Schumer Launches Campaign to Build First-Ever Museum at World-Famous Sing Sing Prison - Senator Begins Push for Critical Federal Funds to Make Sing Sing Museum The Alcatraz of the East; Museum Could Attract 200k Tourists Per Year
WASHINGTON, July 1 -- The office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., issued the following news release:
Today, standing outside Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, U.S. Senator Schumer launched his campaign to build the first-ever museum at the world-famous prison. Schumer announced that he will begin his push to secure federal funds for the planning and design phases, a critical first step in making this museum a reality. Although Sing Sing is still an active facility, parts of the prison are no longer in use, and various community groups have begun to put plans in motion to create a museum in a former power plant on the prison grounds. The old power plant at Sing Sing would serve as the site for the museum dedicated to the infamous prison.
This museum would be one of the first at an active prison and, according to Schumer, would be a major driver of tourism and culture in Westchester County. Schumer said that a museum at Sing Sing, which has a spectacular setting astride the Hudson River, and easy mass transit access, has the potential to be the "Alcatraz of the East." The prison's history spans nearly 200 years and it is famous for the many well-known criminals who did time there, spawning the now common phrase to be sent "up the river." Schumer explained that visitation to the Sing Sing Museum could easily surpass 200,000 people per year, which would be a major contributor to the local economy. Specifically, Schumer is urging the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) to support the Sing Sing Museum by providing the critical, early-stage funding that the museum's creators, Friends of the Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum, are seeking. This NEH funding would help the museum through its early design and planning stages, and aid in getting this worthwhile project off the ground.
"Sing Sing Prison is home to a fascinating, 200-year history, one that includes many artifacts and amazing tales of some of the world's most infamous prisoners, not to mention a spectacular river-side setting, but these that have yet to be shared with the world," said Schumer. "We are in a unique position to turn this storied history into a major, one-of-a-kind tourist attraction, and that is why I am here - to add my voice behind this effort and to help the museum's creators secure the federal funds they need to get this project off the ground. A museum at Sing Sing has the potential to become the 'Alcatraz of the East' and bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, and I will do all I can to see this project get done."
Schumer was joined by New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and William Hanauer, Village of Ossining Mayor, to launch his support for the Sing Sing Prison Museum, which is being supported by the Westchester Business Association, New York State, the Westchester County Tourism Office and other entities. According to their estimate, a museum at Sing Sing could attract upward of 200,000 tourists per year and would create close to 260 full-time jobs at the museum and in the community, as well as over 100 temporary construction jobs. It would also generate approximately $24 million in overall spending and increase visitation at other historic and tourism sites in Westchester. Construction is estimated to begin in 2017 should the team creating the museum secure the funding they need. If construction is able to begin in 2017, the museum would be on track to open in 2019. Schumer explained that the first step in making this museum a reality is reviewing and updating previous plans for this museum that were developed in 2007, but had to be shelved due to the economic downturn.
"I am delighted to learn that Senator Schumer is supportive of the building of the Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum," said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. "I have advocated for this project for many years, and the grant money he can help obtain will be extremely helpful in building this museum. This project will provide a new tourism boost to the Hudson Valley, creating jobs and economic development while at the same time highlighting the history of this famous prison. I look forward to working with the Senator on this project and am grateful for his support."
"Senator Schumer's championing of the Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum project and his recognition of its importance to the economy of the Village, the County, and the entire Hudson Valley region is most welcome," said Village of Ossining Mayor William Hanauer. "His support adds momentum to our quest for Federal, NY State, County, and private funding for this project, which is anticipated to become one of the three most visited tourist sites on the Hudson."
Sing Sing Prison Museum will tell the story of Sing Sing prison and the American Penal System. Sing Sing has some of the world's most famous prison artifacts, including the now defunct "Old Sparky," which was the electric chair that was used to execute 614 convicts. A museum at Sing Sing would not be the first prison museum in the country, but it would be one of the only at an active prison. Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, for example, are at prisons that have been closed for decades. Angola Museum, which is located just outside the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is one example of a museum at an active prison and it draws close to 3,000 visitors per month. Alcatraz attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors per year. This museum would also tell the story of some of the important prison reforms that have been made over the last century, and Sing Sing is the perfect example, as it has been a real leader in the reform movement since the early 1900s.
Over the years, Sing Sing has housed some of New York's most notorious prisoners, including David Berkowitz, who did time there immediately following his sentencing for the "Son of Sam" murders; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were sentenced to death there after being found guilty of spying on the U.S. for the Soviet Union; and many members of the infamous Murder Incorporated group, which carried out killings for the Mafia in the 1930s and '40s. The history of Sing Sing spans nearly 200 years, as it was purchased by New York State in 1825. The 135-acre site has been an active prison since the first 100 inmates arrived earlier that year.
Schumer is pushing the National Endowment of the Humanities to support the museum's early stage development and will continue to push for federal funding in the years to come in order to see the project through to its opening. NEH Planning grants support the early stages of project development, including consultation with scholars, refinement of humanities themes, preliminary design, testing, and audience evaluation.
A copy of Schumer's letter of support to Carole Watson, Acting Chairman of the NEH, is included below:
I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the Historic Hudson River Towns Association for funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities' planning grants program. Such funding will enable the Association to create the Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum.
The project, which will focus on the story of Sing Sing Penitentiary and American history through the lens of Sing Sing in Ossining, New York, will showcase historical artifacts, educate tourists on the penal system and prison reform movement, and allow visitors from around the world to learn about this historically significant and culturally profound prison. The creation of a Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum on the banks of the Hudson in Ossining has been discussed since 2005, and this grant will allow the organization to conduct an in-depth market analysis, consult with world-renowned scholars, and engage in early stage project development, preliminary designs and refinement of humanities themes.
Although Sing Sing is still an active facility, parts of the prison are no longer in use, and various community groups have begun to put plans in motion to create a museum in a former power plant on the prison grounds. This old power plant at Sing Sing would serve as the site for the museum dedicated to the infamous prison. This museum would be one of the first at an active prison and would be a major driver of tourism and culture in Westchester County. A museum at Sing Sing has the potential to be the "Alcatraz of the East." The prison's history spans nearly 200 years, has a spectacular Hudson River setting, easy mass transit access to the heart of midtown Manhattan, and whose story is a great case study in the evolution in prison management in America over the centuries.
Sing Sing was and remains to this day one of the most widely recognized institutions of its kind. Its reputation and image evoke a powerful response. With the creation of this museum, scholars and tourists will be able to visit and better understand the history and importance of this destination. Until now, the prison's artifacts have not been available to the public.
It is expected that the museum will be financially self-sustaining and a showcase of green building technology that can be replicated in other adaptive re-use programs. Community space and research library/archives are also part of the museum program. It is estimated that the project will create 121 one time construction jobs, 259 permanent jobs, and generate $24 million in overall spending. The project will stimulate regional local economies and advance foreign travel into the Hudson Valley region, increasing visitation at other historic and tourism sites. I applaud the Historic Hudson River Towns Association and its partners for their foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.
Thank you for your consideration. For additional information, please do not hesitate to contact my staff.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator