At a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg and Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said that the South Street Seaport Museum should work on getting private sector as well as public sector funding to keep its museum afloat.
"The federal government keeps cutting back a lot of support," said Mayor Bloomberg. "State government's got their problems and city government has its problems."
In February, the mayor proposed a cut of $43 million to the budget of the Department of Cultural Affairs in his preliminary budget for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. The department was able to restore the money through $29.5 million in City Council funds and through $13.5 million from Mayor Bloomberg’s office. The mayor's charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, also announced that it would give 250 city arts organizations $32 million in grant money.
"One of the things that my foundation has been working on is trying to work with small museums and help them understand how to develop a board and do their own fund-raising," Bloomberg said. "Government can help some museums, can’t help them all. It's really the private sector that has to come through from museums."
The Seaport Museum was hit hard this spring after 21 board trustees resigned and the cash-strapped museum laid off half its staff. Since then, museum officials have been seeking financial help from city officials.
"We, the Economic Development Corporation working with the Department of Cultural Affairs, have been actively engaged with the Board of the South Street Seaport Museum, working with them to try to get their financial house in order," said Seth W. Pinsky, the president of the Economic Development Corporation.
Pinsky continued: "We're talking both to them as well as to potential outside entities that might be able to assist them. Our hope is that we will have more information to share in the coming weeks."
Last month, the chairman of the Seaport Museum, Frank Sciame, did not show up at a meeting of Manhattan's Community Board 1 Seaport/Civic Center Committee, much to the dismay of hundreds of members of the Save Our Seaport coalition, a group mostly made up of former museum staff and volunteers. In a letter sent to the Board, the museum's president and CEO Mary Ellen Pelzer said that the museum would give a "complete update" at a later time.
Although the next Community Board Seaport/Civic Center meeting will be held on Tuesday, the Seaport Museum's future is not currently on the agenda.
On Saturday, during the fourth annual City of Water Day Festival, Save Our Seaport volunteers will be gathering signatures on petitions at various locations, including on Governors Island and at Liberty State Park, in the hopes they'll be able to protect the museum's collections, environs, and historic ships.
7/18 Update: Although the Seaport Museum is not on the agenda of the Community Board 1 Seaport/Civic Center Committee meeting on Tuesday, "Save Our Seaport" volunteers will speak on talks the group had with the Museum of the City of New York. The Museum of the City of New York has reportedly expressed interest in taking over the Seaport Museum.
(Seaport Museum New York, by Scott Miller/Flickr)