A New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled in favor of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in a pair of lawsuits, allowing it to charge admission, as it has done for decades. Two lawsuits by a museum member and neighbor of the museum assert that the city’s original 1878 lease requires that admission be free. The museum counters that it struck a deal with the city in the 1970s that allowed the museum to institute a “pay what you wish” policy.
Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich granted the museum’s motion to have large parts of the cases dismissed on Tuesday.
“This is great news,” Harold Holzer, the museum’s senior vice president for public affairs, told A.i.A. by phone. “Every part of the case that we asked to have dismissed was dismissed.”
“For those without means, or those who do not wish to express their gratitude financially, a de minimis contribution of a penny is accepted,” Werner Kornreich wrote. “Admission to the Met is de facto free for all.”
The museum sits on 11.5 acres of city land in Central Park, for which it pays no rent, a museum press representative told A.i.A. by phone last week.
“The Met is delighted with the ruling and trusts this decision once and for all validates its longtime pay-what-you wish admissions policy—which, as the judge has declared, guarantees fairness and access for visitors of all economic means,” the museum said in a statement.
The suits also maintain that the museum’s “recommended” admission fee misleads visitors into thinking the full $25 fee is required. That part of the suits was not affected by this ruling.
“This decision has no effect on the deceptive practices part of the suit,” Andrew G. Celli Jr., who represents the plaintiff, told A.i.A. by phone today. “We continue to believe and will continue to litigate that the signage is misleading.”
The museum recently was granted an amendment to its lease that supports its case. “We believe that the amendment to the lease is invalid, so we believe there is sufficient grounds for appeal there,” Celli told A.i.A.