FA Founder, Pat Nicholson, Visits The Met: A Two-Part Report

As FA Founder and Director of its website and education campaign, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met or ‘Museum”) on 12/21/18 – a stormy but warm Friday afternoon – for three reasons: 

  1. To hand deliver a letter to the Museum’s President, Daniel H. Weiss, and Trustee President, Daniel Brodsky, to inform them of the launch of the FA website and to, in effect, ensure that they knew that New Yorkers can now educate themselves to know that the Museum’s policy necessitating any admission – even a voluntary amount – is in effect in violation of NYS law providing free admission to New Yorkers because the Museum’s collection resides rent-free in and on city-owned buildings and land and that in 2018, with more than 2,000,000 square feet of physical plant, that the Museum’s rent forgiveness  approximates from $750,000,000 to in excess of $1,000,000,000, annually
  2. To experience the impact on entry to the exhibition halls given the Museum’s new mandatory admission fee policy for other than non-New Yorkers and NJ and CT students; and 
  3. To visit the Delacroix exhibit.  

[ed’s note: This blog will deal with “Reason #1”; our next blog, Part II, will address Reasons #2 and #3.]  

At the outset, please know that every Met Museum employee that I encountered on my visit was courteous and willing to help.  However, I now appreciate where the “fat” in the Museum’s employee budget is: a seeming bloated employee roster who are inadequately trained and supervised on policy and procedures. [According to the Museum’s 2017 Annual Report, 70% of its approximately $300 Million budget was spent on salaries and benefits.  The Museum reports in the Museums Council of New York City Directory that at its Fifth Avenue location, the Museum employs 2,200 full- and part-time employees and 1,400 volunteers.]  

Reason 1:  Trying to hand deliver a letter to Messrs. Weiss and Brodsky.   

Unaware of protocol for a hand delivery, I approached the Great Hall information desk stating to no one in particular, “Excuse me, how can I get my letter to Mr. Weiss?”  I approached the first employee who looked up in response.  She smiled and repeated my request to the employee next to her.  That employee pointed to an area near the south coat room and said, “they will know there”.  I went where directed and a male employee said, “it’s a letter so maybe you can leave it here.  But ask that person.”   I went to where a woman was seated and after asking whether I could hand my letter for Mr. Weiss to her, she said, “you have to go to ‘receiving’ at 84th Street”. Having lived across from the Museum for 25 years, I knew the set-up of the Museum’s physical plant and I knew that “receiving” would be easier found navigating from outdoors.  Once outside, I walked from 82nd to 84th Street, where a security person on street level pointed me to the underground garage entry.  Following his direction, I walked down the driveway to another seeming security “post” where I was instructed how to find the “receiving” department.  

I made my way through what felt like a maze; then I was greeted and served by a one-of-a-kind exemplary employee.  He logged in the information from the envelope, handed me an “MMA Package Tracking” barcoded sticker and advised that he would deliver the letter personally.  I used the term “one-of-a-kind” because of his readiness to deliver himself, though my experience visiting the Met is that they have exacting security; and curiously, I was not asked to provide ID.  I thought it odd after all the steps of “security”.   I sought and found another employee who led me through to the exit.  

I now can report that to hand deliver a letter to the president of the Museum, you need to seek advice from at least seven individuals while not providing identification.  In the fiscal year ended 2017, Museum auditors reported that the Museum paid salaries and benefits totaling $206 million dollars – representing nearly 70% of the Museum’s $298 Million budget.

If you would like to read the content of the actual letter to the Officers of the Museum, please read below.

LETTER

Re: Launch of website educating New Yorkers of our right to free admission 

Gentlemen: 

Please know that Free Admission [FA], recently launched a website www.museums4allnyc.com/about/. It is intended to advise all New Yorkers of our right to free admission to the Met Museum and possibly 12 other park institutions according to legislative enactment and/or possible contractual [usually Lease] provisions.   

Your longstanding Pay-What-You-Wish But You-Must-Pay-Something policy was recently changed to require mandatory admission from non-New Yorkers, except students in NJ and CT.  For New Yorkers, you continue to seek a “voluntary” fee by way of your new “what you pay is up to you” policy.  

Ch. 476 of the Laws of 1893 requires, that in reciprocity for free rent [now estimated at in excess of three-quarters of a billion dollars annually for the Museum’s 2,000,000+ square foot facility and Central Park land], that the Museum be open free to New Yorkers five days, with one being Sunday afternoon, and two evenings in a week.  

Neither you as Museum stewards or City administrators in effect make known New Yorkers’ rights.   FA is meant to fill this void.  

Today, as FA’s founder, I am visiting the Museum with a friend.   Rather than make a commotion, I am paying a penny and handing this letter to a Museum staff member to have it hand delivered to Mr. Weiss and trust that he will produce it for dissemination to you, Mr. Brodsky, as well as all Museum trustees, including those with Ex Officio status.   

I plan to return soon to learn if your the Museum’s admission policy has been revised to demonstrate that Museum stewards are, and Ex Officio City Board members are insisting that Museum stewards are, in compliance the NYS law providing free admission to New Yorkers.   

Sincerely, 

Free Admission for All New Yorkers [FA] 

Pat Nicholson

Part II of this report will be posted on January 18, 2019. 

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