Renaissance at Museum of the City of New York Continues with Renovated Third-Floor Wing

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New space hosts Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers exhibition featuring a built, full-scale, furnished micro-studio apartment

The Museum of the City of New York this week opened the doors to its third-floor South Wing amid a $64 million modernization and expansion project that has revitalized the Museum’s physical plant and created a mission-driven renaissance in the areas of collections, exhibitions, and programs.

The wing was inaugurated on Wednesday with "Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers," an exhibition showcasing innovative design solutions and featuring a full-scale, furnished micro-studio apartment.

“The completion of this project will have a tremendously positive effect on the Museum’s ability to educate and inspire more visitors every year,” said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York.

“They will come to the Museum to visit content-rich exhibitions in thoroughly modernized galleries and to participate in public programming for both children and adults in greatly enhanced spaces. With an enhanced facility, the Museum will stand out in the cultural landscape as a thoroughly reinvigorated institution, better able to serve an international audience with exhibitions and programs of the highest quality.”

Showcasing the revival is an exciting new exhibition, "Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers," which launched in the South Wing’s 1,918 square foot gallery space on January 23.

Organized in conjunction with Citizens Housing & Planning Council, "Making Room" offers insights into how New York City’s changing social, economic, and cultural lives, especially the rise of single adults, are re-shaping urban households, and how design can help re-shape the city’s housing stock for New Yorkers at all phases of their lives.

The exhibition will present an array of innovative architectural solutions that would better accommodate the city’s emerging housing needs. "Making Room" features a full-scale, “micro-apartment,” fully furnished with transformable furniture, along with an array of other proposals to provide new housing options for a 21st century population – including shared housing for single adults and adapted homes for extended families – as well as a look at real-life examples pioneered in other cities around the world as they face growing populations and changing family structures and new environmental realities.

"Making Room" also includes proposals that came out of the Bloomberg administration’s pilot competition, adAPT, which was launched this summer for developer/architect teams to design a building of micro-units for small households. The winning submission, showcased in the exhibition, will be developed on a site on East 27th Street in Manhattan, and will test this new housing model in the New York City marketplace.


The newly opened space is part of a $93 million project, done in phases so the Museum did not have to close during the work.

In 2006, the Museum broke ground on a major project to restore and expand its landmarked building on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, which had not been significantly altered since it was built in 1932. Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership Architects) was engaged, and construction was planned in three phases, so that the Museum could continue to welcome visitors throughout the project.

In Phase I, which was completed in August 2008, the Museum was expanded with a major, three-story addition to the rear of the original structure, comprised of the 3,000-square-foot James G. Dinan and Elizabeth R. Miller Gallery and a two-level curatorial center for Museum collections. The following May, Phase II launched the renovation of the Museum’s South Wing. The first stage converted collections storage spaces and the Rockefeller period rooms on the fourth and fifth floors of the Museum into administrative offices; this was completed in September 2010.

During the same period, the worn and dated classrooms in the Museum’s Frederick A.O. Schwarz Children’s Center were transformed into technologically enhanced and flexible educational spaces, complete with audio-visual equipment, overhead projectors, and Internet access. With 1,800 square feet of space that can be split into two or three classrooms via a retractable partition wall, the Center is now able to accommodate multiple groups at the same time.

Phase II’s second stage began in September 2010. Galleries on the first, second, and third floors of the Museum’s South Wing were renovated to create modern, climate-controlled exhibition spaces that fully meet 21st century conservation standards and enhance visitor comfort and accessibility. A newly installed climate control system maintains temperature and humidity in galleries within the tight ranges critical for exhibited objects, allowing the Museum to display objects from other institutions.

This stage was completed in January 2012. For the first time, the galleries have power, data, and voice capabilities to enable access to content from numerous locations, allowing the Museum to mount more technologically sophisticated exhibitions. The two phases collectively cost $64 million.

New galleries:

As a result of this work, the South Wing hosts two newly named galleries. The second floor Puffin Foundation Gallery is dedicated to exploring the past and present of social activism, and examining the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s and nation’s future. Its inaugural exhibition, Activist New York, opened on May 22, 2012, and brings together 14 New York-centered activism case studies.

The third-floor Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery is a “jewel box” gallery. The 985-square-foot gallery, designed by architect William T. Georgis, is an elegant space that beautifully complements the Museum’s Georgian Revival design.

This fall, the space will host its inaugural exhibit, "Gilded Age New York," the first to explore the design culture of New York City from the 1880s until the start of the 20th century. The exhibition will feature approximately 110 objects, including costumes, decorative objects, fashion accessories, furniture, jewelry, portraits, and sculpture.

A Georgian Revival:

Phase II also included the restoration of Georgian Revival elements throughout the Museum. The second-floor Marble Court was repaired and restored, including the replacement of three sets of French doors with transom windows opening out over the Museum’s Fifth Avenue Courtyard were replaced. Marble flooring throughout the Museum was repaired and restored. The elegant Bruno A. Quinson Library/Conference Room – original to the Museum with all of its woodwork and lighting intact – was restored to its original grandeur and upgraded with climate control, data and power upgrades and an audio visual system.

Improvements on the Horizon:

Phase III – which will begin this spring - will finalize the Museum’s renovation with the modernization of the 35,000-square-foot North Wing. Galleries will be gutted and new walls, ceilings, and floors will be built on three floors. New power, climate control, lighting, data, security, and fire safety systems will also be installed. The Shop on the north side of the building will renovated, as well the auditorium, which will be transformed into an updated and flexible meeting space with a rebuilt stage, new lighting, flooring and climate control and audio-visual equipment.

Phase III also will include a new home for Timescapes, a new coat check, and a move by the Museum Café from a windowless space on the ground floor to the second-floor Marble Court, overlooking Central Park. Additionally, the Museum will build a kitchen to improve the selection of food offerings. This phase will take two years to complete.

Support for a Brighter Future:

Henshaw Jones thanked the countless supporters who contributed to the renovation and restoration work. The City of New York provided the Museum with a capital allocation of $24 million for Phase II, while $4 million in private funds were raised.

Henshaw Jones thanked the following major supporters: James G. Dinan and Elizabeth R. Miller, Charina Endowment Fund, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Comfort, Puffin Foundation, Larry and Sandy Simon, and the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

“The Museum has taken another significant step toward its goal of becoming a world-class museum for and about New York,” Henshaw Jones said. “The Project’s achievements thus far have already contributed to a dramatic institutional renaissance, enhancing our capacity to showcase engaging and informative exhibitions and to serve our burgeoning audience.”


Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City, and serves the people of the city as well as visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections. Visit to learn more.

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Meryl Cates - Communications/ Press
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