The idea for Place Matters evolved from City Lore's Endangered Spaces project and a Municipal Arts Society (MAS) taskforce on encouraging protection for places that are vital to New York City's history and traditions but not necessarily architecturally distinguished. City Lore took part in the taskforce, and teamed up with MAS to hold the History Happened Here conference in 1996. The excitement created by that day of discussion led to the ongoing City Lore-MAS collaboration on the Place Matters Project, and its focus on a multiplicity of ways to promote and advocate for special places.
Place Matter's founders and codirectors were Laura Hansen, Ned Kaufman, Marci Reaven, and Steve Zeitlin. Place Matters draws its staff from its two sponsoring organizations, and works with many consultants, interns, and collaborating organizations.
From the start, Place Matters has asked New Yorkers and others to tell us which places matter and why they matter. The resulting Census of Places that Matter is a fascinating and growing information bank of little- and well-known places around the city that hold memories, anchor traditions, tell the history of New York City, and contribute to local distinctiveness.
All nominations for places get posted to our online Census, and we add photos and fuller "place profiles" to the postings we can. The nominations are driving the creation of a citywide inventory of places that warrant attention and caretaking. They also prompt promotion and advocacy. Initiatives spawned by Place Matter include: the book Hidden New York: A Guide to Places that Matter; film From Mambo to Hip Hop, documenting the South Bronx in the making of Latin music; historical sign project Your Guide to the Lower East Side, virtual tour Marking Time on the Bowery (www.placematters.net); advocacy for the first labor landmark (for the Triangle Shirtwaist fire) and the first National Register listing associated with Puerto Rican migration (Casa Amadeo); support for numerous preservation campaigns, regular "Place of the Month" emails; and public talks and workshops across the city and the U.S.
In New Orlearns, the Cornerstones project is using our survey methodology to indentify places that matter; in Banff, Canada, the weekly newspaper highlighted special places modeled on our biweekly emails; the Great Lakes Urban Exchange studied our website to foster urbanism, regionalism, and quality storytelling in their area; and in upstate Canton, NY, the Registry of Very Special Places (RSVP), modeled on Place Matters, is thriving. The National Trust for Historic Preservation adopted Place Matters as a theme.
We'd like to hear from you. Tell us how you've used the Place Matters website, share your suggestions for new inititatives, and enter your places into the Census. Contact us at www.placematters.net, (212) 529-1955 ext. 303, or firstname.lastname@example.org.