Community Gets First Look at Proposed Space Shuttle Museum

By Mathew Katz on November 3, 2011 6:46pm 

An initial design of the proposed Space Shuttle Enterprise Museum.
An initial design of the proposed Space Shuttle Enterprise Museum.
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Jones Lang LaSalle

CHELSEA — Here's a peek at the space shuttle Enterprise's proposed landing pad.

The President of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum presented residents with initial plans for a new space museum built around the shuttle at Wednesday night's meeting of Community Board 4.

"This can offer and unbelievable set of programming for education purposes," said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, the museum's president. "This can throw off a huge amount of economic impact to the city and to the state on an annual basis."

The new museum would be located in what's now a parking lot across the West Side Highway from the Intrepid Museum, at West 46th Street. The museum currently does not own the lot, which would have to be rezoned for museum use before construction could begin.

NASA awarded the Enterprise, one of four shuttles donated to museums around the country, to the Intrepid in April. In their application to house the shuttle, Intrepid officials said it would be put next to the Intrepid itself.

But the shuttle's size forced the museum to consider housing it across the street, which caused Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown to call the museum "woefully unprepared" for the shuttle last month.

The new museum, a spiralling glass structure with the shuttle at its center, would have classrooms and laboratories, a theater and a rooftop restaurant.

Marenoff-Zausner said the museum expects to have about 300,000 additional visitors per year, 1,186 new jobs, and will generate about $143 million-a-year in revenue.

"This can really change the area," she said. "This is a beautiful lynchpin to what we see as an area really beautifying the neighborhood."

Members of the community board overwhelmingly agreed with Marenoff-Zausner that the museum could help transform the image of Hell's Kitchen.

"A museum! I can't believe it, it's not a massage parlor," said board member J.D. Noland, referring to the neighborhood's reputation for hosting shady businesses. "It's for kids! It's wonderful. It elevates the community."

While board members wholeheartedly supported the museum, some raised concerns about an increase in tour buses that could drive into or idle in the neighborhood.

The site currently provides parking for 14 buses, and Marenoff-Zausner said the new museum would bring total bus parking up to 28, along with 100 spots for cars.

The board's transportation committee originally voted to ask the museum to look into adding an additional 14 bus parking spots, but the measure was voted down by the full board.

"This [museum] is a not-for-profit," said board member Joe Restuccia. "To put any more encumbrance on them is crazy."

But Transportation Committee co-chair Christine Berthet said the board needs to secure more bus parking as as possible.

"If we ask late, it's usually too late," she said.

Both Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen have long complained about the amount of buses that travel through or idle in their neighborhoods, and board members wanted a larger solution to the problem than adding spaces to the parking lot at the new museum.

The community board has long supported a large-scale, central garage in the neighborhood that would get them off the streets.

"We put the shuttle into space," said Tom Cayler, a member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance. "I think we should be able to figure out amongst ourselves how to get some buses in a garage."

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