Insurance execs take to streets to help museum

The children’s area of the Police Museum, right, before it closed as a result of Hurricane Sandy damage, and the space as it looks today.  Downtown Express photo by Zach Williams

The children’s area of the Police Museum, right, before it closed as a result of Hurricane Sandy damage, and the space as it looks today. Downtown Express photo by Zach Williams

BY ZACH WILLIAMS  |  Friendly neighbors are helping one local museum in a time of need.

About 150 of them gathered last week at Old Slip Park in support of the New York Police Museum whose permanent location at 100 Old Slip remains closed due to outstanding Hurricane Sandy damage. 

Dozens of them danced in unison for about five minutes as 100 more watched. The event, organized by Guardian Life Insurance Company, sought to promote community involvement in re-opening the 16,000 square-feet of exhibit space there.

“We were very affected by Superstorm Sandy. We were out of our office right here at 7 Hanover for about 11 months and when we came back it became clear that we came back but many of our neighbors were still struggling,” said Jeanette Volpi, a spokesperson for the insurance company.

The museum currently occupies a donated space at 45 Wall St. and will remain there for some time, according to Julie Bose, executive director for the museum. However, with 80 percent less space, many exhibits cannot re-open including a collection of police badges from those who died in the line of duty, as well as an exhibit which featured mock police equipment and events challenging children to think like real-world detectives in order to solve make-believe crimes.

Photo courtesy of New York Police Museum

Photo courtesy of New York Police Museum

Early last winter, museum officials heard that the insurance company wished to help, Bose said. In addition to an eventual $25,000 donation to the museum, the company sought to spearhead an event involving its employees in an active manner, according to Volpi.

Preparations for the event began during the winter and led the hiring of an event planning company to acquire requisite permits from the company as well as provide professional dancers to tutor Guardian employees who were inexperienced in public performance. Volpi declined to say how much the company paid for the assistance.

For at least one company employee, the museum represents a cause more important than even a lifelong reluctance to dance in public.

“I’ve never danced before. I didn’t even dance at my own wedding,” said Jeffrey Klappholz who added that the three recent rehearsal sessions enabled him to participate.

Though visitor numbers and revenues remain strong, the storm’s legacy remains a challenge for the museum as well as the surrounding community in a similar manner as the Sept. 11 attacks years before, according to Bose.

“[The community] hasn’t bounced back yet, people are still grappling with this,” Bose said.

Guardian Life employees dancing June 11 at a “Flash Event” to bring attention to the Police Museum.  Downtown Express photo by Zach Williams

Guardian Life employees dancing June 11 at a “Flash Event” to bring attention to the Police Museum.
Downtown Express photo by Zach Williams

A spokesperson for the city Department of Cultural Affairs, which is overseeing the rehabilitation of 100 Old Slip, said it will take another two to three years to design and complete the project, which could push the reopening back to the fifth anniversary of Sandy.

“The city is working closely with FEMA to develop the damage scope and cost estimate for the building,” Ryan Max, the spokesperson, added in an email to Downtown Express.

Most artifacts in the museum were not on the first floor of the museum — though six feet of water destroyed the children’s exhibit called the Junior Officers Discovery Zone and gift shop. It cost thousands of dollars to restore two historic police motorcycles and uniforms. Most unfortunate is the current inability of the museum to offer the same attractions, which, before Sandy hit, were expanding its niche among local resident families, Bose said.

“We were a focal point,” she said. “So much could happen there because we had the space.”

Founded in 1998, the museum chronicles the history of the N.Y.P.D. and its predecessors from the 17th century to the present day. Exhibits in recent years have included video footage from 9/11, photos of early women pioneers in the police department, as well as education programs focusing not only on teaching history to school children, but also ensuring that they know how to call 911.

For now, such activities are inhibited by the current lack of space within the Wall St. location, according to Bose.

She said despite the setbacks, even disasters, can eventually lead to good things, like stronger ties to a helpful neighbor such as Guardian.

“We think this is the beginning of a long relationship with them,” she said.

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