Land sale may be critical to Museum Village's future

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:58

    MONROE-The Board of Trustees for the Museum Village is in the early stages of planning a joint venture with developer Jonah Mendelbaum that would bring an 86-unit senior housing project on a 2.2 acre site at the southeast corner of the museum property. Museum Village was the creation of engineer Roscoe Smith, the founder of the Orange and Rockland electric company in 1905. An avid collector and history buff, Smith amassed a huge collection of Americana on a 37-acre site that is primarily located in the Town of Blooming Grove. He began assembling his collection in the 1940's into a working village which opened to the public in 1950 as a historical re-creation and education center. Museum Village, a not-for-profit organization, has struggled financially and even faced closing. A recent property sale of surplus land and the lease of an unused building helped improved its solvency. Gordon Rauer, president of the Board of Directors, said the museum is now doing very well. The future success of the Museum Village may depend upon the completion of the senior housing project. The proposal for one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors will partner the Museum Village as a 5 percent owner leading to 100 percent in 20 or 30 years. During this period, Mendelbaum would share a portion of the rental income. Although the Town of Blooming Grove does not have the needed water, the Village of Monroe has existing lines in the village north-end in the proximity of the Museum Village. At the last Monroe Village Board meeting, the board voiced some support for the project. Blooming Grove Supervisor Charles Bohan also attended the meeting and said "for the sake of our children and grandchildren" he would like to see it continue to exist. Monroe Village Trustee Jeffery W. Peifer would also like to see the museum continue to operate. "There is too much history for this village in that location." If a water pipe extended from our system can save Museum Village, Peifer said he is all for it. Mandelbaum and the Museum Village will pay for the cost of engineering and the pipe installation. Peifer said if everything works out, he has no problem. Mayor Joseph C. Mancuso suggested Lanc & Tully and Water Supertendent Alan Prince review the project plan. It was also suggested their project engineer prepare a report defining the project details including water demand.