After three years of negotiations, it appears a deal is finally moving forward between the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and the Town of Brookhaven to secure the use of a Town-owned building in downtown Port Jefferson as a museum headquarters.
"We had a wonderful site visit walk through today with the LI Music Hall of Fame board members, an architect on their behalf as well as our Town Parks Department staff and the Mayor of the Village," said Councilman Steven Fiore-Rosenfeld, who has been a strong proponent for the museum over the last three years. "I believe we are all on the same page and really want to see the LI Music Hall of Fame finally take over this building, hopefully in the Spring of this coming year."
This most recent meeting, which occurred on Dec. 15, took place at the building, located at 250 East Main Street. The last time the building was occupied it was home to the Brookhaven Tax Receiver's office until it was relocated to Farmingville.
"That building is the most prominent building in the village and it has been vacant for five years. It's insane," said Port Jefferson Village mayor Margot Garant. "The museum will be a fantastic anchor destination. It would jump start our tourist season to all year round."
In addition to the Mayor and Fiore-Rosenfeld, the LI Music Hall of Fame also wants to be in Port Jefferson.
"We put pins in maps and we studied the reasons why certain museums do well," said Jim Faith, the museum's chairman. "They seem to do well if they are in a location that is already a destination, a music town, a historic place. Thousands of people are there regardless of what's going on. It just makes sense. Port Jefferson is the perfect place."
Part of the reason for the delay has been a question of money.
"The Town is concerned whether or not the organization will have enough money to finish the museum and make it happen," said Mayor Garant.
It is not unusual for a non-profit group like the LI Music Hall of Fame to have to prove they can support themselves.
"When you are in a non profit and you are in need of funds, you need to do an assessment of the contacts you have and determine if you have the fundraising muscle to raise your money," said Alexandra Gray, Director of Development for Fractured Atlas, a non-profit group for artists and artist organizations.
At a meeting that took place earlier in the month, on Dec. 7, an agreement was reached despite the fact that the museum did not show proof of their funds.
"I was somewhat disappointed that an endowment has not yet been created by the LI Music Hall of Fame to construct and operate the museum," Fiore-Rosenfeld said just after the meeting.
The museum acknowledged their need to prove their position for both funds and its final plans for site, which includes an education center.
"The Town did present Hall of Fame with an agreement, and confirm that we could have the building," said Faith. "Still, there is much more to do on both sides. Town upgrades to the building, and our going back into the space, designing the museum, and pursuing and solidifying funding opportunities."
According to Fiore-Rosenfeld, electrical work is currently being done on the building, which has a rich history.
"The Town bought the building in the late 1940's or early 1950's. It was built in 1900 and the recent history is it was placed on the national registry of historic places," he said.
Mayor Garant said she and several other members of Port Jefferson want the museum in the Village as well.
"The Town asked for a commitment from the LI Music Hall of Fame no later than April 1, 2011. All of us in Port Jefferson want it. The president of the village, the president of the Chamber, the president of the Historical Society and the president of the Business Improvement District all support this effort," she said.
The LI Music Hall of Fame was established to preserve the musical history of Long Island music and musicians, including Queens and Brooklyn as part of the Island geographic areas. Since it began in 2003, it has inducted performers such as Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, Pat Benatar and Eddie Money. For more information, please visit www.limusichalloffame.org.