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Frozen funds handicapping history group

The Bayside Historical Society could face cuts to its educational programs and staffing if funds the group receives through an annual grant remain frozen in Albany, the society’s president said.

Each year, the historical society annually gets a $130,000 state grant that reimburses the group for money it spends on maintaining the building in which it is housed at Fort Totten, as well as costs for fuel to heat the building, insurance, staffing and annual programs, said Carol Marian, president of the society’s board of directors.

The group is incrementally paid back throughout the year for some of the costs it accrues, but must first spend the money to be reimbursed.

But the society, which has already spent $82,000 since the beginning of the current fiscal year that began last summer, found out two weeks ago that it would not be reimbursed this year.

“We’ve been doing well fund−raising, but we’ve spent the majority of the money on the expectation of getting reimbursed,” Marian said. “The state has now told us that it’s freezing the money which, in effect, causes hardship for the future of our programs.”

The society has been receiving the grant through state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose). Marian said both Padavan and City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) had been pressuring Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature to reimburse the society.

Padavan said his office has been securing the reimbursement for the society for more than a decade. The senator also helped the group get capital money to restore its Fort Totten locale. He called the freeze on the society’s money “unconscionable.”

“I don’t know whether it’s politics or part of an overall freeze on funding expenditures,” Avella said. “But if a group has clearly been promised money and they’ve spent part of it, you can’t refuse to give it to them. You can make future cuts, but to hold up money when they’ve already made expenditures is not fair.”

Marian said the society has already been forced to postpone its annual art show that it typically hosts in June. The group may attempt to hold the show in the fall, depending on whether they are reimbursed by the state, she said.

The society also cannot hire any new employees and staffers are currently working part−time, she said.

Marian said she was also concerned about how the lack of funds could affect the maintenance of the building in which the society is housed. The structure, built in the 1870s, is significantly larger than the size of a typical home and it has been landmarked by the city as well as placed on a registry of national historical sites.

The group should have received its first reimbursements of the year in January or February. So far, it has received none.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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