The expansion of the Museum of Natural History has become a big issue in this year’s Upper West Side City Council race, and one challenger even held a noisy parade through the park around the museum this weekend. The museum issue could prove to be significant in Tuesday’s primary.

The museum plans to build a new educational center that will mostly be built on its existing footprint but will also swallow one-quarter-acre of the surrounding Teddy Roosevelt Park. Local resident Cary Goodman has protested the plan, claiming it will bring huge crowds to the surrounding neighborhood and cause massive disruption during construction. He also says it is an “enormously expensive use of public money.” He commissioned a poll that he says showed the neighborhood doesn’t support the expansion, though it was criticized for leading questions.

Goodman staged the rally on Sunday with a brass band and a large “Vote Goodman” banner.

He has criticized Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who is running for reelection, for allocating public funds to the project before public hearings on the project. Rosenthal counters that she’s been responsive to community concerns and has worked with the museum to minimize disruption.

“As a result of our feedback, the museum limited the affected park area to ¼ acre, is planting 19 new trees, creating new ‘neighborhood haven’ park space, and is continuing to work on the traffic mediation.”

While the museum enjoys a strong reputation in the neighborhood and throughout the city, this project has engendered considerable opposition, particularly from nearby neighbors upset about the loss of parkland and the expected influx of new visitors. A recent meeting about the environmental impacts drew a large crowd with a wide range of concerns.

Meanwhile, Mel Wymore, who is also on the ballot in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, has come out aggressively against the museum project “in its current form” too, saying he will work to freeze public funding if he is elected. He fears that Goodman will split the opposition vote if people vote for him because of the museum issue. “Mel is the only candidate with the widespread support necessary to beat Helen as long as the vote isn’t split on September 12th,” he wrote in an email to supporters.

Photo courtesy of Randy Goodman, via Goodman campaign.

NEWS | 37 comments | permalink
    1. Jens says:

      Let us not for get that the plan calls for changing the museum’s main entrance to Columbus Avenue. This means that the Columbus Ave side, which has long been a promenade for locals will be sacrificed to the tourists and falafel trucks. Meanwhile in adsition to the loss of 1/4 acre of Teddy Roosevelt Park, the ahift in the entrance means Teddy Roosevelt will become first a construction staging area then a waiting room for tourists when it has been an oasis of quiet. Shameful. 3 million more visitors are expected to pour into our neighborhood with the attendant traffic and congestion just for a namesake building. There is also toxic waste under there that will be stirred up. Yet the 77th street aide is totally under utilized and so are large swaths of the museum internally. Ironically the whole plan is a candidate for a Darwin award.

    2. Paul RL says:

      A world-class educational center, 19 new trees, and a more accessible park for locals. Any other neighborhood would be beyond thrilled to have this handed to them, yet somehow two of our candidates are tripping over themselves to bury it. I’m embarrassed that it’s even a campaign issue. The next generation won’t forgive us if they find out we blew this one. VOTE HELEN ROSENTHAL!

    3. ScooterStan says:

      It certainly seems that the “Friends” of Teddy Roosevelt Park (never knew parks had “friends”; are they on Facebook?) are prone to, as our President might say, FAKE NEWS:

      Example 1: the above commenter’s imaginary statistic that “…3 million more visitors are expected to pour into our neighborhood with the attendant traffic and congestion….

      Ummm…based on whose calculation? And is that 3 million per decade?, per year?, per month, per week?, or per fever-dream?

      Example 2: Gary Goodman, running against Helen Rosenthal for the City Council District 6 seat, submitted a letter to CB7 inviting one-and-all to his sad little anti museum “parade”, and his invite appeared in the latest CB7 email…UNTIL CB7 PUBLISHED A RETRACTION, PUBLICLY APOLOGIZING FOR INCLUDING GOODMAN’S “invitation” in its email.

      Perhaps because in it Goodman wrote that Rosenthal was “oiling the wheels of destruction (of Teddy Roosevelt Park) WITH TENS OF MILLIONS OF OUR TAXES” but offers NOT A SPECK OF PROOF THAT ANY PUBLIC MONEY HAS EVER BEEN SPENT FOR THE NEW SCIENCE CENTER.

      Example 3: Another group, calling itself “Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park” sent out an email stating that Tuesday’s Primary Election was important b/c “our parks, playgrounds and public green space are on the ballot!”
      REALLY?? Since when are there Public Referendums on PRIMARY BALLOTS ????
      Their email was nothing but a “dog-whistle” to make sure Goodman supporters vote for their boy.

