Youngsters scampered in a sports hall here today in Long Island Children's Museum around Garden City, New York and were soon dousing themselves in soap bubbles, watching themselves in reflective mirrors, smashing rocks into sand and climbing a cable web suspended in the air.

During this special week, the Long Island Children's Museum celebrated its grand opening, introducing a series of new exhibitions.

In the former hangars of Mitchel Field military air base in Nassau County, the county is launching a new collection of museums, more than one hundred, after years of planning. Long Island is being given two goals: First, it is creating unique cultural institutions for its maturing suburb. Second, it is trying to create a destination that features something distinctive from malls to draw residents and tourists.

Thomas S. Suozzi, County Executive of Long Island, stated at the opening: ''This will serve as a major anchor to the hub area if properly planned.''

We're getting more, and we're getting it soon. An Imax theater and the Cradle of Aviation Museum are scheduled to open in May. Its opening coincides with the 40th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's famous flight, which took off near Roosevelt Field. An open air museum on firefighting and a restored Carousel, which was removed from an amusement park in Baldwin, N.Y., before it was dismantled for redevelopment, are future plans still on the drawing board.

Three decades ago, ambitious county planners envisioned Mitchel Field becoming a modernistic multi-purpose complex with a sports stadium, a monorail, apartments, and a suburban Lincoln Center. But only the Nassau Coliseum was built. The initiative was spurred by Nassau County Executive Thomas S. Gulotta right before he retired on Dec. 31 amid Nassau's fiscal crisis. Mr. Gulotta attended today's announcement and was commended for his great foresight on museums.
 
Ed Smits, the CEO of Nassau Heritage, a nonprofit that has been helping to run the complex, said ''They will have an incredible impact in Long Island's cultural and educational life''.

In Garden City, the Long Island Children's Museum museum spent $17 million to build its new home. It was previously housed in an wing of the old Newsday building. Under a 60-year lease, the county provided a free hangar for the museum, and all revenue is to be retained. Several critics argued that these terms were far too favorable to museums for their own interests. Yet Mr. Suozzi stressed the importance of these groups because of the county's budget deficit.''

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