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Village in talks as calls persist for rent from nonprofit Seaport Museum

04/16/2016 2:00 PM |

Greenport Village Hall

Only two people spoke at a public hearing on Greenport Village’s tentative 2016-17 budget — which would reduce spending and taxes — during a public hearing Thursday night at the Old Schoolhouse.

But the same issue was raised by both of speakers: that the village should not be allowing the nonprofit East End Seaport Museum to use the museum building rent-free anymore.

“I don’t see any revenue for the East End Seaport Museum,” said former Trustee David Corwin. “I’ve got to tell you. That burns me up.”

Mr. Corwin and other regulars at village board meetings, including former trustee Bill Swiskey and Zoning Board of Appeals member John Saladino, have brought this up many times at prior village board meetings.

Mr. Corwin described the people running the museum as “a bunch of people from Orient” and said, “they don’t live in Greenport. I don’t owe those people anything and I don’t see why they get free rent.”

“It’s a village asset. You can’t give it away,” Mr. Saladino said. “People pay $5 to have a yard sale, they pay $75 to get a permit for a fence. How can you give away a building, basically for free?”

Mr. Saladino said he understands the concept that it will help businesses and that will improve property values, but added that the only way he could benefit from that is if he sells his house.

“What’s the amount of rent they don’t pay? $8,000?” Mr. Saladino asked. “That’s crazy. I’ll give you $12,000 and I’ll live there … I’ll have waterfront property and a beautiful view.”

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said that representatives from the East End Seaport Museum were supposed to be at a prior village board meeting but had to cancel, and will instead be at the April 28 village board meeting.

“We have ongoing negotiations with the people from the Seaport,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Mr. Saladino said he doesn’t understand why the village would need to negotiate with a tenant.

“What we thought is, ‘Let’s hear what they have to say and we can decide what to do from there,'” Trustee Doug Roberts said. “They’ve pledged to work with us, so let’s hear what they have to say.”

In an email message Friday, Seaport Museum president Ian Wile confirmed that he would be speaking at the April 28 village board meeting, and said, “This is a museum that is run by volunteers — members of the community who work tirelessly. There simply isn’t an endless supply of cash to send along to the Village without needing to eliminate programming.”

But he said they look forward to meeting with the village board.

Mr. Wile said the programs offered by the Seaport Museum include ecology sailing trips, arts programs, and science demonstration for children, as well as a 750-gallon aquarium and an adult lecture series. The nonprofit also oversees Bug Light, off the western tip of Orient Beach State Park.

Correction: This article previously stated that the village owns the building that houses the East End Seaport Museum. The building is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation authority, which leases it to the village.

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