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MAS Members Can Help Save Parks and Preservation Funding

eldridge street synagogue front lower east sideEssential preservation funds, historic sites and parks will be impacted by proposed state and federal budget cuts. MAS encourages its members to take action to urge lawmakers to restore funding for these important programs. “In these difficult economic times, some may argue that preservation and parks are luxuries we can do without. But preservation isn’t just about reminding us of our past. The restoration work funded through Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America has generated sorely needed jobs and helped to build sustainable communities. New York State’s Parks and Historic sites offer inexpensive recreational opportunities to New Yorkers just when they need them most,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla. The proposed federal budget cuts may eliminate two long-standing historic preservation funds, Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America. The former was established in 1998 by President Clinton and is a public-private partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since its creation, the program has awarded almost $294 million in federal grants to over 1,100 preservation efforts across the country. In turn, these grants have leveraged more than $377 million in required matching- and non-federal funds, and the funded construction projects alone have created more than 16,000 jobs. Many New York City sites have benefited from the Save America’s Treasures program, including: the Intrepid Museum, the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan; the Louis Armstrong House and the Crotona Park Bath House in Queens; the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage in the Bronx; the Weeksville Society Heritage Center in Brooklyn; and Ellis Island in New York harbor. Preserve America, established by President George W. Bush in 2003, has provided 228 grants to historic sites, totaling $17 million. The African Burial Ground and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum have each received Preserve America Presidential Awards, and it was recently announced that the Eldridge Street Synagogue will be the first New York City entity to be designated a Preserve America Steward. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has presented a list of recommendations to the Governor, including “the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and 1 historic site.” In New York City, these closures and service reductions would affect Bayswater Point State Park in Queens and Riverbank State Park in Manhattan. While the impact of these cuts may seem minimal for New Yorkers within the city limits, 29 parks and historic sites in the neighboring regions of Long Island, Taconic and the Palisades will be dramatically affected.

What You Can Do

Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America: The National Trust for Historic Preservation has set up an easy form that enables you to contact your Senators and Congress people to ask them to restore vital historic preservation programs proposed for elimination or cuts in the President’s FY 2011 Budget Request. New York State Parks and Historic Sites: To preserve funding for State Parks and Historic Sites, visit the New York Landmarks Conservancy website for information on who to contact in Albany. The New York League of Conservation Voters also has a form you can fill out and send to your elected officials.