NYCC Rally For Free Admission To 17 Museums, Gardens, And Zoos Located On Public Parkland

June 3, 2024

On Friday, May 31, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), a 501(c)4 organization that brings neighbors together to build community power using direct action.

Legislative advocacy and community organizing, gathered outside of The Museum of the City of New York to call on legislators to pass study bill A03059a/S5265a to review admission prices and New Yorkers’ right to free admission to 17 museums, gardens and zoos located on public parkland. 

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Charles D. Fall and State Senator Cordell Cleare, directs the New York State Department of Economic Development, in conjunction with the Department of Education and New York City’s Parks and Cultural Affairs departments, among others, to conduct a study regarding the controlling laws and incorporating purposes of 17 boroughs-wide, park-situated institutions to inform the legislature whether the institutions’ policies and practices are complying.  

“The issue at hand lies in the fact that New Yorkers are not receiving their right to free admission to the city’s museums, gardens, and other cultural institutions, despite the laws that provide for New Yorkers’ free access in exchange for providing the institutions free rent,” said a representative of NYCC. “New Yorkers are estimated to have paid at least $112.5 million in admission fees in 2019 alone.”  

“In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the City wrongly assumed the authority to administrate state legislation, leading to every museum on parkland instituting admission fees or mandatory donation policies,” said Pat Nicholson, founder of the Free Admission campaign, which is seeking to have the facts of New Yorkers’ right to free admission and instruction clarified. “Over the last 150 years, leases and contracts between 17 institutions and the City have contradicted foundational state laws fundamental to an historic public-private partnership. New Yorkers deserve to understand, and state legislators need to again supervise and enforce, laws providing free admission to these crucial institutions.” 

In addition to the many New Yorkers in attendance at Friday’s NYCC protest, over 1,800 New Yorkers have signed the Free Admission campaign’s petition in support of bill A03059a/S5265a and sanctioned the crafting of an “effective and answerable oversight” system to ensure “compliance with statutes, codes, laws and … agreements” regarding New Yorkers’ free rights.  

The 17 institutions that are situated on parkland and would come under review following the bill’s passing include: American Museum of Natural History; Brooklyn Children’s Museum; Central Park Zoo; New York Botanical Garden; Queens [Flushing Meadows Park] Zoo; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brooklyn Academy of Music; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of the City of New York; New York Hall of Science; Staten Island Museum; Wave Hill; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Bronx Zoo; New York Aquarium; Prospect Park Zoo; and Staten Island Zoo.    


Free Admission 

Free Admission is a campaign to ensure New Yorkers receive our legislated and contractual consideration from the museums, zoos, gardens, science and performing art centers and aquarium we subsidize. The campaign was launched in 2012 after Founder Pat Nicholson discovered that The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and subsequently 16 other institutions, had founding legislation, laws and contracts requiring free admission for New Yorkers in exchange for rent-free use of parkland and city owned buildings. To learn more about Free Admission visit NYersFreeAdmission.org, follow Free Admission on Instagram and Facebook and sign our petition here



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One Comment

  1. NYCC, I support your call to study admission policies. While you are at it, please also call for a study of the admission policy of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. As far as I know, all other Smithsonian Museums have free admission, with the Cooper Hewitt being the exception. All Smithsonian museums are supported by our federal taxes. As all the other Smithsonian museums are in Washington D.C., and are free, I find this admission policy to be discriminatory against New Yorkers.
    BTW, the one hour allotted to “pay what you wish” is so ridiculously brief that one cannot see an entire exhibit, especially with the guards closing the exhibit rooms half an hour before the official museum closing time.

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