The Bronx Children’s Museum is on track to open its physical location in 2017—if city officials can come up with the necessary funds in this year’s budget.
The museum, which currently brings cultural and educational programming to students across the borough, has been working for years to open its Kids’ Powerhouse Discovery Center at a former electric substation building in Mill Pond Park, near Yankee Stadium.
The center will be a private-public partnership, said museum executive director Carla Precht. The city will renovate the building and continue to own the property, while the museum will occupy a portion of it and fund the exhibits and programming.
NYC Parks Department will occupy the first level.
After years of formalizing this partnership, there are finally schematics and a detailed budget for the project.
“That means you’re in the ball game,” said Precht about the process.
The project is now ready to move forward with construction, as soon as the rest of the funds are secured in the city budget. Precht is hoping that will happen in this year’s budget cycle.
“It’s the most critical moment,” Precht said about the project.
Currently, about $5.8 million of city funds have been allocated for the project, said Precht. Another $3.7 million is needed.
“It’s not an easy task,” said Precht. “Everybody has to get on board.”
Meanwhile, the museum has raised about $2.2 million in private money for the exhibits and programming.
One of those exhibits will be about rivers, to educate kids on the waterways that influence their borough. Kids checking out the exhibit will be able to look directly out the window to the Harlem River, said Precht.
The discovery center will also feature an exhibit on the nearby High Bridge, which will be reopened to pedestrians later this year.
Both exhibits have been offered in a modified form on the Bronx Children Museum’s mobile bus, which has visited more than 100 schools and community centers over the past four years. The museum brought a variety of programming, including arts education, to more than 12,000 people just last year.
Because of this, the museum has an established relationship with Bronx neighborhoods.
“Even though we don’t have a building, people recognize us,” said Precht.
She’s excited to expand the museum’s offerings while maintaining close ties to the community.
“Our main goal is to create a cultural and educational institution,” she said. “We’ll always be a museum with and without walls.”
The museum, which was founded almost 10 years ago, aims to create a place for fun learning for kids ages one through nine. There are limited options within the Bronx, the only comparable place being the Bronx Zoo, said Precht.
The targeted age group excels at interactive learning, she said, and the museum wants to create a space where kids are empowered and inspired.
“The love of learning happens at a very early age,” said Precht.
But for that vision to become a reality, the final hurdle of funding needs to be cleared.
“We need our local elected officials and the mayor to understand how important this museum is,” said Precht. “This is the kind of community-based cultural institution the city needs and deserves.”