Proposed sale of Fifth Avenue mansion upsets Irish Americans

Historical Society, seeking $52M, downplays property’s significance to immigrant history

New York /
Mar.March 15, 2021 10:52 AM
991 5th Avenue (Photos via Gryffindor/Wikipedia Commons, iStock)

991 5th Avenue (Photos via Gryffindor/Wikipedia Commons, iStock)

Some Irish Americans are crying foul at the proposed sale of a storied Fifth Avenue mansion that they see as a symbol of their community.

The five-story Gilded Age building at 991 Fifth Avenue is for sale at $52 million. Built in 1901, the property has belonged to the American Irish Historical Society since 1940. Its sale would be a windfall for the organization, which would relocate the archives kept there.

Dozens of prominent Irish Americans, along with the Irish government, have decried the proposed sale. Nearly 30,000 people signed a petition urging the attorney general to stop it, the New York Times reported.

“The building on Fifth Avenue is something that stands for all of us,” Brian McCabe, a former New York City homicide detective who once led the society, told the Times. “This is about a very small group controlling what is held in trust for the Irish in America and around the world.”

Critics argue that the society has been poorly run by Dr. Kevin Cahill and his family and friends. Many people attempted to intervene over the years, but they were eventually removed from the society by the Cahills, who wanted to maintain control, they said.

Cahill, 84, did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment, but a society board member and longtime friend of the doctor, Guy Smith IV, downplayed the significance of the mansion, noting that the sale would allow the society to preserve its library in an undetermined location.

[NYT] — Akiko Matsuda





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