Cradle (...of Aviation Museum) May Fall
Five months after a last-ditch bailout plan was approved by
Nassua County, it appears the Long Island-based
Cradle of Aviation Museum is undergoing the museum equivalent of an
in-flight emergency... and may plummet out of control in less than
Long Island, NY is justly proud of its aviation heritage. It is
the place from where Charles Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of
St. Louis, and the Long Island-built lunar excursion module, Eagle,
landed Neil Armstrong on the moon. Grumman Corporation,(called the
"iron works" because of their rugged heavy-duty designs) built
well-loved fighters for the Navy from the Wildcat to the
Tomcat. So it seemed perfectly reasonable to open a full-sized
flight museum called the Cradle of Aviation.
Just yards from where Lindbergh began his famous journey, the
museum was created in a group of abandonded hangars at Mitchel
Field. It had taken 33 years, but with the active encouragement of
the county, and a seemingly boundless supply of eager retired
Grumman workers as volunteers, the museum opened its doors in
2002. It is now considered by many aviation enthusiasts to be
one of the finest in the nation.
Though over half a million visitors were forecast to attend the
Cradle of Aviation Museum annually, fewer than 150,000 visited last
year, according to the Long Island Press.
So the problem is financing, naturally. The museum took on major
debt at the beginning, and it only fell behind year after year.
Last week the the chairman of the board, Sean Fanelli, who is also
the president of Nassau Community College, resigned in frustration.
In the meantime, the president of the Cradle museum, Eric Ricioppo,
has received harsh criticism for not actively raising funds.
Though he fired 25 part-time staffers, he is still drawing a
salary of $10,000 a month. Ricioppo has even been accused of
directing traffic in the parking lot instead of performing his more
The Long Island Press continued that County Comptroller Howard
Weitzman says "This is one of the most important cultural
institutions on Long Island. The board has to get its act together
to save it."
He estimates the museum will be completely out of money in
November. There are no new funding sources anywhere on the