Attorney General James Announces Plan to Preserve and Revitalize the American Irish Historical Society

Organization Will Appoint an Interim Executive Director and Interim Board of Directors
to Oversee Financial Revitalization, Will Maintain Ownership of Fifth Avenue Townhouse


NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a plan to revitalize the American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) and preserve the organization’s historic townhouse headquarters in New York City. The AIHS had fallen into financial hardship which was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and beginning in March 2021, the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Charities Bureau worked with AIHS to develop a financial plan to preserve the nonprofit organization. As part of that plan, a new interim Executive Director and interim Board of Directors were appointed to guide AIHS through a six-month period of transition. In addition, the Consulate General of Ireland in New York (Consulate General of Ireland) has agreed to support the transition to a new governance structure during this period.

The new interim leadership will work with OAG and members of the American Irish community, supported by the Consulate General of Ireland, to revitalize AIHS and provide a transparent process for the selection of a new permanent board.

“Irish Americans have contributed so much to New York’s past and present,” said Attorney General James. “For decades, the American Irish Historical Society has been a home for the Irish American community to celebrate and honor their culture and traditions. The new interim Executive Director and Board of Directors will bring critical oversight to help restore this important organization and ensure it thrives for generations to come.”

The AIHS was founded in 1897. In 1940, AIHS purchased a townhouse on Fifth Avenue, which has since served as the organization’s headquarters and represents its primary asset.

In the spring of 2021, AIHS was in poor financial and operational condition that had been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior leadership had listed the townhouse headquarters for sale, intending to use the proceeds to address the organization’s financial obligations. As the regulatory body overseeing charities in New York, OAG is responsible for reviewing the sale of any property owned by a charity. Following the news that the townhouse was up for sale, OAG received a petition with more than 40,000 signatures opposing the sale, many citing the townhouse’s central importance to both the organization and the community. The OAG and AIHS then began working together on a restructuring plan to allow AIHS to keep the townhouse headquarters and continue serving the Irish and Irish American communities.

Under the leadership of the new interim Executive Director and Board of Directors and with oversight from OAG, AIHS will enter a six-month period of transition and revitalization. This period will include an open and transparent selection process to appoint a permanent board, which will stabilize the organization and safeguard its assets. Once selected, the permanent board will work with OAG and other stakeholders, including the Consulate General of Ireland, to develop a strategic plan for the future of AIHS.

The members of the interim leadership team for the transition period are:

  • John Keefe, an expert in nonprofit rehabilitation, as interim Executive Director;
  • Elizabeth Stack, Executive Director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, New York and former Associate Director of the Fordham University Center for Irish Studies, as an interim member of the Board of Directors;
  • John MacIntosh, Managing Partner at SeaChange Capital Partners, an organization that helps nonprofits work through complex challenges, as an interim member of the Board of Directors; and
  • Gregory P. Pressman, Of Counsel at Schulte Roth and Zabel, as an interim member of the Board of Directors.

The interim members of the Board of Directors are serving in a voluntary capacity without compensation.

The OAG thanks the Consulate General of Ireland, SeaChange Capital Partners, and the interim members of the Board of Directors for their support and cooperation. Additional thanks to Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP for providing pro bono legal representation to AIHS.

“From working in the grain mills to building the Erie Canal, Irish immigrants made New York their home in pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ and played a significant role in shaping the state’s future,” said U.S. Representative Brian Higgins, member of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus. “Thanks go out to Attorney General Letitia James and her team for their commitment to maintaining the American Irish Historical Society, an effort that will help preserve these stories and continue to carry Irish cultural contributions forward.”

“Attorney General James' intervention has preserved the headquarters of the American Irish Historical Society, and ultimately safeguarded critical components of Irish heritage and culture,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy. “Through her dedicated efforts, we're seeing new hope for the society's future and a clear commitment to strengthen the organization from the ground up.”

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Wesley Worrel under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Karin Kunstler Goldman and Enforcement Co-Chief Yael Fuchs, all of the Charities Bureau. The Charities Bureau, led by Bureau Chief James Sheehan, is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.