A.J. MUSTE MEMORIAL INSTITUTE
Supporting Nonviolence and Social Justice Since 1974.
339 Lafayette Street, New York, New York 10012 (212) 533-4335 Fax: (212) 228-6193 [email protected]
What's new with the Muste building (7/26/10)

The Future of the Muste Building

May 2009

Art by Jeanne Strole

The "Peace Pentagon," the Muste Institute's three-story building at 339 Lafayette Street, is in need of major repairs. We are facing difficult decisions and must explore the best way to continue and expand all of our program work--including our building program, which provides affordable office and meeting space to the War Resisters League and other grassroots social justice groups.

The Peace Pentagon was founded with a simple plan: we would lease out the ground floor retail storefronts to commercial businesses at market rates, in order to cover the costs of maintaining the building and providing subsidized office space on the second and third floors to activist groups.

As we sought to dedicate more time to expanding our programs supporting nonviolent action, and less time to our role as a commercial landlord, the Muste Institute has kept these market rental rates reasonable and has sought to keep responsible small businesses as long-term stable retail tenants.

Over the years, the building's condition has deteriorated, and the rental income from these spaces as they are currently leased is not enough to cover the needed repairs. In addition, New York City Transit is making renovations to the Bleecker Street subway station which may affect our building.

In order for us to make a fully informed decision about how best to continue our important work, we are currently:

Exploring repair options: We have contracted with a respected engineering firm to oversee structural explorations and issue a report on the condition of the building and likely options for repair. With this report in hand, we will seek out bids from architects, engineers and contractors to help us get an estimate of how much repairs would cost, and what they would involve.

Reviewing lease and sale offers: We have contracted with two well-known real estate brokerage firms to find us the best possible lease and sale offers. One firm is seeking parties interested in leasing or buying the ground floor retail space (in whole or part); another is charged with bringing in best offers for sale of the whole building. Both firms understand that the offers they bring us now will help us reach a decision about whether to keep and repair the building or whether to sell it.

Negotiating with New York City Transit: The law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP  is representing us as pro bono counsel in negotiations with NYC Transit, to help us determine how we can carry out our structural explorations within a framework of cooperation and safety considerations.

We expect to have lease and sale offers and an estimate of repair costs in hand within a few months. The Muste Institute's board of directors will then review the information and reach a decision. If we decide to sell the building, we will have to determine where to move our own office and our building program. If we decide to make repairs, we will have to obtain financing and raise additional funds.

We encourage you to renew your commitment to the Muste Institute and help us maintain our programs while we tackle this challenge. The most helpful thing you can do is to provide a gift for general support, so we can use your contribution where it is needed most. We also welcome your gifts for a specific purpose--whether to cover the cost of the current engineering survey, or to bolster one of our special funds, or to help restore our general grantmaking program, or for our sponsored groups.

Our first priority is for the Muste Institute to go into the future as a stronger resource in the nonviolent struggle for social justice. If you value all the important organizing that happens here, please send your generous contribution check to the Muste Institute today, or donate online: www.justgive.org/giving/donate.jsp?charityId=4046&

We appreciate your support!