This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Place Matters project was created to promote the conservation of the places that are culturally or historically significant to New York City. The significance of these places can arise from their contribution to the historical record, from memories involving them, or traditions that were started at them and can be important on an individual or a community level. Place Matters works to recognize all types of significance and their roles in telling a complete history of the city.
In 1998, the Place Matters project was founded by City Lore, a cultural organization dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of New York and other cities, and the Municipal Art Society (MAS), a non-profit organization committed to enriching the culture, neighborhoods, and physical design of New York City. Place Matters initially developed from City Lore's Endangered Spaces project in addition to the work of a committee on historical and cultural landmarks led by the former MAS Associate Director of Issues, Ned Kaufman. Many New York City organizations contributed to the committee, and following the success of its 1996 report, City Lore and the Municipal Art Society hosted a conference called History Happened Here at the Museum of the City of New York in 1997. The result of the conference was the joint collaboration between City Lore and the Municipal Art Society to create a project that promoted and protected the valuable places within the city that were rapidly disappearing—places similar to those featured at the conference. The next year, the two organizations launched the Place Matters project to further this end.
- Census of Places that Matter: The Census of Places that Matter is a city-wide survey to which New Yorkers nominate places that are significant to them. Because nominations are from New Yorkers themselves as opposed to historians or others in similar fields, the census offers many ways in which "place" can be meaningful—through associations with history, memory, tradition, and community. Place Matters follows up with additional research for many of the nominated places in order to create rich and thorough profiles of them on the Census, resulting in a unique directory of information that tells NYC's history. The Census serves as a resource for activists, artists, architects, scholars, students, and developers, among others.
- New Website and Exhibits: Place Matters is currently working on launching a new website that would make accessing the Census of Places that Matter more easily accessible. In addition to the new website, new exhibits focused on the vernacular architecture of New York City are also underway. These exhibits will focus on structures such as Robert Moses’ WPA-funded pools from the 1930s and the tenement landscape of the Lower East Side.
- Re-envisioning the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area: The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) was a 1960s-era "slum clearance" project on the Lower East Side that was demolished but never fully redeveloped. City Lore, one of Place Matters’ founding organizations, along with GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) and the Pratt Center for Community Development, collaborated on "SPURA Matters" to foster discussion about how to productively develop the available land in the urban renewal area. The project involved a public history initiative to recover the lost history of the area, which was then conveyed to public audiences through illustrated discussions, cell-phone walking tours (produced by the group Field Play), and a small exhibit done by students at the New School for Social Research. In addition to the public history efforts, there were numerous community visioning sessions. A survey to discover what people wanted to see in the area was also widely conducted throughout the community. All of the information gathered will be published in a report due out in the Fall of 2009.
- Advocacy Programs: The new Place Matters website will feature “Tools for Advocates”—instructions on what one should do to try to save or preserve a place that is important to him or her. The “Tools” cover topics such as how to determine whether the place really “matters,” to what research must be done when preparing to advocate for the place and who to reach out to.
- Place-Marking Projects: Place Matters has been interested in the various ways a place’s importance can be marked and showcased. Their first project towards the place-marking endeavor was in 2003 when they sponsored the Place Matters Ideas Competition. Participants in this competition were asked to create a simple and relatively low-cost method to mark an important place that went beyond the traditional bronze plaque. Eight finalists in the competition presented their strategies at the Municipal Art Society. In 2007, Place Matters collaborated with the Lower East Side Community Preservation Project and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to erect 28 place-marking streetside signs at six different locations, collectively entitled “Your Guide to the Lower East Side.” The signs included photos and text, each telling stories or memories directly related to the site. To emphasize the area's multilingual history and appeal to current residents, the signs used various combinations of English, Spanish, Chinese, Yiddish, and Greek. Place Matters also held the Place Matters Awards in 2008, in which they honored 10 important places throughout the city. Each honoree was given a 10” plaque for mounting.
- Maps: Digital and print maps have been developed by Place Matters to show what happened and what is still happening at various spots throughout the city. The maps produced by Place Matters include “Marking Time on the Bowery”, “Jazz Across New York City”, “From Mambo to Hip Hop”, and “Rediscovering East Harlem.”
- Community Focus Projects: Place Matters continues to work with other organizations to conduct in depth studies of various communities. These include the “From Mambo to Hip Hop in the South Bronx” project, identification of important places in the Garment District and Central Brooklyn, a focus on places that are important to the history of NY’s labor movement, and documentation of the history of East Harlem.
- Protection Initiatives: In Spring 2001, three places in New York City were listed to the NY State and National Register of Historic Places. The recognition of the former Cuyler Presbyterian Church building in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn; Bohemian Hall and Park in Astoria, Queens; and the Casa Amadeo Record Store in Longwood, Bronx could not have been possible without the research done by Place Matters staff in collaboration with people directly associated with each site.
- Hidden New York: A Guide to Places that Matter by Marci Reaven and Steve Zeitlin
- “Your Guide to the Lower East Side” by Marci Reaven and Chris Neville
- “A South Bronx Latin Music Tale” by Roberta Singer, Ph.D. and Elena Martinez
- “From Mambo to Hip-Hop” by Marci Reaven and Elena Martinez
- “SPURA Matters: A 40-year Commemorative Map of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area”