreshing contrast to the enormous white boxes that contain many of the city’s important collections. The Frick provides an increasingly rare intimate art experience. Still, we understand the need for cultural institutions to stay relevant and to grow in order to attract visitors. The work performed by Landscape Architects is almost always part of a development project – we are by no means advocating for zero growth. However, in this case, we believe the importance of this garden should give the Board Members of the Frick sufficient reason to devise alternative expansion plans that would retain the garden. The Frick’s plans should seek to balance the benefits of economic development with the need to retain sufficient green space in our urban environment. This aspect of our city is easily lost in the shadows of tall buildings, making healthy landscapes difficult to grow. New York City’s parks and green spaces make our city a more gracious place to work and live. They are worth preserving, and in the same civic spirit of the original gift of the Frick Collection, this garden should be spared demolition.
The garden is an important work of art in its own right. It is a significant piece in the Frick’s collection. The museum’s own horticulturist said that viewing the precious outdoor space from the street or from the light-filled Reception Hall Pavilion is “like viewing an Impressionist painting.” It contributes to the museum’s unique character by setting the building in an appropriately quiet, contemplative green space which prepares visitors for the culturally enriching experience within the museum.
Architecturally, the original house was conceived as a “country house in the city,” a low lying structure with a large sunny garden that faces central park. The notable landscape architecture firm of the Olmsted Brothers designed the sunny garden on Fifth Avenue. The side garden designed by Russell Page, the subject of this petition, also contributes to that original concept. His original design intent was to create an enclosed terrace on East 70th Street that would evoke the charm of catching a glimpse into a private Parisian garden compatible with the Neo-classical architecture of the mansion. The Frick’s horticulturist also noted that this garden is meant to be a surprise discovery for passersby. Page’s garden is designed to slow, or stop, a busy New Yorker, to pause for a moment — a respite from the city. It’s an oasis everyone can enjoy. Green spaces, such as the Frick’s garden, contribute to our mental and physical well-being.
We agree with the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s assessment: One of the wonders of the Frick is that it doesn’t fill up its site, that it has a bit of room to breathe. One of the problems with green space is that it is often just seen as inherently ephemeral and too often viewed as places to “put stuff.” Unless it is deeded as a park, it’s just real estate with some plants stored on it.
This garden space is too special to erase from the cityscape. It has demonstrated its value to the citizens of New York City, and in turn its value to the Frick Collection. Should the Frick change direction and decide to save the garden, the members of the ASLA-NY stand ready to assist the Frick to retain this important work of landscape architecture while still achieving their expansion goals.
Jeanette Compton, President
American Society of Landscape Architects, New York Chapter
Cc: Mayor Bill de Blasio, City of New York
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission: Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
Charles Birnbaum, President, The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Cristiana Pena, Unite to Save the Frick
Frederick Bell, Executive Director, American Institute of Architects, NY
Robert A.M. Stern, Dean, Yale University School of Architecture
Difficulty achieving project approvals from the Department of Buildings has been an on-going challenge for landscape architects. Most department officials only focus on buildings – after all that’s the name of their agency. But in the spring of 2011, Landscape Architects began experiencing absolute road blocks at the agency. To gain DOB approval Landscape Architects had to pay an architect or engineer to sign and seal their landscape drawings and forms. This was even necessary when the landscape architect was the prime consultant on the project.
That practice will finally come to an end on October 1, 2014. After a concerted effort by the ASLA-NY DOB Task Force, the DOB added language to the latest revision to the building code that included a definition of landscape architect and a reference to the professional licensing of our profession including the land development tasks we perform. This was codified in Local Law 141 of 2013 (see excerpt below) which, in one of his last acts as mayor, Michael Bloomberg signed into law.
Landscape Architects will be allowed to submit forms and specific plans based on the clause below (you can download the complete document here: Local Law 141 of 2013)
This outcome is a direct result of the advocacy work of ASLA-NY. Our local chapter mobilized both members and non-members alike to volunteer their time to effect positive change for our profession. The effort lasted nearly 3 years, culminating in the Task Force Chair, Adrian Smith ASLA testifying before the New York City Council. Other task force members were in the audience ready to testify and still others came to the hearing but were turned away because the hearing room was too small.
Going forward, Landscape Architects with projects in New York City will have a more streamlined approval process for work that falls under the jurisdiction of the Building Department. For that achievement, gratitude is due the ASLA-NY DOB Task Force:
Adrian Smith ASLA, chair
Elena Brescia ASLA
Terri-Lee Burger ASLA
Susannah Drake FASLA
Michael Koontz ASLA
Kate Larsen Aff. ASLA
Signe Nielsen FASLA
Steven Noone ASLA
Laura Starr ASLA
Karen Tamir ASLA
Annette Wilkus FASLA
Denisha Williams ASLA
Christian Zimmerman FASLA
We should also recognize that National ASLA Advocacy staff helped facilitate our outreach efforts to members and to members of the New York City Council.
