A Fight to Preserve a Pristine Piece of Old New York

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at why a museum is at odds with the city, which owns the 192-year-old rowhouse it occupies. We’ll also look at a class-action lawsuit that accuses the agency responsible for investigating child abuse of using “coercive tactics” that traumatize families.

Credit…James Barron/The New York Times

It sounds like an intramural squabble: A museum on city-owned property is at odds with a city agency and is circulating protest letters it plans to deliver to Mayor Eric Adams.

The squabble troubles some preservationists, because the building the city owns and the museum occupies is a landmark rowhouse, now known as the Merchant’s House Museum, that is exactly as it was in the 19th century, except for the electrical wiring. The furniture, including the “square” piano from the 1840s in the front parlor, was left in place when the last descendant of the longtime owners died in the 1930s and a relative bought the house.

The house, on East Fourth Street in the East Village, was eventually deeded to the city. By then, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had designated it as both an exterior and interior landmark.

Now the museum — run by a nonprofit group that has long had an operating agreement with the city — finds itself at cross purposes with the landmarks commission, which in December approved plans for a seven-story building next door.

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