Monday, December 28, 2009

Historic Preservation at a Crossroads

This is the second handout given to the Niagara River Greenway Standing Committee. You can read the first one here. (click on here).  

NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation recently published its 2009-2013 Historic Preservation Plan, Historic Preservation at a Crossroads. It received final approval by the National Park Service on March 27, 2009.  

The rationales for creating the document are on page four. Here are two: [1] “New York is a state of incredible beauty, abundance, history, and culture. Historic preservation helps communities make the most of these assets and is a positive but underutilized contributing force at the intersection of the state’s declining population and economic trends and its considerable assets and opportunities.” [2] Historic Preservation is a community catalyst and a powerful engine for economic growth. It stimulates pride, and inspires residents to help themselves, brings neighborhoods and communities together, enhances community assets, attracts reinvestment, creates more jobs than new construction, and keeps labor earnings cycling through local economies. Its incremental, locally oriented, and sustainable revitalization activities have been successful in good and bad economic climates in diverse communities across America for many years.”  

The “Plan has been prepared to assist all New Yorkers interested in identifying, protecting, enhancing, and promoting the state’s historic and cultural resources. It is based on the premise that historic preservation is in New York State’s best interest: it is a powerful but as yet underutilized community and economic development strategy that should be an integral part of New York State’s revitalization, smart growth, and sustainability efforts.” (page 7)  

"Part I is the heart of the plan. It identifies 11 key themes and seven key historic preservation strategies", or goals. The first theme, Leadership and Advocacy, notes “a need for a clear, unified voice, stronger execution of federal and state preservation laws, increased collaboration with others. Coordination and Collaboration, listed as a second theme, addressed “better integration, coordination, and collaboration between state agencies, not-for-profits and private agencies, organizations and individuals in order to bring people together."  

For Niagara Falls, the “Statewide Main Street Program” theme is particularly important. The plan states on page 14, “Despite being a pioneer in the main street revitalization concept, New York is one of a very few states that have not established a statewide Main Street Program, although such a program has been considered and partly implemented by state agencies and organizations such as New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, New York State Department of State, and the New York Main Street Alliance.”  

Main Street revitalization is also noted as a “key historic preservation strategy.” Here’s part of the vision statement printed on page 18: “Historic preservation will be understood as a rational approach for protecting irreplaceable historic and cultural resources and managing change, offering proven, fiscally conservative, cost-effective community strategies that: 1. Revitalize, strengthen, and enhance New York’s cities, villages, and rural hamlets while making use of existing infrastructure and transportation systems and CONSERVING farmland, OPEN SPACE, and NATURAL AREAS." [emphasis, mine.]  

So, there it is, laid out in print by New York State Parks, a five year plan that clearly states exactly what the Niagara Heritage Partnership as envisioned and advocated for since 1997: We can make use of all the existing alternate routes (I-190, Route 265 etc), eliminate the Robert Moses Parkway, redirect the traffic down Main Street, Niagara Falls via Hyde Park Boulevard and Highland Avenue, AND reclaim the natural area of the gorge rim as open space. A third post will list the Key Threats Identified in the Planning Process.
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