The much anticipated opening of a permanent satellite location in Riverside of the Children’s Museum of the East End has been stalled — perhaps indefinitely.
Flanders, Riverside Northampton Community Association president Vince Taldone voiced his frustration about the delay at the group’s monthly meeting last night at the Crohan center.
The town has decided against siting the Children’s Museum’s Riverside satellite in Ludlam Park, Taldone said. Town officials told him and other FRNCA officers about two months ago that they think the museum would be better located in or closer to the Riverside redevelopment area that surrounds the Route 24 traffic circle, Taldone said.
But that means identifying a town-owned site for the construction of the the building that was planned for Ludlam Park.
The Bridgehampton-based Children’s Museum was going to provide free and reduced-rate programming to the Riverside community in a building owned by the town at the park. FRNCA wrote grant applications resulting in the award of $300,000 last year in state economic development funds and approximately $150,000 from the State and Municipal Facilities Program. The group sought and was awarded $193,000 from the town’s Community Development Block Grant funding as well.
The money would have covered the construction of a 2,000-square-foot modular building, Taldone said. It was not intended to be used exclusively for the museum, but would be a community center where other programming could be held, he said.
Now, with no site for the building, Taldone worries about the fate of the grant money. The town has already re-allocated the Community Development Block Grant award; if it isn’t used within a specified time frame, the town could lose the money, which is distributed by the county.
“We are pretty angry on this board,” Taldone said last night. “They’re no longer supporting it and they have also taken that money that was reserved for that project [the CDBG funds] and spent it on other improvements to the park.”
Southampton Councilman John Bouvier, who was the only town board member in attendance last night, said the town has not backed away from the project. He said the delay was a result of not reaching an agreement with someone to operate the building.
Taldone said the Children’s Museum remains committed to providing programming for the local community, but the building was always going to be a town-owned building.
He said in an interview he was especially frustrated by the lack of communication by town officials. The Children’s Museum is a key project for the redevelopment of Riverside, he said. Taldone said he’s also concerned about the impact the delay might have on the $300,000 state economic development grant. The organization can’t apply for more state economic development money for the project in this round of funding since there’s been no progress and, indeed, there’s no longer even an identified site for the project.
“It’s just very, very frustrating,” Taldone said.
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in a phone interview today that, while he believes the Children’s Museum of the East End is a great organization, “there’s a lot of programming out there for kids” and “I don’t know the town needs to build something and provide it for free.”
The Ludlam Park property “wasn’t workable” because “the numbers were just off the charts,” Schneiderman said. “We don’t have sufficient grant money to make that happen. I can’t just selectively pick not-for-profits and give them free rent,” he said. “There are lots of not-for-profits that would love to have free space.”
The Children’s Museum could “potentially be self sustaining,” he said, through program fees or fundraising.
“We are subsidizing all kinds of things in the Riverside area.”
Jonnathan Pulla contributed reporting for this story.
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