      Wow, and we thought deecee politics was a swamp of lies and deceit !!

    4. Cat says:

      I didn’t realize that falafel trucks were an issue, but seriously, can’t the ‘locals,’ go to Central Park?

      • Jens says:

        Central Park has been lost to the tourists.

        Has anyone but me read the Museum-funded Draft Environmental Impact Statement? As much as many of the assessments are ridiculous, if you use your brain a clear picture of the impact is painted.

        • RK says:

          I think you are, and now I’m the second one.
          Everyone complaining about any aspect of this project would do well to peruse these documents. There are hundreds of pages, but you can find the part of interest pretty quickly.
          Virtually every major concern raised has been addressed in these documents with hard data and documented projections. It will not increase noise. Or buses. Or change neighborhood character.
          The amount of research and detail present makes one realize that grownups are indeed running things and all change is very carefully researched.
          BTW, I was shocked by how small the new building’s footprint is. I really don’t see how it will significantly impact the usability of the park.

    5. I am 100% in favor of the new educational center the Museum wants to build. The museum is a boon to our neighborhood, New York City, New York State and the country. The money it generates in the neighborhood from visitors is extensive.

      • BillyNYC says:

        I second that we need this new science education program at the museum for people of all ages but especially our youth.

    6. TJ says:

      For many of us this election will turn on quality of life issues faced by the UWS that Rosenthal has shown no interest or ability to solve, for example the infestation of mosquitos that has plagued us for all of her years in office. And now rats. Mel Wymore gets things done. We’ve seen that. He is currently running neck in neck with Rosenthal and if we split our vote on a third single issue candidate with no experience, it’ll be another four years of talk, grandstanding and no results.

    7. LF says:

      Mel has not been aggressivlt against the plan! He has pussy footed around the idea of being agiansnt it inorder to appeal to the mass amounts of people who don’t want this expntion to happen! Goodman has not wavered on his position about the museums expansion and has been the only candidate to out right apose the plan. Don’t vote for some one who wavers on their position! Vote for some one who stands true to their positions! Vote Goodman !

    8. MMD says:

      The City Council Race Turns on More than the Museum Expansion Issue
      The primary is between two candidates – Helen Rosenthal and Mel Wymore. Cary Goodman has done a superb job of bringing attention to the museum issue, but there was a paltry showing at his parade on Sunday and votes for Cary will only reduce votes for Mel.
      Mel stands for more than freezing public funding for the project and obtaining public input. He also stands for taking on big real estate and opposing tall buildings, good schools, care and access for seniors and improving the quality of life on the Upper West Side. He has effectively served our community for over 29 years and will be even more effective as our City Council member.

    9. Rafael says:

      Helen’s tenure as Council Member began in January 2014. Here’s two article’s that demonstrate that major rat and mosquito concerns did not begin in 2014, as Mel claims. Mel has served on Community Board 7 for 20 years. Has he addressed these issues before running City Council this year?

      October 30 2011: New York Magazine :On the Upper West Side, residents say rats have “formed a conga line” in Verdi Square (née Needle Park) on 72nd Street.

      November 3 2011 Exclusive: Upper West Side Mosquito Mystery

    10. Carlos says:

      I have mixed feelings about the museum extension but I could never vote for a one issue candidate like Goodman and I feel like his candidacy has been childish. I think the extension could potentially be good for the museum and I find it ironic that half the posts on WSR are complaining about empty store fronts on the UWS – more people at the museum will help solve that problem.

      I was originally intrigued by Wymore but I think he has spent too much time claiming credit for every good thing that has happened in our neighborhood while also trying to show how clever he is in trying to take down Rosenthal. The shenanigans with the office on Broadway was the last straw. Rosenthal has been far from perfect but I feel like she truly has our best interests at heart and is doing the best she can within the confines of her role – one legislator can only do so much.

    11. OriginalMark says:

      Just an aside – but I voted this morning at 7:50 and was the only voter in the polling station.
      That’s usually a busy time – sad to see that people sit out elections. I wonder how many here will not vote and then whine about the results.

    12. Ground Control says:

      Ah-the museum expansion is not a non-issue as some would like to claim it is. Does anyone know or care that the man for whom this addition purported to teach science is named for the man who founded the extreme right wing think tank called the Club for Growth who believe in the same policies being rammed through in Washington today? Anti-climate science, anti-EPA, anti-taxes, anti-union, anti-Arts. They say that politics makes strange bedfellows and this is one of the strangest. It’s an out of place vanity project which will cause the beautiful park surrounding it to be swallowed up in throngs of more and more tourists. Do neighborhoods matter anymore? My vote is for Mel Wymore who has more than a little consideration for the people who actually live and pay taxes on the UWS.

