The Heritage Center in Mount Sinai will soon have new owners, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to completely change.
As of Dec. 1, North Shore Youth Council took over the operations and activities of Heritage Trust.
Victoria Hazan, president of Heritage Trust, said that for the last two decades, the center and its grounds were run by a devoted set of board members and volunteers, but it was time for the center to have a new life.
“We were looking for it to be transferred to another nonprofit,” she said. “We loved their mission — NSYC is awesome and are community oriented like we are.”
Based primarily out of Rocky Point, NSYC has been prominent within its community since the early 1980s.
The organization was born out of concern for the high rates of substance abuse and teenage runaways on Long Island at the time.
Driven by the desire to save as many youths as they could from drugs and alcohol, these individuals spawned an innovative model for youth prevention programming that continues to this day. Eventually NSYC began to expand and offer additional services along the North Shore including summer camps, after-school programs and mentorships.
Robert Woods, NSYC’s executive director, said that the organization always had a close connection to Heritage Trust.
“This partnership will allow us to bring in more resources to the community and affords new and exciting opportunities for thousands of residents to enjoy and partake in,” he said. “With this expansion and increase of space for NSYC, we’ll be able to do more of what we love and serve youth and families in greater capacities.”
This doesn’t mean that NSYC will be closing or eliminating their Rocky Point presence, either.
“We’re expanding our services to reach families in other communities,” he said. “We are thrilled for this next chapter of our organization to expand into the heart of the North Shore communities and build upon the center’s 20-year legacy.”
Lori Baldassare, founder and a board member with the trust, said NSYC was always affiliated with the group — her late husband Jaime was president of the NSYC board for a decade.
“They share a mission that was similar to ours,” she said. “It just made sense.”
While the deal is not completely closed yet — Woods said it should be finalized within the next month — NSYC has begun hosting events and taking on the operations that Heritage is known for including the annual tree lighting and breakfast with Santa.
“It’s great for NSYC to have a brick-and-mortar space for them to host events and use that they didn’t have before,” Baldassare said.
Heritage Park, and the center inside it, began 25 years ago when the open land was slated for construction of a new Home Depot located at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road. Baldassare was a member of the Mount Sinai Hamlet Study for the Town of Brookhaven at the time.
“People said they didn’t have a central meeting place in the area — not just for Mount Sinai, but the whole North Shore community,” she said. “The Heritage Center and park have been able to create a sense of place.”
Not only will the center host Heritage events in the near future, but Woods said they will be able to bring more activities for residents including LGBTQ youth programs and behavioral art classes.
“It was bittersweet,” Hazan said. “But at the end of the day, it was the best thing we could’ve done for the park.”