New York’s beloved Transit Museum laid off a third of its staff last month, former employees told The Post — citing pandemic-induced hardship one year after COVID-19 broke out in the city.
The 24 discharged workers included full-time and part-time workers in retail, education, curation and administration, former employees said. In 2019, the Downtown Brooklyn museum employed 66 people.
“Like so many other non-profit arts & culture organizations and museums around the globe, Friends of the New York Transit Museum reduced its staff due to fiscal challenges stemming from the pandemic,” Museum Director Concetta Bencivenga said in a statement.
“We are hard at work on plans to reopen the Museum soon, and we hope to return to our pre-pandemic audience capacity, revenue, and staffing levels in the future.”
But laid-off workers said management had called the job cuts part of a “restructuring” of the museum, which is owned by the MTA by operated almost entirely by a 501(c)3 non-profit.
“Any time there are layoffs at any institution, it’s bad for said institution. They lose institutional memory, and research shows that there is a ‘survivor’ mentality in those that remain,” said former museum educator Danah Schoenfuss, who helped organized a “mutual aid” fund after she and others lost their jobs on March 2.
“We wish them [at] the museum the best, but we are saddened by it,” Schoenfuss said.
The MTA — which is undergoing a massive cost-cutting “transformation plan” — denied any involvement in the layoffs, which consisted entirely of employees of the non-profit Friends of the New York Transit Museum.
Five MTA positions at the museum have also been eliminated by not replacing people who retired or quit, a rep for the agency said.
Unlike most of the city’s museums, the Transit Museum’s physical space — an abandoned subway station in downtown Brooklyn — remains closed to the public. Museum leaders have not set a date to re-open, and didn’t immediately respond to a query about why it is still shuttered.
The museum welcomed 700,000 annual visitors pre-pandemic, but interacted with just 19,000 people between March 15 and Dec. 31, 2020, a rep said.
Despite the drop in revenue, the popular tourist destination retained a full staff through the first 12 months of the pandemic, the rep said — even as museum programming went entirely online.
MTA insiders said Friends of the New York Transit Museum’s annual fundraising gala was once a hot ticket for would-be MTA contractors — who attended in droves to get close to transit execs.
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