“The Peace Pentagon” Structural Problems
In the summer of 2007 a survey by an engineer revealed that the building requires major structural repairs. The building's condition is not immediately dangerous, but the Muste Institute has had to put up scaffolding across the facade which must remain in place until repairs begin. Initial estimates put the cost of basic repairs at $1 million just to stabilize the building's exterior. To fix the building's interior problems would require a much larger sum.
The Muste Institute's Board of Directors is considering several options to respond to this problem. (Please see the "Saving Options" page for a list of these options). A majority of the Muste Board has favored selling the building. Friends of 339 came together because we believe a major effort should be made to save the Peace Pentagon. It is a space that has served the movement well and is in a prime location with street level commercial space that allows for a market-rate rental income.
A more thorough engineer's study was just completed in July 2009 and is being studied to understand the full extent of repairs needed and the cost associated with making those repairs. We are currently raising money to help cover the cost of the engineer's report and will engage in fundraising on an on-going basis to help us reach our goal of saving the building and improving it.
A Community Appeal for 339 Lafayette Street
We are in the 8th year of the War on Iraq and the 9th year of the war on Afghanistan. Do we need a Peace Center, a hub for anti-war activities in New York City? In 1969, at the height of the protests against the war in Vietnam, the National Office of the War Resisters League (WRL) on Beekman Street in lower Manhattan was raided and ransacked. Although the perpetrators were never found, the FBI or CIA is believed to be responsible. Soon afterwards, the WRL was given notice of eviction. The WRL leadership realized that only a building of their own could provide a secure haven in which to continue organizing in opposition to the Vietnam war. Money was scraped together by the staff, with some digging into their wallets to write personal checks, and the building at 339 Lafayette Street was purchased. A few years later, the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, named after a great voice for peace, was created to carry on A.J.'s work educating people about nonviolence--and as part of that mission, to own and operate the building for the benefit of WRL and other social justice groups.
Today, forty years after it was purchased, the "Peace Pentagon," as the building at 339 Lafayette Street is affectionately known, lives on as a center for peace and justice in New York City. Grassroots organizations including WRL, Deep Dish TV and Paper Tiger Television have survived and thrived in New York City for decades thanks to this stable, convenient home base. In addition to providing subsidized office space to its movement tenants, which also include Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)-NY Metro, Health Care NOW!, Met Council on Housing and the Socialist Party, the Muste Institute building serves the wider peace and justice community with space for meetings and public events.
This great resource now needs your help. The building is in need of repairs. A structural investigation is under way to ascertain the extent of damage and the cost of repairs. This survey--some of us call it an "MRI"--is expected to cost about $76,000 and it is essential to making the best decision about the future of the building and preservation of vital space for social justice organizing.
We are community activists who have spent many hours working and meeting in this building, and supporting the groups housed here. Please join us in actively supporting the Muste Institute's efforts to raise the funds to pay for engineering report.
Each of us signing this letter has already donated at least $250 toward this cause. Some of us have donated more. But we can't do this without your help. An anonymous donor has offered a $10,000 challenge grant, but in order to receive it, we must raise $20,000 over the next few months.
If 80 of you can commit to donating $250--or can raise that amount from among your friends--we will reach that goal. If 300 of you can donate or raise $250, we can cover the cost of the engineering report.
Please give today, as generously as you can, and pass this appeal along to others whose lives have been touched by the work that goes on in this building.
Contributions are tax-deductible; Please make your check payable to:
A.J. Muste Memorial Institute,
339 Lafayette St,
New York, NY 10012
(write "structural survey" on the memo line)
Or donate online at: http://www.justgive.org/giving/donate.jsp?charityId=4046& and designate your donation for "structural survey."
You can also contribute through a Facebook cause created just for this purpose: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/283511/41938301?m=6d54c0aa .
Thanks very much for your support,
Friends of 339 Lafayette