Final Analysis Released for Museum of Natural History’s Expansion as Museum Commits to $100K Annual Park Investments

A rendering showing the “collections core” inside the Richard Gilder Center, via AMNH.

The Museum of Natural History is committing to be a more active steward of the Teddy Roosevelt Park surrounding it as it prepares to expand its footprint deeper into the park. The museum has committed to spending at least $100,000 a year for at least 10 years to manage and maintain the park. And it will redesign the park to make it easier for people to enjoy it — expect more benches and fewer fences.

The announcement was made as the city’s Parks Department released its final environmental study of the museum’s expansion project, with hundreds of pages of analysis and drawings. The museum is building the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, and plans to completely redesign much of the museum’s interior, making it easier to move throughout the museum with lots of new connections and passageways between exhibits. The slide below shows the before and after for visitor circulation.

As part of the project, the museum also wants to open up more areas where visitors can actually see scientists at work, instead of having that work hidden. The project has faced opposition from neighbors, who say it will add to congestion and destroy nature.

But for opponents of the plan hoping to find a way to derail the project, the environmental study may be a disappointment. The Parks Department notes that more visitors will come to the area and that about a quarter-acre of parkland in surrounding Teddy Roosevelt Park will be lost, but the department argues that the project’s impacts are reasonable and can be mitigated. Museum opponent Cary Goodman, who ran a City Council campaign premised on stopping this project, said in a statement that the study was “flawed and insufficient,” claiming it doesn’t adequately address the building’s impact on climate change, among other factors. Another group called Save Our Park has also fought the proposal, saying it wastes public money, is dangerous to the environment and will add to congestion.

(The new building can be seen in the “proposed” drawing below. It is expected to be 105 feet tall.)

There’s no doubt that the museum’s new Gilder Center will draw many more new visitors to the area. By 2021, the city expects the museum to draw about 6 million visitors a year, up from 5 million in 2015 and 5.3 million in the event the center did not get built. That’s an additional 745,000 visitors a year.

But the analysis says that the traffic impacts can be “fully mitigated with the implementation of standard traffic mitigation measures (e.g., signal retiming).”

Check out the study here.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 24 comments | permalink
    1. HalalThatJazz says:

      Nice hit job WSR. You really cherry picked your way through that 6,000 page document released just last night. I also really appreciate the comment from the local kook vs the 2, now joined, serious opposition groups. Kudos to you for not filling in the gap where DNA Info and the Gothamist left off; you’re doing a bang up job of reporting compete garbage.

    2. Christine E says:

      Someone has to be “the parent” here and point out that that the museum should not get anything new if they can’t take care of what they already have. Within a few years of the beautiful Hayden Planetarium opening, most of the exhibits were broken or not functional. Ditto on the rest of the museum. The gems hall is only now getting any attention – seems that they built it 40 years ago, let millions pass through, and never did a lick of maintenance. The museum seems to have no maintenance or operating plan, only an expansion one. Is the plan just to run everything into the ground? It is easy to get excited about the new, but please do not neglect the old. Don’t take on more than you already can’t handle.

    3. Jim says:

      Mismanagement at the museum. The entire board including Tina Fey should resign.

      • Ground Control says:

        How about Rebekah Mercer, owner of Breitbart News and one of the biggest contributors to the campaign of Trump? I hear she chairs AMNH’s Education advisory committee at the museum. I have wondered what sort of “science” they will be teaching at the new Gilder Center. Can’t imagine it will be one that acknowledges the existence of climate change. The museum was be pretty desperate for money so far as I can see.

    4. Paul RL says:

      Fantastic news for the neighborhood. The AMNH is a cornerstone of the UWS, and a great benefit for residents and tourists alike. We have a choice – either build a wall around ourselves and stagnate, look towards the future and continue to evolve. I choose the latter.

    5. Adam Cherson says:

      Its a fairly small encroachment on the square footage of the commons…..I would have preferred to see the new space going underground rather than ten stories up into the air, but I guess that’s more expensive construction.

    6. ScooterStan says:

      Re: that defeated Council candidate’s statement that “the study …doesn’t adequately address the building’s impact on climate change”

      Its impact on climate change!? 😱😳

      That’s a r-e-a-l stretch.

      That losing candidate has a bigger impact on climate change…every time he opens his mouth he emits a lot of useless hot air.

