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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Officials Pursue Financial Solutions to Maintain miSci in Schenectady, State and County Level

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SCHENECTADY – The Museum of Innovation and Science (miSci) has been grappling with flooding issues in its basement, which pose a significant threat to the museum’s archives. State and county officials have been actively seeking solutions to ensure the museum’s continued presence in Schenectady.

On Feb. 14, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, organized a meeting at the county office building. The meeting was attended by museum officials, Schenectady County Legislature Chair Gary Hughes, and representatives from Schenectady County Metroplex and Empire State Development. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the museum’s financial and infrastructure challenges.

Following heavy rainfall in July, the museum’s basement experienced hydrostatic pressure, putting its archives at risk.

miSci President Dr. Gina Gould revealed that Neil Golub, chair of the miSci Board of Trustees, requested $1 million from the officials to sustain the museum until the end of 2024 while the organization explores its future options.

“We are essentially searching for a miracle solution for our holdings,” Gould said. “The county expressed a strong desire to keep miSci within the region and the county.”

Santabarbara mentioned that the group would investigate state and county funding avenues to meet the museum’s immediate financial needs.

“We are exploring all potential options, possibly even beyond governmental sources,” he added.

A second meeting involving the elected officials and museum representatives is tentatively scheduled for March 14.

“Everyone has been assigned the task of finding solutions and potential ways their respective groups can assist, whether it’s the county, the city, or Metroplex,” Santabarbara said. “It might be a multi-step process. There’s a problem with the building and the artifacts stored in the basement. There seems to be a water issue that requires testing. However, the artifacts can’t remain in the basement during testing as it could cause damage.”

He suggested that the first step could be to relocate the artifacts to a temporary location, such as the Via Port Mall in Rotterdam, while testing is conducted at the museum.

“This would allow us to identify the source of the water and determine a possible solution,” he explained.

Gould estimated that it would require 20 tractor-trailers to transport the museum’s archives for the basement remediation process.

According to Schenectady County Legislature Chair Gary Hughes, the meeting was fruitful, with all potential funding options currently under consideration.

“We had a productive meeting and agreed to reconvene in March,” he said. “We have a few follow-up questions that we’ll be forwarding to the group as part of our due diligence.”

Although Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy did not attend the miSci meeting, he sent a representative on his behalf.

McCarthy stated that there is currently no proposal for city funding for the project.

“At this point, the city hasn’t committed any funds for it,” McCarthy said. “We had a grant before that they were unable to implement, which was disappointing. But we’re waiting to see what this whole package is coming forward and what the actual costs are of some work that’s being done and evaluating what would happen if they stay there and what modifications have to be done. Until you get the actual budget in place, it’s hard to say, ‘Yes, you can do it,’ or ‘No, you can’t do it.’”

The city council allocated $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the planned Mohawk Harbor arena earlier this month, leaving the city with $50,000 in unallocated ARPA funding.

Gould expressed disappointment, but not surprise, that the city does not currently have funds available for the science museum.

Santabarbara said the group will consider options for staying at the museum’s current location on Nott Terrace or potentially relocating from the site that has been the museum’s home since 1969.

“We need to chart a course for the future,” he said. “Do we want to assess the building and see what it would cost to repair it? Or do we start looking for a new location?”

At the start of the meeting, Santabarbara expressed his commitment to ensuring a future for miSci in the city and asked the group who would join his efforts.

“This meeting was a crucial step in addressing some of the issues that miSci has been facing,” Santabarbara said. “We’re trying to ensure that we’re supporting the museum as a community, so I arranged this meeting to bring all of the stakeholders together to initiate this conversation.”

As the museum prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary this week, Santabarbara emphasized that his top priority is to keep miSci in Schenectady.

“If we can keep it in the city, that’s our first choice,” he said. “That’s the location that’s been its home historically and I believe that’s the best spot. If there are other opportunities within Schenectady County, we could consider them.”

Despite the meeting, Gould said the museum’s future remains uncertain.

“The situation is still unresolved,” she said. “It’s nobody’s fault if there’s not a suitable place for us that we can afford.”

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Juniper Li
Juniper Li
Juniper Li, with her roots in documentary filmmaking, brings a unique narrative style to local news reporting. A graduate of NYU’s Journalism program, Ava has a keen eye for stories that capture the essence of community life. Her reporting often highlights local achievements and challenges, drawing on her experience in visual storytelling.
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