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Brooklyn's Weeksville Heritage Center should get designation and funding, pols say

 The museum celebrates the history of the 19th century African American community in that section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights has

The Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights has gotten a recent push from city officials to receive designation from the Cultural Institutions Group. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

A Crown Heights museum that has been struggling financially has gotten a push from city officials to be designated part of the Cultural Institutions Group run by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs.

Officials rallied in recent days, advocating for the inclusion of The Weeksville Heritage Center, which celebrates the history of the 19th century African American community in Weeksville, Brooklyn, in an exclusive cultural group. Weeksville includes the Hunterfly Road Houses, landmarked buildings that date as far back as the 1860s.

Earlier this month, the museum launched a crowdfunding campaign, citing expensive maintenance, rising costs and the insufficiency of traditional funding sources. As of Sunday, the museum had raised just over $258,300, surpassing  its $200,000 goal.

 The neighborhood was named for James Weeks, who purchased property in 1838 with other African American investors "to create an intentional land-owning community," according to the museum.

"Few institutions have been as impactful in preserving and promoting the art, culture, and history of black culture in our country as the Weeksville Heritage Center,” Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy Jr., said in a statement, adding that "it was necessary to call on the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs to prioritize the preservation of this center with the resources befitting its contributions to our city’s identity.”

There are 33 members of the Cultural Institutions Group, according to the Cultural Affairs department, all of which are on city-owned property and receive city funding for things like maintenance, security and administration. According to the agency, while Weeksville is not part of this group, it did receive $456,675 in funding for fiscal year 2019. It was not immediately clear how much in addition, if any, the museum would receive if it were to become part of the Cultural Institutions Group. 

The Museum of Jewish Heritage was the last institution to be admitted to the group, in 1998, according to a spokesman for the Cultural Affairs department.

"The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs remains committed to providing substantial, ongoing support for Weeksville Heritage Center’s administration and maintenance needs, as it has for many years," a department spokesman said in an email. "It’s essential that we preserve the legacy of this historic black community and keep its story alive, and we’re working closely with the organization to put it on stable footing."

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said it was important to add the museum to the group for  its "long-term sustainable future."

"Brooklyn’s Black history must be preserved, promoted, and well patronized," Adams added.

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