FA Founder Pat Nicholson Visits The Met – Part II

This is the second of two blogs giving a report on my visit to the Metropolitan Museum (Met Museum; “Museum”).  In Part I, I dropped off a letter to the Officers of the Museum, President, Daniel H. Weiss, and Trustee President, Daniel Brodsky – to inform them of the launch of the FA website. IF you haven’t already read it, please see Part I of this Two-Part blog, posted right before this one.

This blog covers the 2nd and 3rd reasons that I visited the Museum on 12/21/18.

Reason 2: Experiencing the non-New Yorker, NJ/CT student mandatory fee and the procedures in place to accept admission fees from them and New Yorkers and selected student class.

Let me begin by stating that I endorse a non-New Yorker admission fee.  The land and buildings are city-owned and New Yorkers alone forfeit an annual rental income from the Museum in excess of $750,000,000 annually.  Additionally, the city’s administrators budget approximately $30,000,000 annually to subsidize the Museum’s utilities and security.  [The Museum does not break out in its 2016-2017 Annual Report the percentage of New Yorkers represented in its 6,500,000 visitors/year tally.  In earlier Annual Reports, 25% seemed to be an average. New Yorkers, then, also pay $11/adult fee x 25% of 6,500,000 = $17,875,000 in admission fees. Note: The Museum reports that under its pay-what-you-wish policy, visitors pay an average of $11 per ticket.]

Under the Museum’s new policy, non-New Yorkers [except for NJ and CT students] are charged an admission fee. The word “mandatory” comes into play only because the Museum now uses a “what you pay is up to you” policy for New Yorkers in an effort to claim that New Yorkers are not required to pay a fee [it is a “voluntary” amount].  But, of course, it is “mandatory” because we must pay something.  Hence, the Museum’s policy continues to require every visitor to pay a fee so “mandatory” becomes redundant – and is in violation of NYS Law for New Yorkers.  

What is missing, of course, in my economic analysis, is the accounting for the possibly millions of New Yorkers who do not even attempt to visit the Museum because they are embarrassed to present themselves knowing that the Museum expects $25 for adults and $12 for students.   The “millions” number is not exaggerated.   Approximately 8.6 Million people reside in NYC with 1.1 Million NYC public school children yet the Museum services only 1.675K adults and 300,000 students or so annually.  Because fees are charged, New Yorkers are covertly trained that city-subsidized institutions like the Museum and 12 others are “special” places requiring a money transaction while these institutions stay close-mouthed about New Yorkers’ right to visit them as a “park activity” rather than a “special place”.  

About the procedure: 

When I entered the Museum with my friend, I approached a Museum employee, explained that I was a New York resident and asked what line I needed to go on?  I was not directed to a credit card terminal. I was directed to the south admission line in the Great Hall.  [I was not told that I could go to either line.  The north hall admission line was less crowded but I presumed it was for non-New Yorkers.  It was for all visitors.]  

I had looked on the Museum’s website to know what identification I needed to show residency.  My friend had not.  With a senior citizen identification without picture, he worried.  Each of us transacted with the same admission clerk – but separately.  He showed his card and the admission clerk accepted it and said, “what donation do you want to make above one cent”.  He contributed one dollar.  

For my turn, I asked, “what identification suffices?”  The clerk said, “any identification with a zip code”.  I handed her my NYS driver’s license and noticed her key in my zip code.  [I thought curious that there was more emphasis on reporting attendance by zip code than ensuring that I was, in fact, who I claimed I was vis-à-vis a photograph.]   I asked, “how much” and she repeated “… above one cent”.   [The phrase “above one cent” seemed to cancel out paying one penny — the catchphrase used by the Museum to attest to it being virtually free.]  I asked in surprise, “can I not pay a penny?” and the clerk said “of course”.   I paid a penny.  

Fully compliant by paying an admission fee and putting on the paper “button” [which is visible evidence of the right to admission] as required by Museum policy, but to my mind, in violation of New York State law, my friend and I walked to the Grand Staircase for entry.  We passed credit card machines.   Once inside, there was a female Museum employee off to the side handing out a flier.   I asked her if I, as a New Yorker, could use the machines.  She said, “you should always go to the information desk.   Do not go to the admission lines.  They [information desk staff] can handle you faster.”  I was taken aback because we New Yorkers deserve an option for faster service and this additional option for entrance had not been publicized – it needs to be!  

After our Delacroix visit [see below], my friend and I parted ways at the information desk.   I walked over to the credit card machines and after inserting my credit card, a screen emerged stating in part: 

General Admission:  For New York State residents and New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students, the amount you pay for admission is up to you.  Please proceed to an admission desk with a valid ID if you would like to purchase a suggested admission ticket.  … 

OMG! I thought.   I am a NYS resident subsidizing the Museum in excess of THREE QUARTERS OF A BILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY and the Museum’s stewards, including City Ex Officio representatives, put in place a policy that makes it HARDER for me to enjoy the service my tax dollars and rent forgiveness pay for?    

Further, remembering that a Museum employee advised that as a New Yorker I could avoid the admission lines by transacting admission at the information desk, I sought confirmation of this possibility.  I approached a pleasant female employee at the information desk and asked if I, as a New York resident, could transact my admission payment at the desk?” I was told, “no”. Again, though Museum employees were always polite, the Museum clearly has a long way to go to properly service visitors in the admission process.

Reason 3:  Visit of Delacroix Exhibit.

My friend was knowledgeable about the artist.  I was not.  Given my son’s career in thoroughbred breeding and syndicating, I was smitten with the “horse” works and animal/man compositions.  Delacroix clearly was prolific and multi-faceted.   I was glad to have seen the exhibit.   Of note, however, is that light is spread well on the paintings and other works.   But, for myself, and others who rely on the “story” card explaining the artifact, the text was in the dark and demanded that a visitor be right upon it.   Unfortunate when crowded.  

I trust my blog post has value for all New Yorkers to become educated about our rights to freely make use of our city’s park institutions. If you go to the “Expanded Efforts” link on the homepage you will learn the names of the 13 park institutions with what in effect is either legislated or contractual [usually a Lease] provisions for free admission for New Yorkers IN RECIPROCITY for the institution’s use of rent-free land and buildings.