New York, NY – U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Nydia Velázquez announced today that they will introduce legislation in both chambers of Congress that would expand the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s National Park Service (NPS) designation by including its second historic site at 103 Orchard Street. The Museum’s first historic building at 97 Orchard Street has already been declared a “National Park Service Affiliate Site” in 1998.
The Museum plans to open a new exhibit at 103 Orchard Street, presenting the stories of families who lived there after 1945, including Jewish Holocaust survivors, post-1965 Chinese families, and Puerto Rican migrants in the 1950s. Federal legislation called the Lower East Side Tenement Museum Expansion Act would secure a partnership between the new space and NPS-administered Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, helping to bring in thousands of more visitors annually. NPS would be able to assist this site with education workshops, tours for city school children, and exhibition construction and preservation, just as it has done in the past for the Museum.
“The immigrant’s story is America’s story, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan has been ‘stop one’ for countless generations of new Americans. This designation will help the Tenement Museum expand, accommodating more visitors each and every year,” said Schumer. “This museum does a terrific job interpreting the history of immigration by telling stories of real individuals who built lives on the Lower East Side. Adding a new facility to tell more stories from Puerto Rican migrants, Chinese families and Holocaust survivors will enrich us all. As an integral part of the Lower East Side neighborhood, this designation will give the museum the resources it needs to continue its great work.”
“This designation would help preserve America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood,” said Gillibrand. “We must provide the Tenement Museum with the resources it needs to continue to educate our children and tell the important stories of our past immigrant experience.”
“Expanding the LES Tenement Museum’s National Park Service designation will help preserve this local source of history and culture for future generations,” said Representative Velázquez. “This important local gem provides residents and visitors alike with a greater sense of our City’s heritage and I hope to see it grow in the future.”
Prior to its designation as an affiliated side of NPS, the Museum’s historic site at 97 Orchard Street was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994. The NPS designation has provided critical support for preservation efforts, education workshops and tours, and invaluable preservation expertise throughout the years. For a quarter of a century, the Museum has preserved the history of immigration through the personal experiences of generations of newcomers who settled in, re-creating apartments that had been uninhabited since 1935.
The Schumer-Gillibrand legislation would expand the boundaries of the NPS Affiliate Site to include 103 Orchard Street, which houses the Museum’s Visitor Center and will house its new exhibits. The new exhibit, which is a direct response to NPS Director Jon Jarvis’s “Call to Action” to tell America’s untold stories, would be the first at a Park Service site to interpret the history of Holocaust survivors rebuilding lives in America and one of the few telling the stories of Puerto Rican migrants to the mainland and post-1965 Chinese immigrants.
With over 183,000 visitors annually, including 42,000 public school children, the Museum has seen a visitor increase of 40% over the past five years. The Museum estimates the expansion would accommodate 50,000 additional people each year, including 12,000 city students.