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.