By Tom Momberg
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) presented the Bayside Historical Society with a $100,000 grant Thursday. The grant, which was allocated from the recently adopted state budget, is to help cover the nonprofit’s operating expenses.
The award came as a surprise to the historical society, located at the Fort Totten Castle, 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, on 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 that was doled out to the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point just as it was about to close its doors from bankruptcy.
The Poppenhusen grant is essentially an operating grant.
“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 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 Bayside Historical Society and Poppenhusen, once relied 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 celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. It made its home in the Fort Totten Castle once it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
While BHS has worked tirelessly to attract donors and write grants, the organization has also had to juggle the heating and maintenance expenses for its 140-year old building while maintaining a number of 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 at www.baysi
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb