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Some of the city's staples now renting public space



In the quest to amuse jaded guests who have seen and done just about everything, an increasing number of hosts are renting novel public spaces, combining the element of surprise with a sort of ersatz philanthropy.

The trend is a godsend for libraries, museums and other agencies that are scrambling to keep budgets robust during tough economic times.

According to a survey of members by The Museum Association of New York, 64 percent said that programmatic funding from all sources will be tougher this year than last and 52 percent believe the global economic crisis will continue to affect operations.

Among the locations for rent in New York are The Met, Carnegie Hall, The New-York Historical Society, Museo Del Barrio, MoMA, The Intrepid, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Empire State Building and The Armory.

Alice Marshall, owner of an eponymous public relations firm, held a January party to showcase her dozen or so luxury travel clients from around the world in the map division of the New York Public Library.

Renting to people such as Marshall is part of the NYPL’s “Earned Income Initiative,” which also includes paid research requests and the library shop. All together, these income sources make up 8 percent of the budget for all the research libraries, said a spokeswoman.

“Practice, practice, practice,” isn’t the only way to Carnegie Hall, either. Carnegie rents itself out for more than 500 privately produced events each year and about 15% of its $70 million budget last season was supported by rental income.

The library’s 200 or so events per year – which cost anywhere from $10,000 for a room rental to $30,000 for a wedding – fund everything from computer-skills classes to book acquisitions, said Angela Montefinise, the NYPL’s public relations director.

It’s unlikely, however, that you will be able to hold your “stripalooza” bachelor party in the Trustees Room, as the library, like other cultural institutions carefully vets private events for seemliness.

No religious events are allowed (weddings must be civil ceremonies) and coming-of-age extravaganzas such as bar and bat mitzvahs, quincieneras, Sweet 16s and prom parties are similarly nixed.

The facilities can be terrific backdrops for the galas that make the grade, though.

“It’s hard to get people interested in parties in New York because they get invited to so many things, but we got great feedback,” said Marshall, who has previously rented portions of the Museum of Art and Design and the Museum of Broadcast. After all, how often can people drink and blab in the library without being” ssshhhed?”


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