Press Releases

Amid Continued Public Health Crisis and Restrictive NY State Reopening Guidelines The Tenement Museum Announces Layoffs

July 22, 2020


Contact: Jamie Salen, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, [email protected], 646-518-3061
7/22/2020, New York, NY– As the country continues to battle the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and New York State issues restrictive reopening guidelines excluding indoor cultural institutions from phase IV, the Tenement Museum announces that the 76 temporary furloughs of front-facing part-time hourly staff issued upon the Museum’s initial closure on March 13 will now be made permanent.

Museum leadership remained cautiously optimistic that normal operations would resume in a matter of months and the furloughs of part-time staff would be temporary. It is now clear that the pandemic is not abating; the ability to operate safely remains a serious problem and the public is unlikely to return to the Tenement Museum anytime soon. Applying New York State’s mandatory public health guidelines to the reality of the Museum’s in-building programs means operations will not return to normal for the indefinite future.

The Museum is only accessible through guided tours of cramped recreated homes inside two historic tenement buildings.

“Our educators make our programs come to life. They are an important part of the Museum’s success. We had hoped to avoid this drastic step,” said Tenement Museum President, Morris Vogel.

In the initial shutdown the Museum issued layoffs to 13 full-time staff, temporary furloughs to 40 full-time and 76 part-time staff, and partial furloughs to 8 members of the remaining senior management staff. The Museum president also took a 99% salary reduction. Additional salary reductions for senior staff are being currently being considered.

Like many other institutions, the Museum received a Paycheck Protection Program loan under the CARES Act which was put towards recalling the 40 furloughed full-time staff for as long as possible, given the loss of revenue from ticket sales. It is estimated the protracted closure will result in at least a 50% budget reduction for the coming year.

“For the past several months we have focused on pivoting our visitor model to digital platforms, developing alternative revenue streams, and growing philanthropy with the goal of ensuring the institution’s long-term survival and retaining as many full-time staff members as possible after the PPP period ends on September 20,” says Vogel.

In the coming months the Museum plans to continue budget discipline to ensure financial strength through what it expects to be a drawn-out period of living with the pandemic; the institution remains hopeful it can reopen stronger when the pandemic loosens its grip.


About the Tenement Museum

Since 1988, the Museum has forged emotional connections between visitors and immigrants past and present, through educator-led tours of its historic tenement buildings at 97 and 103 Orchard and the surrounding neighborhood, enhancing appreciation for the vital role immigrants play in shaping America’s identity. The Museum has become one of New York City’s preeminent cultural and educational institutions, welcoming more than 278,000 visitors, including 55,000 students, each year. The Museum now aims to use every medium at its disposal to dramatically increase the impact of its programming—reaching millions not thousands– with its message of how immigrants built and continue to build America.