Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00
Ben Jankowski, Oyster Bay Railroad Museum board chair is “the man with the plan.” The museum board has produced a new business plan, available in pdf form for you to download. “Everything is ready to tell people what our business plan is,” said Mr. Jankowski. “It’s the result of many variations on plans for the hamlet over the years. This is our most comprehensive plan,” he said.
From its mission statement, “To heighten awareness, understanding and appreciation of the railroad’s impact on Long Island Life. The museum will collect, preserve and interpret the railroad heritage of Long Island for present and future generations.” Historically speaking, the Oyster Bay Railroad line had as a customer Theodore Roosevelt who traveled to and from his home in Sagamore Hill to New York City, Washington and beyond by train.
The plan gives the history of the museum and its operation plan – working with a board of directors, volunteers; and the director of development who is an independent contractor. It talks of community support; its attraction to visitors and tourists; and a discussion of how the museum is operated: hours, and admission. It includes the needed staffing when it is fully operational: a full time executive director; a part time director of development; part time staff to operate the museum and visitor center at the station; a part time custodian: totaling a payroll of about $120,000 a year.
The Town of Oyster Bay will be responsible for major maintenance items, and the heating, air conditioning, electricity and water costs. The museum will handle the everyday upkeep and housekeeping expenses.
The site plans are shovel ready. When completed the station will have both static and interactive displays along with rotating exhibits. A portion of the interior will be dedicated to a Visitor’s Center for the area. There is also a train yard with rolling stock and a turntable for visitors to experience. The visitor’s center is currently operating at their Preview Center at 102 Audrey Avenue, and Mr. Jankowski said visitation proves there is a great interest in seeing the museum open and functioning.
“We are closing in on our 10,000th visitor sometime in late March. When you consider we were only open one day a week until last year, that is tremendous. We have been open Saturday and Sunday since July 4th weekend 2010. That is pretty impressive in anyone’s book,” said Mr. Jankowski.
“In January we were averaging 50 people a weekend – and we weren’t open the first weekend of 2011. But from Jan. 8 to today (Feb. 22) 280 people came to the museum in the dead of winter. It was either cabin fever or they are really interested in us: or both.”
The next step is to let people see the business plan which can be downloaded from the OBRM.org website. “They can see what we are trying to achieve. The next step is to get subscribers to our plan. We are more than happy to sit down with any individual or foundation to make what is in the plan a reality. The plan tells what we are doing and what our needs are,” said Mr. Jankowski.
Their financial needs are written out for you to view. Phase one of the construction work at the station will take $1,475,000; the display yard needs $250,000. Phase two which will mean canopies installed and station exhibits ready for a cost of $500,000; landscaping, walkways, engine shed and interior and exterior exhibits ready at the yard for a cost of $250,000. The construction of the Railroad Plaza is seen as the final phase of the work and will cost $1 million.
As part of the plan they detail the needs of readying the rolling stock for the exhibit. Besides the volunteers who do most of the work, they have enlisted students from the Nassau County BOCES/Barry Technical Educational program to work with them. “It gives these students a work experience virtually unobtainable anywhere else,” said Mr. Jankowski.
Mr. Jankowski is proud that BOCES has been working with them. “From Day One education has been our biggest opportunity. That goes from students learning about American history; disciplines at the university level with engineering. The mission of the OBRM is education, preservation, history and fun. It’s in our logo.”
He said, “I just hope people see it and are inspired by the business plan and lend a hand to what we are doing. It’s all about the hamlet and the region. This is the culmination of 19 years of work. There has been a call for a railroad museum in the hamlet of Oyster Bay and several different studies that have advocated for it including the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce’s 1995 study; the Hamlet Plan; the MSA Quality Communities Grant; and the Eastern Waterfront Plan. So for 19 years this concept has been out there. We have crystalized it and are hoping people, foundations and private enterprise get on board!”
Studies have urged the establishment of a railroad museum in the village, utilizing an unused existing LIRR stationhouse as a tourist/visitor attraction.
He added, “We are doing what we said we would, make Oyster Bay a destination location.”
Bill Bell, OBRM director of development has created a beautiful book, graphically. Using the OBRM artifacts, it is a very personal picture of the museum and its equipment. Mr. Bell said, “I worked with a designer and the board members, John Specce, Rob Brusca and Lauren Godoy. After 36 different revisions we had it all set.
“We really just wanted to do something that captured the entire vision of the museum and what it would mean to the hamlet and the region when we get it up and running. It makes it clear even to the uninitiated what we mean to do,” said Mr. Bell.
In creating the business plan booklet, Mr. Bell worked with Jim Ubertini. “He’s a great designer. He just moved to Oyster Bay a year or so ago. I’ve known him for 25 years. We’ve worked together on many projects. We’ve already gotten a lot of nice compliments on it. One is from Katherine Heaviside, CEO of epoch 5, a group that has won several prestigious awards for their advertising work. She sent a letter complimenting us on the business plan.
Ms. Heaviside wrote, “This is very impressive – well thought out and well presented. It’s inspiring when a group of people work together on a positive project for Long Island. Thank you and the others involved in this project for your contributions.”
Mr. Bell said he is planning to take the show on the road. “The new booklet is an important part of our marketing effort. There are a lot of people in Oyster Bay who don’t know about the scope of the museum and this will make them more enthusiastic about our efforts.”
He had praise for the board. “It’s a good board. Everyone is great. I’ve been in this business over 30 years and everyone is hard working there is no deadwood. This is a supremely dedicated board,” he said.
And their message is getting out. Mr. Bell said, “We recently conducted our annual appeal at the end of December and it was very successful. We picked up a lot of large donations. Direct mail is the most basic form of fundraising and we got gifts that were higher than average. We think it is due to the fact that our story is getting out.
“We are now setting up meetings with influential people and foundations to get more funding and bring them into the fold and get them on board. The process is under way with appointments set for the next few weeks,” he said.
The visitation that has been growing started last fall. It’s been with families with young children; the young and the old. There was an enormous bump since the early fall.
The Billy Joel 20th Century Cycles opened recently on Audrey Avenue, and that seems to have had a positive effect in the area, he said. “When you have walk-by people they see our sign and come by too. We are happy he is there and is a major attraction. A rising tide lifts all the boats. We help him and he helps us, he said”
The last line in the business plan gets down to brass tacks, it says, “Thanks for your time and attention. Now that you’ve learned about our exciting project, we hope that you will consider a generous gift in support of our effort, Mr. bell said.”
One thing is sure: all the work being done on the OBRM is done by volunteers. Their sweat-equity is proof positive that they believe in what they are doing. The public can see their efforts in the Preview Center; the rail yard; and the turntable. Soon with a little help from their friends through funding everyone will be able to see the restored station and the new station plaza. Their goal is to have the project complete by 2012. For more information you can call 558-7036 or visit them on the web at OBRM.org. You can also visit them on the weekends at the Preview Center at 102 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay.