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Italian American Activists to Protest Rejection of Pier A Museum Proposal

By Julie Shapiro | June 25, 2011 10:51am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Italian American activists who want to build a museum devoted to their heritage on Pier A in Battery Park are planning to rally outside the historic pier Saturday afternoon.

The activists are upset that the Battery Park City Authority rejected their proposal to build a nonprofit Italian museum at the site, in favor of an oyster bar and event space.

"It's just not right," said John Fratta, a Community Board 1 member who is leading the fight. "We're going to keep the pressure on."

Fratta argues that the Battery Park City Authority has already given space to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Irish Hunger Memorial, noting it's unfair for Italian Americans to be left out.

The Battery Park City Authority announced in March that restaurateur Harry Poulakakos had won the contract to redevelop the 125-year-old pier, at Manhattan's southern tip, with an oyster bar including outdoor seating, a casual restaurant, visitor center, fine-dining restaurant and event space.

Construction is already under way, and the pier could reopen as soon as the summer of 2012.

Earlier this year, Fratta filed a Freedom of Information Law request asking for documents showing how the Battery Park City Authority made its decision regarding who would operate Pier A. After some back-and-forth between lawyers, Fratta received documents showing the Authority's assessments of the proposals — but he is not satisfied he has the full story.

"Pier A is the last unoccupied historic building in Battery Park," Fratta said. "To give it to a restaurant makes no sense."

Fratta expects dozens of people to attend Saturday's rally, and hopes the turnout will convince the Battery Park City Authority to finally sit down with him and talk about finding another space for the Italian museum in the neighborhood.

Lower Manhattan already has the Italian American Museum in Little Italy, but it is too small to do justice to Italians' history in New York, Fratta said.

The Battery Park City Authority did not immediately return a call for comment.

The rally will be held Saturday, 2 p.m. at Pier A, near Battery Place and West Street.