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New Location Approved in Principle for Nyc Holocaust Museum and Memorial

The New York City Holocaust Memorial Council’s executive committee this week approved “in principle, subject to further negotiations” Governor Mario Cuomo’s proposal to put a museum and memorial to the Holocaust victims in a new apartment building at Battery Park City.

David Blumenfeld, executive director of the City’s Holocaust Commission, expressed enthusiasm over the Governor’s proposals and noted that there are considerable advantages in having the museum and memorial in Battery Park City rather than at the U.S. Customs House in lower Manhattan, as had originally been proposed.

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Blumenfeld said the immediate advantages of the Governor’s proposal would be a savings of the expenses that would have been involved in renovating the Customs House. He estimated the cost at around $5 million in an earlier JTA interview.

The Commission last October was granted use of space in the 77 year old Beaux-Arts landmark building from the General Services Administration. But it was suggested that the Customs House was too lavish, too ornate for a museum and memorial to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. This was acknowledged by the Governor in his announcement of the proposal.

CUSTOMS HOUSE CALLED INAPPROPRIATE

“Objections have been raised that this building,” the Governor said in the announcement, referring to the Customs House, “is an inappropriate place to house the museum.” Instead, Cuomo proposed that the 34-story Battery Park building — which has always been part of the planned complex — would be put up by a non-profit corporation, and what would have been profits would be used to underwrite the museum’s operating costs.

According to the proposal, reportedly in the negotiating process for months, a group of developers would put up the tower at cost. In addition to the Holocaust, museum and memorial, it would include a separate State museum “dedicated to the New York immigrant experience,” according to Cuomo.

The site in Battery Park will provide the museum and memorial with some 100,000 square feet of space, as compared to the 85,000 that would have been used in the Customs House by the Commission. The rest of the Customs House was to have housed government offices, perhaps a bankruptcy court or national archives facility.

The museum, according to Blumenfeld, will, among other things, contain an auditorium for performances, library and archives facilities, and focus on three interrelated themes: Jewish civilization in Europe, the Holocaust and its aftermath, and Jewish immigration in New York.

SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LOCATION

The location also has special significance. Blumenfeld noted that it will be just a few hundred feet from where the first Jews arrived from Europe in 1654. It also has a spectacular view of New York Harbor, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The groundbreaking for the building is expected in the fall of 1986, Blumenfeld said.

Mayor Ed Koch established the City’s Holocaust Commission, which has been in search of an appropriate site for a museum and memorial to the Holocaust for five years. Reports that the Holocaust Commission would be renamed the New York City/New York State Holocaust Memorial Commission, are premature, according to Blumenfeld. It has not been determined what the commission will be called under such a merger.

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