      • Jay says:

        I hope the day come where there will no longer be any comments on this blog from Cary Goodman. He has zero credibility and no influence. A four year old’s opinion has more weight then his.

    7. Debbie D. says:

      I honestly cant handle it sometimes.

      The AMNH, which has been around for 150 years, provides low (and free) educational opportunities for kids, families, and adults.

      It wants to expand, taking up a small bit of the land it already has, to provide MORE opportunities for learning and education, and people are losing their cookies over it?

      They promise to kick in a million bucks in park renovations (money that, since its a NFP, would have gone into other programming, not bonuses) and have done study after study to appease people, and still others aren’t happy.

      I think there are some unfortunate residents who would rather, for whatever reason, complain about things than see anything change. And thats kind of sad.

    8. Mary the Librarian says:

      The crowding outside the museum now is appalling and I wonder how much AMNH has contributed to the situation to get what they want. I’ve had to fight my way through queues along CPW and the number of food carts is ridiculous. At certain times of day, you can hardly get in and out at the south entrance of the 81st St B/C station. There is no staff around to help things keep things flowing, offer directions, etc. I’ve heard that AMNH won’t re-open the 77th St museum entrance because people on the block would be opposed. Well, that’s where I live and if it meant I could enjoy CPW without sidewalk rage, I would welcome a little more traffic on my block.

    9. Kathleen Treat says:

      Change that annual $100,000 (peanuts!) to a million, Mr. Gilder.; with increases for each of the next fifty years. That’s how you buy a quarter acre of a NYC public park

    10. az says:

      I love that they’re going to let the public see the scientists at work. I’ve seen this at other museums and it’s very interesting and inspiring.

    11. Dr. Cary Goodman says:

      The new science building on Roosevelt Island, sponsored by Cornell, produces as much energy as it uses.

      The new science center proposed by the museum would emit more than 2,000,000 tons of pollution annually.

      Is there any other explanation for this absurd degradation of the environment other than cronyism and collusion?

      Private funding for the museum center comes from climate-deniers. And, the museum’s president, Ellen Futter, is also a Con Ed director so renewable energy is not considered.

      All at a cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and dozens of ecosystems.

      • Eric says:

        According to the EPA … “In 2016, about 78 million tons of pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in the United States”.

        So your claim is that the new science center will emit … ALL BY ITSELF … 2.5% of all the pollution emitted into the atmosphere by the US in 2016. That must be some kinda science you think they will be doing there.

      • ScooterStan says:

        Re: “The new science center proposed by the museum would emit more than 2,000,000 tons of pollution annually.”

        Shouldn’t dignify your fantasy by responding, but: WHAT IS YOUR SOURCE for this bit of dis-information?????

        Oh, it’s probably the same source which featured these classics:

        All from Weekly World News, the supermarket tabloid.

        Was that your source?

      • RK says:

        Credible sources, please.

        When googling “gilder center pollution” all that comes up is comments in blogs.

        Why would a climate denier support AMNH?

        Here’s an article talking about how the gilder center will help battle a post-science world:

        I think you suffer from cognitive dissonance.

      • RK says:

        Also, Con Ed (as all electric utilities) is not against renewable energy. You’re confusing electric utilities which generate and deliver electricity, with fossil fuel producers.

        Utilities are happy to supply electricity however it’s generated. A big chunk of NYC’s electricity is generated from renewables, purchased by Con Ed, and delivered. With the maturity of renewable energy, especially wind and solar, and innovative financial vehicles allowing people to put solar panels on their roofs and sell electricity back to the grid, that proportion will only grow.

        Dr Goodman, you really need to do a better job than yelling incoherently

    12. SheWrites says:

      I hope with the new building (which I’m not a huge fan of but can’t stop it now, right?) will allow AMNH to find a way to INCLUDE more children from all walks of life, not just the children of board members and huge donors. There has to be a more equitable way to INCLUDE more diversity. Crossing my fingers, AMNH.

    13. Effy says:

      Sad to lose such a lovely nice quiet little private public seating area.

    14. grandmasterbeta says:

      I really hope this project moves ahead. It is a great addition to the museum and the city. Yes, it’s a nice quiet spot that benefits a few who live in the area. But the museum is a bigger benefit to the taxpaying public on NY.