August 14, 2008
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Branches Out to New York
By BEN SISARIO
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is coming to New York City.
On a blocked-off street in SoHo on Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stood with Billy Joel, the veteran music executive Clive Davis and officials from the hall, to announce that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened its flagship building in Cleveland in 1995, would open a New York annex in November.
“This is where Ed Sullivan met the Beatles, where Lou Reed took a walk on the wild side,” the mayor said.
Artifacts that will be on view at the annex flanked the mayor’s podium. On either side were guitars owned by Johnny Ramone and Eric Clapton, behind them was a phone booth from CBGB, and a few feet away stood Bruce Springsteen’s first car, a banana-yellow 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.
The 25,000-square-foot annex, at 76 Mercer Street, will be the museum’s first expansion outside Cleveland and will include exhibitions on Hall of Fame inductees and on the history of rock in New York. It will also house temporary and traveling exhibitions from the Cleveland headquarters, museum officials said.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was founded in 1983 by a group of music industry executives, and since 1986 most annual induction ceremonies have been at the Waldorf-Astoria, but the museum has never had a physical presence in New York.
About half a million people visit the Cleveland building each year, the museum said. Its president, Terry Stewart, said the annex was part of a strategy to increase its visibility over all and drive tourist traffic to Cleveland.
“The ability to establish these outposts in other cities,” Mr. Stewart said, “allows us to join the ranks of other famous not-for-profit institutions and museums like New York’s Guggenheim, the U.K.’s Tate and the Louvre out of Paris.”
The speakers celebrated New York’s contributions to rock history, reminiscing about concerts in historic clubs and theaters, many of them — like CBGB, the Bottom Line and Max’s Kansas City — no longer in existence.
Mr. Joel, who last month played the final two concerts at Shea Stadium, said that he had planned to donate the Mets jersey he had been given at those concerts but “that jersey is in a road case on its way to Hong Kong.” Instead, he brought a baseball bat given to him by David Wright of the Mets and a plaque celebrating Mr. Joel’s 12 sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in 2006.
“New York gave me my words and my music,” Mr. Joel said, “and rock ’n’ roll gave me a place for that music to live.”