Just days after Italian-American activists griped that Gov. Kathy Hochul was snubbing Little Italy with a $20 million grant for neighboring Chinatown, the governor announced Wednesday that the state will kick in $1 million to complete construction of the new Italian-American Museum there, The Post has learned.
Hochul revealed the funding during a private breakfast meeting with about three dozen Italian-American civic leaders at her Manhattan office, over a spread of Italian baked delicacies including sfingi and creme-filled zeppole from Gino’s Pastry Shop in The Bronx in celebration of upcoming St. Joseph’s Day on Saturday.
“It came as a surprise. Gov. Hochul wanted to do something for the Italian-American community. It’s certainly appreciated,” said Italian-American Museum president Joseph Scelsa, who attended the breakfast.
The $1 million in funding helped defuse tensions between Hochul and some Italian-American activists, who had close ties to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an Italian-American who resigned last August following a slew of sexual harassment and misconduct accusations.
They’ve been critical of some of Hochul’s recent decisions — including the approval of that $20 million grant to Chinatown that excluded neighboring Little Italy, co-mingling Indigenous People’s Day with Columbus Day, and lack of consultation before firing the previous Italian-American liaison to the governor’s office.
But Scelsa said he’s now simpatico with Hochul.
Hochul’s office said Little Italy merchants can also apply for some of the Chinatown grant money.
“I’m very, very happy about the museum funding. We’re making progress,” said Victor Papa, chairman of the Chinatown-Little Italy Historic District Improvement Association.
Scelsa said the funding will help finish the new building at 151 Mulberry Street without having to go into debt.
The old two-story structure that housed the museum at the same location was demolished.
The Italian-American Museum will occupy parts of four stories and 7,000 square feet of space in the new $40 million mixed-used six-story building that will include 20 residential condo units, Scelsa said. The private development will help finance the new museum, he said.
Scelsa noted that city elected officials had not contributed to the re-build of the museum.
Hochul, who told guests her five siblings are married to Italian-Americans and intends to visit Italy as part of a state trade mission, vowed to maintain a “sustained engagement” with Italian-American leaders. She noted that the Italian-American community is the largest ethnic group in New York State.
“Whether in government, business, public safety or in the arts, Italian Americans have been integral in building and strengthening New York State. I’m proud to honor the legacy and heritage of New York’s Italian-American community, the largest in the United States, by announcing $1 million in state funding to help complete construction of the Italian-American Museum in Little Italy.” Hochul said in a statement to The Post
“As we build back our economy, my administration is fully committed to supporting New York’s diverse communities and embracing our rich cultural heritage.”