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Outside view of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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A new website aims to educate New Yorkers about their right to free admission to the Met and other New York City museums.

New Yorkers know that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a “pay-what-you-wish” rule for state residents, but is that really a fair wording of their rights? To Pat Nicholson, it’s not.

Nicholson, a born-and-bred New Yorker, has launched a Free Admission website (at museums4allnyc.com) to let more New Yorkers know about their right to get into the Met Museum and other cultural institutions for free.

A law dating back to the 1890s states that the Met Museum should be “free of charge” to New Yorkers five days a week, in exchange for a rent-free lease on city property. 

 

But the museum’s pay-what-you-wish designation discourages New Yorkers from truly taking advantage of that free admission right, she said. Sometimes residents are embarrassed to pay nothing, or confused by the suggested $25 per adult amount.

Since the 1890s, the Met Museum has grown, and today occupies about 2 million square feet of city land.

Based on her calculations (allocating 10 percent of that size to exclusive retail space at $3,500 per square foot and the rest as office space at $100 per square foot), Nicholson says that the Met Museum receives rent forgiveness of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars each year.

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Provided by Pat Nicholson

That is basically city funding, Nicholson says, that the Met Museum doesn’t directly acknowledge. According to 2015 data, the Met Museum said it received “more than $27 million in total funding from the City of New York for operating support and energy costs.”

“Every New Yorker going in there thinks the museum is being altruistic by allowing us to have a pay-as-you-wish policy,” Nicholson said. “As opposed to [realizing that] the museum is really what was supposed to be, when it was first thought about, part of a park education campus — talking about in the late 1800s, when New Yorkers were to use these particular institutions as park amenities, not events you go to on special occasion.”

Encouraging free admission to Met, NYC museums

Nicholson wants more New Yorkers to take advantage of this free admission right, which is why she created the website in the first place.

The Free Admission site provides the text of the free admission provisions for the Met Museum and other institutions “for which free admission is a reciprocity for free rent.”

New Yorkers can download that list and carry it with them as a reference and of proof of their right to free museum admission, if they so choose.

Students especially, Nicholson said, should be able to take advantage of all the information in New York City museums without worrying about any entry fee.

“The Metropolitan and other institutions may want to boast, for instance, that they have 200,000 students come through their doors every year,” she said. “The fact is that any student of New York should [be able to] go in there any time of the day. We’re talking about millions of students being able to do it over a 365 day period.”

The site also encourages New Yorkers to reach out to elected officials, including the Attorney General, asking them to more strictly enforce the free of charge New York City museum laws. The AG’s office and the Met Museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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