Could the New York City mansion where convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein allegedly abused scores of underaged girls find new life as an art museum?
Preservationists who oppose interior redesign of The Frick Collection museum and library across the street from Epstein’s East 71st Street townhouse near Central Park argue that its purchase could provide space that would avert planned changes to the existing museum, while cleansing his mansion of its notorious past.
“I can’t imagine a family that would want to raise their children in that cursed mansion. It’s going to be hard to sell,” architect and preservationist Theodore Grunewald, who leads the Save the Frick campaign, told the New York Daily News.
Jennifer McBride, of the group Stop Irresponsible Frick Development, notes that Epstein’s seven-story property on Manhattan’s Upper East Side formerly housed the K-12 Birch Wathen School.
“If they (the Frick) want to expand their educational mission, here’s the perfect place to do it,” she told the newspaper. “It gives the property new life, new birth.”
A spokesman for the Frick challenged assumptions that a separate building would fit the museum’s demands.
“Our renovation and revitalization plan has been guided carefully by two key tenets — first and foremost, to preserve the unique, intimate experience of the Frick, and secondly, to ensure the long-term future of the museum and library,” the Frick’s deputy director Joe Shatoff said in a statement, reports the Daily News. “A separate building across the street does not answer these needs and would not provide the critical adjacencies required to make it a functional solution.”
Epstein, a formerly high-flying financier convicted of sex crimes in Florida, died by suicide in a New York City jail in August while awaiting further prosecution for additional alleged sex crimes.
The Frick itself is housed in a former mansion built for industrialist Henry Clay Frick in 1913-14. Those who propose using Epstein’s townhome for additional museum space hope to stop renovation plans at the Frick that include changes to an 85-year-old music room to add more exhibit space.
“The fact that it’s so convenient to the museum means that the Frick could potentially lay Jeffrey Epstein’s name to rest by purchasing it and changing the function,” said Grunewald. “It could essentially be cleansing the house.”
In 2008, Epstein — who counted himself as a one-time friend to dozens of celebrities, moguls and public officials, including presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump in his pre-White House days — pleaded guilty in Florida state court to soliciting a person under 18 for prostitution.
He was sentenced to 13 months in jail, although he served much of the time in work release at his office in Palm Beach. He was required to register as a sex offender.
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On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested at a New Jersey airport and charged in a new federal indictment that alleged he had “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes.” The incidents occurred in several locations, including Manhattan and Palm Beach. The indictment alleged he paid some victims to recruit additional victims.
The indictment charged Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faced a maximum 45-year prison sentence if convicted. According to court records filed in Manhattan Federal Court, some of the alleged victims were as young as 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to all charges but was denied bail following a search of his property that revealed he had a fake passport and stacks of cash hidden in his safe. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ordered him to remain behind bars as a flight risk pending a trial date.
On Aug. 10, guards at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center reported finding Epstein, 66, unconscious in his jail cell around 7:30 a.m. in cardiac arrest. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYC Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson officially ruled his death a suicide by hanging.
Representatives for Epstein’s estate could not be reached.