The 2009-2013 New York State Preservation Plan, Historic Preservation at a Crossroads, identified seventeen key threats to implementing the plan. It states “each of these threats was mentioned repeatedly in all aspects of the public outreach process.” (page 15)
One only had to attend a recent Niagara River Greenway Standing Committee meeting and watch Senator Maziarz and former Lewiston Mayor Soluri to see these threats literally in action as the two men interfered with a funding request for a proposal titled: Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim. The Niagara Gorge rim is botanically and culturally unique.
The key threats listed in the State Parks Preservation Plan I found particularly significant to Niagara Falls (NY) and the region are quoted and listed below. These same key threats readily translate and apply to land preservation as well as historic building and cultural preservation.
1. 1. Lack of awareness and/or the political will to protect historic and cultural resources: Many meeting participants expressed concern that historic and cultural resources are frequently lost or threatened through a basic lack of awareness about their social and economic value as well as a lack of awareness about historic tools, strategies, and incentives. Fear of controversy and lack of understanding prevents many communities from protecting historic and cultural resources.
2. 2.Lack of awareness about the economic benefits of historic preservation and the economic return on investments made in building rehabilitation and community revitalization. It was widely noted that historic preservation tools and strategies are underutilized and should be better incorporated into statewide community revitalization and economic development strategies. Many people advocated for better collection of data related to the economic impacts of historic preservation as well as development of a comprehensive economic impact study.
3. 3.Sprawl/ suburbanization and the erosion of rural, open space, and agricultural lands: Existing economic incentives continue to favor and encourage this type of growth.
4. 4. Lack of statewide Main Street Program: Many participants observed that New York State is one of the few states without a statewide downtown revitalization program based on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s four point approach emphasizing design, community organizing, economic restructuring and promotion.
5. 5.Failure of communities and agencies to comply fully with SEQRA and ineffectiveness of SEQRA as a tool to protect historic and cultural resources: The SEQRA process and its application as a tool to protect historic and cultural resources continue to be misunderstood, underutilized and improperly used.
6. 6. Urban disinvestment, lack of investment in older buildings and neighborhoods, and subsequent deterioration and loss of historic and cultural resources: Many people noted these trends have continued for decades and suggested that New York needs urban policies and incentives to help reverse these plans.