Bayside Historical Society awarded $100k from state

By Tom Momberg

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) presented the Bayside Historical Society with a $100,000 grant Thursday, allocated from the recently adopted state budget, to help cover the nonprofit’s operating expenses.

The award came as a surprise to BHS, located at the Fort Totten Castle, 208 Totten Ave., as Avella worked quietly to recoup state money for programs and organizations he knew were struggling financially.

“I’m very happy to be here as a former president of the Bayside Historical Society many years ago to help the organization to continue its great work, not only helping to preserve the history of Bayside and their landmark building, but also the cultural work they do for Bayside and the entire borough of Queens,” Avella said.

The grant came out of about $1.3 million that Avella set aside in the state budget for programs and nonprofit organizations in his district, like the recent grant doled out to the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point as it was about to close its doors from near bankruptcy.

The Avella grants are to cover operations.

“It’s the operating funds, for rent, heat and supplies that have been very difficult for many organizations,” Avella said.

Former Gov. David Patterson cut out all discretionary funds for nonprofits for all Assembly members and senators. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has continued that precedent as a way of restricting pork barrel spending.

But several organizations, such as BHS and Poppenhusen, once relied heavily on discretionary funds from the state.

“What I’m trying to do, along with many of my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly, is to try and get the governor to revisit this issue,” Avella said.

The Bayside Historical Society just celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. The Fort Totten Castle has been BHS’ home since its trustees restored the building to its former glory and had it placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

While BHS has worked tirelessly to attract donors and write grants, they have also had to juggle heating and maintenance expenses of its 140-year old building while maintaining a number volunteers and offering educational programs citywide.

“It’s been a long time since we have received any discretionary money,” said BHS President Paul DiBenedetto. “The state built this building. It was in very bad shape, but we were able to obtain funding from the state to restore it to the beautiful state that it’s in now. But you have to maintain it, and this is exactly what we need.”

Find BHS online www.baysidehistorical.org to learn more about the educational and cultural programs and services it offers.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.