Chris Churchill

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

The CMOST mu­seum would be a great fit for Troy.

When we last dis­cussed CMOST, it seemed the lit­tle chil­dren’s mu­seum caught up in Alain Kaloyeros’ down­fall would be mov­ing to Clifton Park or Albany. No longer.

The mu­seum is eye­ing a move to 500 River St. in Troy, ac­cord­ing to the build­ing’s owner, and Mayor Pa­trick Mad­den is ask­ing the state to con­trib­ute $1.5 mil­lion to­ward the re­lo­ca­tion.

The Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of Science and Tech­nol­ogy is one of the re­gion’s gems, but a hum­ble one hid­den away in the Rens­se­laer Tech­nol­ogy Park in North Green­bush. It’s a strange lo­ca­tion for a mu­seum, but that hasn’t stopped it from be­ing a fa­vored des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies with smaller chil­dren, in­clud­ing mine.

CMOST isn’t a big-city science mu­seum, which is one of the things we like about it. It doesn’t over­whelm kids. It al­lows them to ex­pe­ri­ence the mu­seum at their own speed.

Kaloyeros, never one to think small, had grander plans.

Five years ago, the SUNY Polytech­nic In­sti­tute founder sucked CMOST into

what was then his grow­ing em­pire and an­nounced he’d trans­form the mu­seum into a $100 mil­lion show­piece at the gleam­ing SUNY Poly cam­pus on Albany’s west­ern edge.

Then, Kaloyeros was ac­cused of bid rig­ging by state and lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors. His cor­rup­tion trial is un­der­way in Man­hat­tan.

CMOST was left with an in­se­cure fi­nan­cial fu­ture when a post-kaloyeros SUNY Poly de­cided to shed as­sets un­re­lated to the core mis­sion of the school. Could CMOST, which had be­come de­pen­dent on SUNY Poly fund­ing, sur­vive on its own? Might it close without a more vis­i­ble and fi­nan­cially vi­able lo­ca­tion?

To pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing, Clifton Park Su­per­vi­sor Phil Bar­rett stepped for­ward with a plan that would have at­tempted to put the mu­seum on sound foot­ing at Clifton Park Cen­ter. The Saratoga County town, he said, of­fered CMOST the best chance for a sound fu­ture.

No, no, no, said Albany Assem­bly­woman Pat Fahy and Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who said the mu­seum be­longs in an ur­ban lo­ca­tion. They saw it as a po­ten­tial com­ple­ment to the new con­ven­tion cen­ter and other down­town at­trac­tions.

But the mu­seum’s orig­i­nal home was in Troy, where it opened six decades ago in the base­ment of the Rens­se­laer His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, and Troy is where it now seems most likely to land.

Kevin Bette, head of the

First Columbia devel­op­ment com­pany, which is re­de­vel­op­ing the Troy wa­ter­front south of the Hoosick Street Bridge, said talks to re­lo­cate CMOST to 500 River are “fairly ad­vanced.” The mu­seum would oc­cupy 20,000 square feet of the build­ing — nearly dou­ble its cur­rent size.

Bette, who hopes to start the re­de­vel­op­ment of 500 River this fall, said he has long hoped to bring a cul­tural at­trac­tion to the neigh­bor­hood. And CMOST, Bette said, is ex­cited by the site near the Hud­son, be­liev­ing it can make teach­ing about the river part of its mis­sion.

Mary Bayly Skev­ing­ton, who chairs CMOST’S board, could not be reached for com­ment. The fi­nan­cial specifics of the re­lo­ca­tion, in­clud­ing the public sup­port that might be needed, are not clear.

The $1.5 mil­lion re­quested for CMOST by Mad­den is in­cluded in a pitch for $10 mil­lion in state money that would ben­e­fit 24 down­town projects. As re­ported by the Albany Busi­ness Re­view, the city is hop­ing for $4 mil­lion to re­de­velop the old city hall site at One Mon­u­ment Square, $3 mil­lion for a year-round home for its pop­u­lar farm­ers mar­ket, and $725,000 to cre­ate an “ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence cen­ter of ex­cel­lence,” among other re­quests.

“All that money would be great for the city,” said Troy Coun­cil­man Mark Mcgrath. “But is it great for the neigh­bor­hoods? The neigh­bor­hoods are fall­ing apart.”

Mcgrath, whose district in­cludes one of Troy’s shut­tered public swim­ming pools, has a point. The city’s suc­cess at re­viv­ing its down­town with high­end restau­rants and apart­ments has done lit­tle for lower-in­come res­i­dents in neigh­bor­hoods like North Cen­tral and South Troy.

But bring­ing CMOST to 500 River would be dif­fer­ent, I’d ar­gue, be­cause it would put the mu­seum within reach of city kids who most need op­por­tu­ni­ties. They have few rea­sons to come down­town now.

The re­lo­ca­tion would also be good for down­town, given the po­ten­tial for eco­nomic spinoff. Fam­i­lies go­ing to CMOST could eat at the food court Bette is open­ing across the street in the build­ing that houses City Hall, or they could walk along the river­side path to ev­ery­thing else down­town of­fers.

And the re­lo­ca­tion would be good for CMOST, which would en­joy new space in a high­vis­i­bil­ity build­ing that can be seen by the thou­sands of cars that cross the bridge each day. The new home would al­low the mu­seum to be­come a sig­nif­i­cant at­trac­tion in a re­gion that has too few for chil­dren.

So what’s not to like?

Michael P. Far­rell / Times Union ar­chive

An LED dis­play is a highlight of the CMOST chil­dren’s mu­seum in North Green­bush.

Chris Churchill / times union

the cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing Suny POLY and Alain Kaleyeros, its for­mer pres­i­dent and Ceo, has left the fu­ture of Cmost in doubt.

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