The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Planetarium has been renamed The Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium following the philanthropic Fort Salonga couple’s recent $850,000 donation—a move that some worry may cause confusion.
Suffolk lawmakers debated the issue Tuesday before they unanimously voted to approve a resolution changing the name of the Centerport facility, which saw nearly 10,000 visitors the first month since it reopened in March following a $4-million renovation. About 200 school children visit the planetarium and museum daily.
“We’ve spent a long time branding this facility, we’ve spent a lot of money on this facility…everybody knows it as the Vanderbilt planetarium,” Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said before the vote. “I’m a little bit concerned. I don’t want to discourage people from being philanthropic. I just hope were not hurting ourselves in the long run.”
The donation, spread out of the next decade—$80,000 for the first five years, $90,000 for the second five—is the third largest in the history of the museum since William K. Vanderbilt II bequest the mansion and a $2 million trust to the county after his death in 1944 and his daughter, Muriel Vanderbilt, donated another $6.2 million.
“I’ve thought of that,” Lance Reinheimer, interim executive director of the Vanderbilt, said of the name change possibly confusing the public. “It’s a valid concern.”
He added that road signs will continue to just say “planetarium” and the Reichert family name will be used mainly in correspondence and publications. It will be informally known as the Reichert Family Planetarium at the Vanderbilt Museum.
“This is a private donation, it’s not a corporate donation, and we’re naming the building in recognition of the gift,” Reinheimer said. “So it’s a little bit different than Bethpage Ballpark,” he added, referring to the Long Island Ducks’ minor-league baseball stadium in Central Islip for which the county sold the naming rights to Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) dismissed the concerns over any potential confusion.
“In all the years that I’ve been sitting here there’s been nothing but complaints [from] this legislature about the Vanderbilt bleeding money,” Lindsay said. “Here we got some money, what are we going to do, throw it back at them?”