Major expansion begins at Queens Museum

Queens Museum of Art Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl speaks during the museum's expansion groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall and some members of the borough’s City Council delegation helped break ground Tuesday on the Queens Museum of Art’s $65 million expansion project that will double the size of the cultural institution in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Bloomberg said his administration has worked hard to enhance the city’s cultural institutions.

“I think this project is a great example,” he said during the event, held at the former site of the ice skating rink that will soon be home to new gallery space, classrooms, public event spaces, a café and a museum shop. “This really is a wise investment in our city’s future.”

The $65 million project is expected to be completed in 2013.

The expansion will allow the museum to take its extensive collection of art in various mediums out of storage and put it on display in the extra exhibition space.

Work includes making the western facade of the building more visible to passers-by by attaching a large piece of art to the wall.

The museum, which sees about 250,000 visitors a year, will be open throughout the construction and Bloomberg said its famous city panorama “will continue to delight visitors.”

The mayor said the expansion “will let the Queens Museum of Art play a bigger and more important role in the life of this wonderful borough.”

Marshall, who said her office provided $22 million in funding for the expansion, called the project “wonderful for the future.”

“It’s going to be absolutely spectacular,” she said.

The borough president said Queens is young in terms of development compared to the other boroughs, “but it gives us opportunities to learn from the past mistakes and successes and be more innovative. Projects like this brings tourists and that brings money to our borough.”

Alan Suna, chairman of the museum’s board, said the expansion will make the museum “the pride of Queens.”

“It is just going to be fantastic,” he said.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, said he put the museum among the top of his list of upcoming budget priorities.

“Isn’t this beautiful? This is an amazing space,” Van Bramer said, noting the Queens Museum of Art was the first museum he visited as a young child growing up in Astoria.

“Just as it showed me another world … I know it has done that for millions and millions of others throughout its existence and now it can do that for so many more folks,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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