The American Irish Historical Society's (AIHS) plan to sell its NYC headquarters continues to meet criticism from the Irish government as well as the Irish American community.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said last week that the sale of the American Irish Historical Society's building at 991 Fifth Avenue, which the society has owned since 1940, is a “deeply disappointing development."

Coveney was responding to a question posed in the Dáil by Cork TD David Stanton about the sale. Coveney called the headquarters, which houses a library and research facility with thousands of rare Irish books and documents, as "a cherished symbol of the profound relationship that has grown between our two countries through the centuries.

"While the Society is more than its premises, the building on Fifth Avenue is an iconic emblem of Ireland in New York and a vital part of the infrastructure that underpins US-Ireland relations."

The building, situated across the street from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was placed on the market on January 27.

Noting the amount of money that the AIHS received through Ireland's Emigrant Support Programme between 2008 and 2018, Coveney said: "I am concerned and disappointed about the proposed sale. I would urge the Board of the AIHS to reconsider this decision.

"The building's loss would be keenly felt by the community in New York and beyond. We stand ready to engage in finding a constructive solution that meets the needs of the community and other stakeholders. Our Consulate General in New York is following the situation closely and is in regular contact with the Society and the wider community."

Elsewhere, a petition launched by the Irish American community on Change.org last week asking to stop the sale of the building attracted more than 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

“For more than 120 years, the American Irish Historical Society preserved and celebrated the contributions of the Irish in America, and since 1940 the society has been located in its majestic headquarters at 991 Fifth Avenue,” the petition said.

“This building has for generations been a beacon to newly arrived Irish immigrants as well as native-born Americans of Irish descent, celebrating the success of a once-maligned minority and their part in the development of America.

“This iconic building in a most prominent place on the grandest of avenues is in danger of being sold by a small group, despite all it represents to the Irish in America, in Ireland, and beyond. It is vital that the voice of the Irish American community be respected and this monument to our people be preserved, its collections be protected and good governance ensured. 

“We ask you to sign our petition to stop the sale of the finest Irish building in America, a vital place for past, present, and future generations. To sell it is to demean the work of generations in this country, as well as deprive future generations of their hard-won heritage.”

The petition closed by saying that it would “be sent to the attorney general of the state of New York who has the ultimate authority in these matters.”

The sale of the AIHS building is being handled by Paula Del Nunzio, one of the country’s premier townhouse brokers who works with the firm Brown Harris Stevens. The property is the second most expensive listing in Del Nunzio’s current portfolio.

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