Pandemic-related capacity restrictions lifting for NY cultural institutions

The Queens Museum.

The Queens Museum. Ron Adar / Shutterstock

New York is easing capacity restrictions for museums, zoos, indoor arenas and movie theaters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.

Museums in the state will now be able to operate at 50% of their maximum capacity, up from 25% for the past several months. The reduced restrictions may help bring relief to financially vulnerable organizations, particularly small museums with limited budgets. About 14,300 jobs in museums, parks and historical sites were lost in New York as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a February report from the state comptroller’s office.

For the past several months, museums have questioned their ability to stay afloat at such limited capacity and with uncertainty surrounding how many visitors would turn up. The Whitney Museum of American Art, for example, laid off 15 employees in February because ticket sales were down 80%. But New Yorkers may be increasingly open to visiting museums and other venues in the near future as more adults continue to get vaccinated.

Some other nonprofits, such as YMCAs, are hoping to get similar flexibility on capacity soon. “Continuing to restrict YMCAs to 33% capacity is not only hampering the delivery of community programs and services, it is also endangering our ability to help heal the spirit, mind, and body of New Yorkers,” Kyle Stewart, executive director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs, said in a statement. 

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