Seaport Museum gets a million

The South Street Seaport Museum and the Southbridge Towers Senior Center both got a boost this month with grants from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

The L.M.D.C. gave $1.75 million to the Seaport Museum and $60,000 to the Southbridge Senior Center. The money comes at a particularly good time for organizations steeling themselves for a difficult economy.

“Next year is going to be a bear for everyone around the world,” said Mary Pelzer, director of the Seaport Museum. Pelzer said she was “extremely grateful” for the L.M.D.C.’s support of the museum.

The L.M.D.C. previously allocated $500,000 to the museum when many of the Community Enhancement grants were announced last year, but the museum returned to ask for more money. The additional $1.25 million will help pay for an education director and a waterfront director for two years; a new exhibit; a branding program; and insurance and operations costs, said Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the L.M.D.C.

“Of course I think it’s fantastic!” said Harold Reed, one of the newest members of the Seaport Museum’s board. “It’s a delight — there’s so much energy there…. It certainly will be well utilized.”

Reed said attendance at the museum is up and has been particularly strong at the new exhibit drawn from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal maritime collection. The L.M.D.C. grant will help the museum parlay that success into a position as one of the city’s top museums, Reed said.

The $60,000 grant to the Southbridge Senior Center also comes at a good time.

“Especially in this kind of economy, we don’t know what other grants could drop off,” said Mollie Perrone, president of the center’s board. “We feel good about it absolutely.”

The L.M.D.C. money will pay for a full-time social worker for two years, Perrone said. The social worker would keep office hours in the center and also would check up on seniors in their apartments. If any money is left over, it would go toward renovating the center’s kitchen and other odds and ends.

Perrone said seniors comprise at least one-third of Southbridge’s population, and approximately 250 live alone.


–Julie Shapiro