By Julie Shapiro
Peter Stanford, who launched the museum in 1967, said the museum's board must fire President Mary Pelzer and return to its original mission of preserving historic ships.
Stanford, 84, no longer has a formal role in the museum, but he decided to propose a path forward after Pelzer put half the museum's staff on unpaid leave in February. The cuts came as the museum was struggling to get its finances in order. The museum had already laid off at least five workers in February.
Stanford's plan hinges on reviving the museum's historic vessels, some of which have fallen into such disrepair that they are no longer safe to sail.
"[The ships] are the most dramatic thing we have, but they've got to be brought to life," Stanford said. "You would be horrified at their condition."
The 100-year-old Peking, for example, is coated in rust and needs millions of dollars of repairs before it can make a sea voyage, a source said.
Stanford and Robert Ferraro, another one of the museum's founders, returned to the Seaport Saturday morning to discuss their plan with the museum's volunteers. They are also urging the museum to offer more public programs focused on the waterfront and to cultivate an active corps of members and volunteers.
"We wanted to go down and say, 'Hey, look: Despite all the bad times you've had, the museum was once a success and it can be again,'" Ferraro said. "We wanted to give them a sense of optimism: Don't give up hope."
But Stanford said those efforts can only succeed if the museum's leadership, including Chairman Frank Sciame, listen to the suggestions, which so far they have not done, Stanford said.
"It's like a nightmare," Stanford said. "It's like watching something fall slowly off a cliff."
Stanford also criticized the museum for its atmosphere of secrecy around its financial troubles.
"If you're going broke, you should tell people you're going broke and ask for help," he said.
A spokesman for the museum released a statement saying, "Seaport Museum New York continues to work to resolve its current fiscal challenges and place itself on a path to long-term sustainability."