Editorial: Stop already with this museum rent nonsense

East End Seaport Museum

Of all the tit-for-tat debates the Greenport Village Board has been pulled into in recent years, this latest nonsensical brouhaha over the East End Seaport Museum not paying rent definitely takes the cake.

The fact that hardworking volunteers are now being forced to defend the museum and the foundation that operates it against a handful of misguided residents who appear hellbent on making something out of this non-issue is beyond comprehension.

Here’s a recap of the situation for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention:

The museum building is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Suffolk County leases it from the MTA for nothing. Greenport Village then leases it from the county at not cost. The museum, in turn, has set up shop there for $1 per year. This arrangement has existed for more than 20 years without much being said about it. While a handful of people might want the museum to pay actual rent, we should note that their lives have not been greatly impacted by the fact that it does not.

Nevertheless, a pair of citizen watchdogs stood up at a recent village budget hearing to ask why the village doesn’t collect rent from the museum on the prime waterfront property — despite the fact that it doesn’t even own the land. And, one man noted with great concern, some of the folks who run the East End Seaport & Maritime Foundation don’t even live on one of the incorporated village’s 30 some-odd blocks.

Now that we’ve made it perfectly clear what the EESMF doesn’t do, let’s talk about some of the things it has accomplished in Greenport:

• The foundation works to preserve the village’s rich maritime heritage, something this newspaper wishes more organizations took the time to do.

• One way it does this is through the Maritime Festival, one of the best events held on the East End each year. It’s family-friendly fun and brings visitors to the village, where they spend a lot of money at local businesses.

• The EESMF also partners with organizations like Cornell Cooperative Extension, Peconic Bay Power Squadron and the Glory tour boat on educational programs for youths and adults, including a lecture series last year on important people, places and historic events in the community.

• It offers internships for students seeking college credit.

• The EESMF also helps maintain Bug Light, a treasure in our local waters, and offers tours of other local lighthouses.

Make no mistake about it, the East End Seaport Museum is not the Smithsonian. It’s a tiny operation overseen by a nonprofit that’s run by a band of dedicated volunteers who do what they can to preserve history and enhance the village experience.

This organization should be treated as a valued member of the Greenport community instead of as the band of carpetbagging and opportunistic squatters a vocal minority is making it out to be.

Photo: East End Seaport Museum in Greenport Village. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy, file)