This summer, visitors sued the Metropolitan Museum of Art over its admission fee policy, claiming that the museum purposely made the discretionary fee unclear. A former employee testified in court that workers at the Met were discouraged from telling visitors about the "pay what you wish" policy. Now, Mayor Bloomberg has decided to clear up all the confusion by amending the Met's lease with New York City.
The altered lease clarifies that the museum is allowed to charge a suggested admission fee, as they have done since 1971. It also adds that the Met can charge more for special exhibitions, a price that would have to be approved by the city. Harold Holzer, the museum's senior vice president, claims that the Met does not have plans to exercise this extra charge, but he tells the New York Times, “What the amendment does is preserve the museum’s right to do so, which we think crucial in the wake of legal challenges to admissions that pose a threat to a vital part of our operating budget.”
According to Arnold M. Weiss, a lawyer for the parties suing the Met, however, this new policy change is shady business. “This lawsuit’s been pending a year and now in the dead of night, without any public process, as this administration is leaving, they suddenly come up with an amendment to the lease,” he told the Times. “The process is very inappropriate."
Inappropriate or not, the lease amendment does seem to be a maneuver by the Met to protect the museum from legal troubles. At the same time, it does not seem that the $25 dollar admission will be mandatory, at least for now.