Editorial: Legion Hall can’t go it alone

They may no longer recall the bruised knees or elbows, but it’s a safe bet that many who grew up in the Greenport area hold fond memories of roller skating at the old Legion Hall on Third Street. Racing around with friends — maybe being warned by adults to slow down — having a snack or just hanging out, it once was what the village ice rink is today, but without heavy coats and scarves.

But the Legion Hall has fallen upon hard times. The floor is warped, the roof leaks and those are just two of some serious problems. The issue is simple and all too familiar: Money, or more precisely, the lack of it. The Legion has a relatively small membership and it certainly doesn’t have the wherewithal to take on what’s become a huge — and expensive — project.
Several community-minded legionnaires have stepped up to launch a fundraising drive, but given the current economic climate that’s a more difficult enterprise than it was just a few years ago.

Is it possible to find the funding solely through private sources? Perhaps, but a public-private partnership may be a more promising approach.

Memories still linger of a potential deal between Greenport Village and the Legion some years ago that quickly soured. But that was then. On both sides there were hard lessons learned and hard feelings, but that shouldn’t stand in the way of exploring the options. Might the village still be interested? How about Southold Town?

One thing seems clear: Without the largess of a well-heeled patron, it’s unrealistic for the Legion to think it can count on a quick infusion of financial support without some strings attached, like having to share control of the building. Several financial guardian angels who wanted nothing in return stepped forward in the past, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the circa 1953 building in good repair.

Local governments also face daunting financial challenges, and it’s uncertain whether there’s any interest from Town or Village Hall in, or a realistic prospect of securing, public funding. But it’s the first thing everyone who cares about helping to keep this community together should be asking about.