LOCAL LAW 141 OF 2013:
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT. A person licensed and registered to practice the profession of landscape architecture under the Education Law of the State of New York.
§28-104.6 Applicant. The applicant for approval of construction documents shall be the registered design professional who prepared or supervised the preparation of the construction documents on behalf of the owner.
Exception: The applicant may be other than a registered design professional for:
4. Applications for work falling within the practice of landscape architecture as defined by the New York state education law, including but not limited to landscaping and vegetation plans, tree protection plans, erosion and sedimentation plans, grading and drainage plans, curb cuts, pavement plans, and site plans for urban plazas and parking lots, where the applicant is a landscape architect. Landscape architects shall not file plans for stormwater management and plumbing systems;
§28-104.6.1 Verification of professional qualification required. The department shall not accept construction documents or other documents submitted in connection with applications for construction document approval or work permits under this code by any person representing that he or she is [an architect or engineer] a registered design professional or landscape architect without verifying, by means of lists compiled and made available by the New York state department of education pursuant to paragraph e-1 of subdivision four of section sixty-five hundred seven of the education law, that such person meets the qualifications established by law to practice as an architect or engineer in New York state.
Adrian Smith is ASLA-NY’s current Trustee and is a past chapter President.
For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working for NY ASLA members as our chapter’s Trustee on the National Board. I meet with the other trustees from around the country and the Executive committee twice a year – once at the annual meeting in the fall, and once at the mid year meeting every spring.
It’s my job to raise issues of import to our region at these meetings so that others from around the country and ASLA staff can hear what matters to us, and possibly help us find solutions. Here are just a few examples: I worked hard with a small coalition of other trustees to craft arguments to support linking licensure and membership; I enlisted the help of our professional practice group to see if they could help us with the prickly issue of how the intellectual property of landscape architects is not being respected, especially by many of our public clients; and with the help of our colleagues in the Advocacy and Government Affairs group at national, I was able to rally our members to contact their council members last summer and fall about the upcoming changes to the NYC Building Code that codified the definition of landscape architects and what we do.
We don’t always find solutions right away, and sometimes the will of the majority outweighs the will of the minority (which is where I often find myself), but measured, steady improvements are being made in the way our society and the board of trustees is run. Over the course of the last year or so, I have served on a task force that is looking at the way the Board of Trustees operates and how we can improve not only our meetings, but also how we engage new ASLA members. We need to encourage them to become active in the issues that are critical to the continued success of our profession. I also serve on the Membership Services Committee, to work at creating, maintaining and improving the value of the services ASLA provides its members.
As a member of the local Chapter Executive Committee, I also help with local projects. I enjoy working for our members to help raise awareness in the public’s eye about our profession. I can report on one small but important step on that front: On Monday, December 30, 2013 former mayor Bloomberg signed Intro 1056-A into law as Local Law 141 of 2013. This was the bill that we had been working on with the Department of Buildings to improve the process by which projects are filed with the DOB. This law is an update to the Building code that now includes a definition of our profession. It does not yet allow us to sign forms the same way that engineers and architects can, but it is an important beginning. The new law becomes effective on October 1, 2014, so soon thereafter, we will begin again to work with our friends at the DOB to revise their procedures to allow landscape architects to submit their own work without having to hire architects or engineers to do it for them. I want to give credit to the hard working task force who took time out of their business day to meet with DOB officials and to testify before the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings. We’ll be gearing up again soon, so stay tuned!
Finally, I want you to know that I raise my voice at the national meetings for you. And I have been very successful at upholding the reputation that New Yorkers have for being outspoken! It’s because we care and because we are passionate about what we do. So please, if you have issues that you think could be helped by an airing at a national meeting, tell me. Send me a message or give me a call, and I’ll be sure to voice your concerns. The meeting is coming up in May, so send me your ideas as soon as you can. And if you have any questions about what’s going on with the society at a national level, please ask. If I don’t have the answer right away, I’ll be sure to get it for you.
Trustee, New York Chapter ASLA
Earlier this fall, ASLA issued the first-ever State Advocacy Priorities Survey to find out more about the issues that matter to landscape architects at the state and local level. If you answered the survey, thank you! If not, it is critical that you participate. We need to hear from you to ensure that we fully understand the issues that matter most to our members. Please fill out this short survey by December 6!