Italian American Museum says evictions aren't hypocrisy, just business

Mar 26, 2015 612

by Ben Fisher

New York's rapid redevelopment is bound to cause fights over evictions, rents and gentrification. But for sheer unfortunate irony, it's hard to top the ongoing saga of the Italian American Museum in Little Italy. In the last week, the museum has evicted two tenants of the Lower East Side enclave, both the very embodiment of the heritage the museum hopes to protect. First it was lifelong neighborhood resident Adele Sarno from her apartment of 53 years at 185 Grand Street, and now it's Il Palazzo, a three-decade old establishment Google calls a "classic red-sauce Italian eatery."

The juxtaposition of the museum's mission and its real estate dealings is unavoidable, and the sympathy for the tenants is obvious. But the museum is not the evil Goliath of the biblical tale, spokesman Joe Carella insisted in an interview today. It's a landlord with valuable property, a much-needed expansion plan, financial problems of its own, and no legal reason to keep under-market rents in place or tolerate unpaid rents, he says.

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