Children’s Museum nixes move to Essex Crossing


CRAIN’S: Record attendance is driving the need for a larger space
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is once again on the lookout for a new home.

The Upper West Side museum, which has been around since 1973, has pulled out of negotiations with Delancey Street Associates to move to Essex Crossing, the mixed-use development under construction near the Williamsburg Bridge. The new space would have allowed the 37,000-square-foot institution to double in size.

Andy Ackerman, CMOM’s executive director, declined to specify why talks broke down. “We had a wonderful conversation, but at the end of the day it didn’t work out,” he said. “Location, financing, timing—all those things have to line up.”

A spokesman for Delancey Street Associates declined comment.

The museum is in active discussions about two other potential sites—one on the Upper West Side and one in the Wall Street area. The new space will be a minimum of 70,000 square feet and the museum is looking at both existing buildings or new construction. Ackerman said once they secure the site, the museum will begin a capital campaign. Denham Wolf, a real estate advisory firm that specializes in nonprofits, is overseeing the search.

The Children’s Museum, located on West 83rd Street, has long been a favorite spot for Upper West Side families, but a number of popular exhibitions and programs have been attracting record visitors and pushing the current space beyond capacity.

Last February, CMOM opened an exhibit on the Muslim world called America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. The show took six years to develop and focuses on the diversity of Muslim cultures in New York City, the United States and the rest of the world. During its development, the museum received warnings that the subject matter was too controversial for the current political environment.

But since it opened, attendance has been up 13% year over year. The first quarter of the current fiscal year, which began July 1, was the best quarter in the history of the museum for attendance. The exhibit will be extended past its January 31 closing date and is already being booked to travel to other cities after it closes.

A new exhibit on American presidents, called I Approve This Message, opened on Oct. 1 to coincide with the U.S. elections. That exhibit is attracting crowds as well. Ackerman said the museum services over 350,000 visitors a year in its fairly small space.

“We are probably the most densely visited museum,” Ackerman said. “It shows the demand for family-based programs in the city.”

By Miriam Kreinin Souccar