The Children’s Museum of the East End is opening its doors to more kids in the Riverside and Flanders area with the organization moving into a larger satellite location. The Southampton Town Board unanimously approved an agreement that would permit CMEE to sublease a portion of the town-owned building on Flanders Road that houses Long Island Head Start.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Town of Southampton and Renaissance Downtowns to create a permanent location in Riverside where we can achieve the museum’s vision of serving all young children and families on Eastern Long Island,” said Steve Long, president of CMEE. “While work on that permanent site continues, we’re grateful to town officials and Long Island Head Start for arranging a temporary home this summer for the museum to present free programs for the local community.”
In addition to its main campus in Bridgehampton, CMEE currently shares space at the 250-square-foot Renaissance Downtowns office on Peconic Avenue in Riverside, expanding its access to its educational programming. CMEE is one of the most visited museums on eastern Long Island, and welcomes more than 75,000 visitors annually to its Bridgehampton museum. The museum opened in 2005 and offers over 7000 square feet of interactive, hands-on exhibits, classrooms, and performance space. CMEE’s mission is “to spark imagination and foster learning for children of all backgrounds and abilities and to build strong connections within the East End community by providing playful experiences.”
“This is a perfect solution to a grow-ing need for this creative programming to reach more young children in this area of the town,” said Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “We value the importance of early childhood education and we plan to continue to work with CMEE to find them a more permanent home in the Riverside/Flanders area.”
CMEE plans to provide progr-amming in the 1100-square-foot multi-purpose room it’s subleasing in the Riverside Head Start Building, located at 271 Flanders Road, in July and August on Tuesdays between 11 AM and 8 PM. The programs will be specifically designed for infants, toddlers, and young families, and will include music at 11 AM and a Family Fun Night between 4 and 8 PM.
Flanders, Riverside, & Northampton Community Association President Vince Taldone said he’s thrilled for the larger space, but was also disappointed to hear the town had to back away from constructing a permanent location on Ludlam Avenue. Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera said estimates came back at $4 million.
“That’s more than double what we had budgeted for and more than anybody anticipated, so we started to look at other sites,” Preston Scalera said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure they find a permanent home. That’s our goal, and we’re 100 percent committed to that; always have been.”
One option being considered is on the Riverhead traffic circle. “The idea of locating the site in the center of Riverside was eagerly supported by members of the local community and it would certainly help increase access to the museum,” Long said. “I remain very confident that we’ll secure a site where the funding can be used to create a satellite location.”
Councilman John Bouvier said he thinks the town is on a good path toward sealing a deal. He was in a meeting with Preston Scalera, Long, and Riverside Rediscovered on July 8 to discuss the option in detail.
“It has to make sense to the community, but more important, it has to make sense to the taxpayer,” he said. “The community has been asking for this in one form or another for a long time, and it makes absolute sense to me.”
For Taldone and his organization, it’s been a long time coming. “We’ve been championing this idea for a long time. We love the children’s museum, and this part of the community really needs educational opportunities for the kids,” Taldone said.
Nearly $750,000 in state and federal grants have been secured for a new home. FRNCA worked particularly hard and independently hired a grant writer to obtain $450,000 that went directly to CMEE for a Riverside location. Taldone said Riverside residents have difficulty getting to Bridgehampton, and said educational opportunities remain most-needed in his area.
“A lot of these people have very little in terms of resources. We have many, many households where there’s no car, or only one car, and the worker takes it in the morning, so mom really can’t get very far,” he said. “It’s just very, very difficult for them economically to access the kinds of wonderful programs that the children’s museum offers.”
But the building also isn’t exclusive to Flanders/Riverside children, or solely children of low-income families. Families from Westhampton and Riverhead, or anywhere else will have access. Preston Scalera said she’s particularly proud to see CMEE coming closer to an agreement before she leaves office.
“I started the process over six years ago. This has been my pet project,” she said. “I’ve seen the Riverside area start to take shape and am seeing what we’ve envisioned — this buildout over the next couple of years is one of the most promising things I’ve been able to do while I’ve been on this board — and we’ve done so with unanimous support from all board members from all different town boards. It’s been a great, rewarding experience.”
The councilwoman also sees tremendous potential with a location west of the canal.
“There’s not a lot of access to cultural science amenities there. This is something that appeals to all ages, it’s great for families, it’s affordable, they’ve worked hard to make it and keep it that way to make it accessible to everybody, and it’ll be in a great location at the gateway to the forks,” Preston Scalera said. “What CMEE can provide for the community in terms of an enhanced cultural asset is huge. We hope this becomes a cornerstone for the development that will follow there.”