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Smithtown Historical Society seeks leeway from village

The historical society, which is being sued by Village of the Branch over unpaid bills, says it is doing everything it can to survive.

Historical Society interim director Priya Kapoor, at a meeting of Village of the Branch officials on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, told trustees that the group's event rentals were necessary for its survival. (Credit: Newsday / Nicholas Spangler)

Smithtown Historical Society’s interim director attempted to reset the group’s troubled relationship with Village of the Branch trustees at a recent village board meeting.

“Right now we are in a situation where we have to survive, and we are doing everything that we can do to make sure that this place stays open,” Priya Kapoor told the trustees last week. “Cut a little bit of slack, that’s what we are looking for.”

Village officials filed a January court claim for $2,500 they said the historical society owed for unpaid bills for security at events the society held in 2016. Officials said they began asking for security officers at some society events in recent years after receiving noise complaints from neighbors.

Rental from events such as parties and wedding receptions, often held at the society’s Brush Barn, are a significant source of income for the nonprofit, which manages eight historical buildings and an archive on a 22-acre site off Main Street.

The historical society operated at a loss nine out of 10 years from 2007 through 2016, though those losses were offset by a $953,750 sale of development rights in 2012.

Branch Mayor Mark Delaney appeared to be receptive, though board members made no commitments besides unanimously approving the society’s request to hold an April 26 event at the Brush Barn.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt on this board that the historical society is a valuable part of the community,” Delaney said. “We both have a vested interest in moving forward.”

Village Attorney Christopher Ring said in an email last Thursday that the society had not contacted him about the village’s court claim. Delaney was traveling for work and could not be reached for comment about the claim.

In a phone interview, Kapoor declined to comment on the status of the claim, but said she was heartened by trustees’ reception at the village board meeting last Tuesday.

The society, whose last director left for another job in January, is still searching for a permanent director, she said.

Despite her comments to the board, she said that the group did not face imminent financial peril. “We want to address the situation way before it gets bad,” she said.

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