NYC’s American Museum of Natural History to serve as early voting site

The American Museum of Natural History is set to make a bit of New York history this spring, serving as an early voting site for the first time.

The 155-year-old Upper West Side museum, known for its formidable fossils and sweeping exhibitions on the natural world, has stepped up to serve as a polling station after locals pushed back on the use of a nearby school as a voting site.

The museum will serve as a polling place from June 15 to June 23 during the early voting period in state and congressional primary elections. The presidential primary election in New York took place earlier this month.

The museum’s Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will host the voting station, said Daniel Slippen, the museum’s vice president of government and corporate relations. The dazzling granite-clad center is located on the Columbus Ave. side of the museum campus.

In February, three local lawmakers wrote to the museum asking it to consider serving as a polling site, citing concerns that the nearby, 1,500-student William O’Shea public school complex was ill-suited to the task.

Since 2022, the school building’s cafeteria has hosted early voting, forcing students to relocate lunchtime to the hallways, according to the letter by state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and City Councilwoman Gale Brewer.

“Unfortunately, the nine days of early voting impair school operations, restrict nutritional options for students, and compromise student safety,” they wrote, adding that the use of the school as a voting site pauses students’ access to hot lunches for a week.

The museum’s reply: yes. The museum’s president, Sean Decatur, offered thanks to the three lawmakers for bringing the issue to the museum’s attention.

In a statement, Decatur highlighted the museum’s past work as a public resource, including as a COVID vaccination site, and added that the museum is “excited about the opportunity” to help its neighbors “exercise their fundamental democratic right.”

Hoylman-Sigal called the development “dino-mite” news.

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