Time hasn't been kind to Little Italy's Italian American Museum, housed in an 1885 building at the corner of Mulberry and Grand streets. The museum purchased the building in 2008 (using several board members' money toward the down payment) but has run deficits every year since; with gentrification taking hold in the neighborhood, the museum's future is difficult to imagine. The museum's proposal: sell the building?which is actually three linked brownstones?to a developer. The developer, the Times explains, can build a larger structure on the spot (zoning rules allow a building of more than six stories, compared to the current three), and the museum will take some space inside that new structure. The museum's president and director, Joseph Scelsa, says he expects the building to fetch about $12 million, in a sale that would have to be approved by the Attorney General's Office and the state's Education Department.
In addition to contributing money to the down payment, Scelsa and several other board members guaranteed the $6.5 million mortgage and are hoping to be reimbursed after the sale. Scelsa would also like whoever buys the building to preserve the vault and teller cages that date from the property's days as Banca Stabile, where immigrants borrowed money for steamship tickets to the U.S.. Oh, and Scelsa wants to the museum's space in the future structure to be rent free. Developers?
?Photo by Alessandro Tarsia for Google Earth
· Official site: Italian American Museum [italianamericanmuseum.org]
· In Little Italy, Saving the Past by Rebuilding It [NYT]