    13. Jay says:

      My only wish is that when Cary Goodman loses in huge fashion today that we won’t be subject to any more of these dumb articles pushing a narrative in the westsiderag. The museum expansion is one of the biggest non-issue that folks continue to harp on.

    14. NYWoman says:

      The improvements and modernization of the museum helps the entire New York community – and all its millions of visitors (5 million annual visitors to AMNH alone!) – this translates to MONEY to our UWS retailers. Hello! This is a win-win-win situation. A no brainer.

      • Mark says:

        Obviously you are all for it, but if you read other’s Comments, there are those who have reasons for opposing the project.

        !. Do you read Comments, other than your own?
        2. Would you like those with differing opinions to call you “no brainer”?

    15. Mark Moore says:

      Goodman’s campaign has been vandalizing the UWS putting up poster after poster on storefront windows with heavy packing tape. If that’s what he thing about the neighborhood I will not vote for him.

      • Bill says:

        As proven by his annoying robo-calls, Goodman doesn’t even know how to pronounce the former President’s last name. Roosevelt rhymes with “rose”, not “booze”!

    16. Barbara Adler says:

      It is very unfortunate that Cary Goodman and Mel Wymore both have spread so many false lies about the Museum project. their races have been dishonest and vicious. I am proud to vote for Helen, who has done an incredible job during her four year tenure, and has taken the high road in this campaign, not smearing the other candidates. I urge you to vote for her.

    17. Brain says:

      This all feels like the opposition is being orchestrated by NIMBY residents of 81st street – Because it reeks of the same hypocrisy back when they rebuilt the northern side of the museum (remember the disruption the dog park was going to create). The arguments against the proposed expansion are nothing short of ridiculous.

      • Joel says:

        The museum can accommodate its needs through use of currently underutilized space or reconfiguring the proposed expansion vertically without taking more of the park. Once open space is gone, its gone forever. Absolutely no reason to expand the museum’s footprint into the park.

      • Mark says:

        “The arguments against the proposed expansion are nothing short of ridiculous.” – Brian

        The arguments for the proposed expansion are nothing short of ridiculous.

        Now, that’s settled.

    18. Joe says:

      The museum issue is just one of many reasons I would never vote for Helen Rosenthal.

      Among others…

      * her abject failure to make our streets and sidewalks safer

      * her arrogance and sense of entitlement based on what I read here and elsewhere about unresponsiveness to constituents

      * her support of Hillary “My Turn” Clinton and would do so again in a flash when Clinton decides to run again.

      • Rafael says:

        Any sources regarding the unsafe sidewalks, Helen’s support of Hillary?

        Have you really based your opinion of Helen on what you heard about on the internet, with out any personal experience? Has it crossed your mind that there may be disinformation put out by Helen’s opponents, because it their best shot at winning?

      • Jose says:

        I know little of Helen Rosenthal but based on my few encounters with her, she has struck me as an incredibly humble, down to earth person. Please remember that she has but one vote on the city council so there is only so much power she can wield. Those who have slandered her are those who oppose her. Please note that she has generally chosen to take the high road and not reciprocate – it is very easy to take shots at an incumbent.

    19. Robert Goodman says:

      Well, Wymore lost 3 votes with this one. Goodman is simply contemptible.

      The AMNH was a mecca when I was a kid in the Bronx and introduced me to the neighborhood to which I migrated on my own as a teen. I’ve now lived in this neighborhood for 55 years. The AMNH was the primary public space for my children and now my grand children. It is an incomparable local resource and a national treasure.

      Central Park is the center of my universe. I spend more time there now than in any other place in the city other than my home on Riverside Drive.

      We are blessed, those of us who live between 72 and 110 street, with two of the greatest parks in the nation.

      We live in one of the more walkable neighborhoods in the country. We can afford to give up, temporarily some of that walking space.

      Theodore Roosevelt Park is a multi-acred bonus. Absent the museum the entire four square blocks probably would be unaffordable housing.

      There is no rational reason for obstructing the 1/4 acre expansion that would increase the educational programing of an institution that is a beacon for children.

      We lose more trees in a heavy wind than this project will displace.

      Shame on the obstructers. I can not begin to fathom their motives.

    20. Bob Lamm says:

      If the City Council race did indeed turn on the Museum expansion issue–I’m not convinced–it surely helped Helen Rosenthal to win in a landslide and led to Cary Goodman getting only a pathetic 790 votes.