The South Street Seaport Museum, which, like its namesake neighborhood, was badly flooded during Hurricane Sandy, closed the portion of its galleries located at 12 Fulton Street yesterday, citing the extremely high costs of keeping the spaces running and the still-massive repairs that need to be done to the building’s utilities. In a message on its website the museum said that it will keep its 19th century printshop on Water Street, Bowne Printers, open.
“We developed plans to make temporary repairs to the building systems, and with the money that had been raised via the Sandy Relief Fund — including an anonymous gift of $500,000 – we thought that we could keep the Museum open in advance of a permanent solution, which the New York City Economic Development Corporation told us must come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” the museum’s general manager Jerry Gallagher told the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs during a February 28 hearing, according to NYC Reconnects. “Then we met with FEMA. First, we were nicely told that we were a non-essential non-profit, which dropped us to the bottom of lots of their lists. We were told that those temporary repairs we contemplated would preclude future reimbursements for a full reinstallation of the systems, either in the basements or at some higher level. Further, they told us that any FEMA funding would take years to receive.”
Though the museum’s collections were being kept safely on the upper floors of 12 Fulton Street during the superstorm’s passage, they cannot be kept on site as the weather gets warmer and more humid, and will have to be moved unless a major overhaul of the building’s power systems can be completed. “We have asked the Economic Development Corporation for assistance,” Gallagher told the committee of the City Council. “We now feel powerless to remain open.”
The museum’s president — and the director of the Museum of the City of New York — Susan Henshaw Jones added that the closure of 12 Fulton Street is only temporary, because the building had only been kept open (without escalators or elevators) thanks to “expensive temporary heat,” and that “the building systems all need mega work.”
— Benjamin Sutton
(Photo via South Street Seaport Museum/Facebook.)