After providing portable programming to Bronx youth for years and a grand opening date that kept changing, the Bronx Children’s Museum finally has its own home.
The museum, which the institution says is the first children’s museum in the Bronx, is set to open its doors to the public on Dec. 3. Located in an old 1925-built powerhouse on 725 Exterior St. in Mill Pond Park along the Harlem River, the South Bronx museum is steps from Yankee Stadium, as well as the Bronx Terminal Market and the future Hip Hop Museum.
The 13,800-square-foot space will give children the opportunity to play and learn through art, drama and science with themes relating to nature and the city.
“This project will give The Bronx a cultural resource center dedicated to providing our children an opportunity to dream big, express themselves and aspire to be whatever they want to be,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, who said she supported the museum when she was a member of the City Council.
The cultural institution was founded in 2005 and over the years has provided activities for Bronx youth, visiting schools, shelters, libraries, parks, festivals and community-based organizations. In 2010, a couple from Potomac, Maryland donated a bus to the organization in honor of their daughter, who had an idea of creating an “art bus” for children whose schools had faced budget cuts. The portable bus-sized museum visited 23 schools and 85 festivals during the 2018-2019 school year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
A 2015 announcement from the museum predicted the doors of its permanent home would open in 2017 — the initiative just needed an additional $4 million, the announcement said. But ground didn’t break on the project until July 2017, at which point the museum’s opening was projected for 2018. At the time, the project had a $10.3 million price tag, which has since risen by at least $3.7 million. The museum described the initiative as a $16 million project while the city said it was a $14 million project. The Bronx Times is awaiting clarification from the city Department of Cultural Affairs and the museum on the actual price tag.
The museum was expected to finally open in July of this year, but it didn’t have a temporary certificate of occupancy in time, according to Bronx Children’s Museum spokesperson John Boudreau. Boudreau did not address what caused the earlier delays.
The long-awaited Bronx ribbon cutting finally took place on Wednesday, and was hosted by Sonia Manzano, who is from the Bronx and played Maria on “Sesame Street” and created “Alma’s Way,” a PBS KIDS TV show about a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx.
The children’s museum has a “Sonia’s Corner” dedicated to Manzano and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is also from the Bronx.
“Opening this Museum building has been a labor of love for so many of us for so long,” said Manzano, who was joined by city officials and elected officials at the ribbon cutting. “I’ve dedicated my career — as an actor, an author, and now, as the creator of “Alma’s Way” — to the principle that children naturally learn when they are having fun, feel valued and have agency. Visitors will immediately appreciate the encompassing physical beauty, interactive experiences, attention to detail and respect for all that is The Bronx.”
City officials said the Bronx was the last borough to get a children’s museum. Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island have dedicated children’s museums, and Boudreau said museum officials consider the Queens-based New York Hall of Science and Queens County Farm Museum equivalent to children’s museums.
The Queens Museum also has an expansion in the works that would feature a children’s museum.
Admission to the Bronx Children’s Museum will be free for an unspecified but limited amount of time, although reservations are required. Then, tickets will cost $8 per person for both adults and children, with free admission for children under the age of 1. Tickets are available now.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes