Sunday, February 22, 2015

Decoding Ratner's role in the dispute over the Museum of Jewish Heritage's future

A 2/8/15 article in the Wall Street Journal, Museum of Jewish Heritage Faces Struggle Over Pace of Change, places Bruce Ratner front and center, and leaves a hint about how he's dealing with the press. From the article:
When Bruce Ratner took over as chairman of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in June, he and museum officials expressed optimism that a new era was beginning for the 17-year-old institution perched at the tip of lower Manhattan.
Nearly eight months later, there is little disagreement over direction. The museum, which explores Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust, needs to boost annual attendance, which is far below that of comparable city institutions, despite a respected collection. It must stabilize its balance sheet, which has been in the red five of the last six years. And it needs to undertake significant projects, such as reimagining key sections of its core exhibit.
But a deep divide has emerged between Mr. Ratner, a prominent real-estate developer, and museum officials over the urgency of these problems, the roles of each leader and some of the solutions.
The article portrays museum director and CEO David Marwell as the obstacle to change, while former chairman Robert Morgenthau, who picked Ratner as his successor, suggests the developer should keep hands off.

But the article provides backup for Ratner from museum professionals as well as a city mover-and-shaker:
Suri Kasirer, an early supporter of the museum who drifted away but was recently re-engaged by Mr. Ratner as a lobbyist and strategic consultant, said she sees a certain amount of adherence to the status quo. “Sometimes you’ve got to shake things up a little bit and I think that’s what he’s trying to do. Not shake it up for its own sake, but shake it up for a vision.”
Kasirer's firm also works for Ratner on Atlantic Yards.

It's tough to know who's right regarding the museum's future. But the use of Kasirer as a source and the fact that Ratner gets the last word suggest he's successfully managing media outreach:
Mr. Ratner nonetheless remains eager to light a fire under the institution. Without new momentum, he said, “I’m not sure what will happen to the museum and that’s what worries me.”

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