Seven to Save: 2014-15 Edition
Maxwell Place Fire Station | Elmira, Chemung County
This handsome brick building, constructed on land generously donated by one of Elmira’s leading families, the Divens, served as a neighborhood fire station from 1897 to 1986. Designed in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style by the prominent regional firm Pierce and Bickford Architects, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The building has received limited maintenance since it was last used as a fire station in 1986, but remains an anchor in the neighborhood, along with the nearby elementary school. The City of Elmira took over the building and now struggles with issues of safety, liability and reuse planning.
The inclusion of the Maxwell Place Fire Station on the Seven to Save list provides an opportunity for the League to work with local advocates to develop a strategy to attract new interest in the fire station. However, without information on its structural stability, a realistic reuse plan, and funding, the future of this vacant landmark is uncertain.
The Preservation League will work with stakeholders in the city and the community to promote the Maxwell Fire Station as an investment opportunity, and to help identify funding sources for a reuse that serves the needs of the 4th District and the city.
Old Stone Barracks | Plattsburgh, Clinton County
Constructed in 1838, this is the oldest building at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, it illustrates the longstanding military presence in New York’s North Country between 1812 and 1995. The building boasts massive stone walls, heavy timber framing, and a two-story columned porch running the full length of the north façade. With views of Valcour Island, Cumberland Head, Grand Isle and the Green Mountains of Vermont, the building conveys the central role that military activities played in the history of the Champlain Valley.
A Canadian developer purchased the site in 2010, after decades of vacancy. Friends of the Old Stone Barracks organized following the sale to advocate for a sensitive reuse and redevelopment of the site. The Preservation League will work with the Friends group to ensure protection and appropriate redevelopment for the Old Stone Barracks.
Historic and Cultural Resources of Columbia County | Ghent, Columbia County
In 2012, NYS Electric and Gas (NYSEG) proposed an 11.1 mile, 115 kV high voltage power line through the town of Ghent, in north-central Columbia County. Intended as back-up to an existing line, the proposed power line would cross agricultural land, run through family farms and land under conservation easement, along the Omi International Arts Center’s sculpture fields, and through a community rich with historic homes. The line was to be constructed through a National Register-eligible historic district and within a mile of over 100 additional National Register-eligible properties. As of early winter 2015, it appears that Protect Ghent (www.protectghent.com/), which has advocated for a low-voltage, less-intrusive alternative, may be on the verge of a significant victory in settlement negotiations with the utility.
Ghent is no longer the only community in Columbia County threatened with new electrical transmission lines. The NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently reviewing proposals from four developers to erect towering new 345 kV transmission lines to provide electricity to downstate markets. Over 80 communities in 18 counties in central and eastern New York face potential industrialization of their rural landscapes and threats of eminent domain. The richly historic Hudson River Valley, where the developers propose to site new lines, is at the heart of this transmission siting challenge.
We joined with Scenic Hudson and others to form the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and the group's work assessing transmission siting impacts in the region called into question the need for such power line expansion given new sources of energy generation coming on line in the New York City metro region, among other factors.
The PSC heard our concerns and announced in late December that, "After carefully considering comments from stakeholders and members of the public, and in light of other proceedings related to improving energy efficiency and modernizing the grid, we will carefully reexamine the need for transmission upgrades to address existing transmission congestion problems." The PSC will now host a technical conference in June 2015 to substantiate the need for this proposed transmission build out. This is a big win for the coalition and there will be extensive preparations over the next six months to prepare for this formal proceeding.
With this designation, the Preservation League and Protect Ghent, a not-for-profit organization founded by concerned citizens opposed to new high-voltage power lines, will urge utility companies and policy makers to protect historic, cultural, and scenic resources as part of their transmission planning processes, as these resources are key elements of robust regional economies, job creation and quality of life.
Genesee Valley Park’s Olmsted Pedestrian Bridges | Rochester, Monroe County
These handsome concrete bridges were built in 1916 and 1919 and designed by the influential Olmsted Brothers firm. They link regional and statewide trails including the Erie Canalway and are functional and historic assets. Limited funding, deferred maintenance, and uncertainty about rehabilitation responsibilities have put these bridges at risk.
In late 2011, the New York State Department of Transportation (Region Four) released a Conditions Assessment and Concept Study for the three bridges which identified structural deficiencies, erosion issues, and other concerns. Even without a study, the deterioration of concrete surfaces and details are obvious. The report identified five treatment alternatives, three of which call for replacement.
With this announcement, the League hopes to launch a collaborative effort with local stakeholders such as the City of Rochester, Monroe County, the NYS Department of Transportation and The Landmark Society of Western New York, to devise a plan for stewardship of these bridges.
Old Albany Post Road | Philipstown, Putnam County
This path between the settlements that would become known as Albany and New York City followed earlier trails established by the Native residents of the region. It provided for movement of troops, supplies and postal mail during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. Connecting homes in a sparsely settled area of Garrison, the Old Albany Post Road still retains landscape features from Colonial times and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Following extensive flooding in spring of 2007, a 100-yard section of the dirt road was reengineered and paved, despite numerous studies that illustrate the long-term sustainability of dirt roads. In fact, the modern section is now eroding other sections of the road due to poor drainage.
The Old Road Society was founded to protect the surviving dirt road component of the Old Albany Post Road, along with the other remaining historic dirt roads in and around Philipstown, which has 30 miles of dirt road. The Society and the League are calling for an engineering report for the 6-mile section of the Old Albany Post Road, outlining sustainable drainage solutions, surface treatments and maintenance practices to guide the town’s highway department. A local road protection ordinance would further steer maintenance practices toward preservation.
Bethel-Christian Avenue – Laurel Hill Historic District | Setauket, Suffolk County
Locally designated by the Town of Brookhaven, this is a historic Native American and African American community threatened by outside development pressure. The community began with the Bethel AME Cemetery and Bethel AME Church and its congregation, who migrated to surround the church. Houses were either relocated to or built on unusually large lots. The cultural practice of shared community gardening provided year-round food for families. The neighborhood retains its rural character, but development pressure has already led to the demolition of one historic house.
The Bethel AME Church is still an active congregation, and many original families still occupy their properties. Unfortunately, the historically large lots have resulted in soaring tax assessments, and several families have been forced to sell their property.
With this designation, the Preservation League will work with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, which has previously provided technical assistance to Higher Ground, and others, to illustrate the need to recognize, celebrate, and protect the historic African American communities that remain on Long Island.
Federal Historic Tax Credits | Statewide
One of the most powerful tools in the preservation tool box, the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit is at risk of elimination as part of an effort to cut federal spending. New York State needs this economic development and job creation incentive. Losing it would threaten more than $1.2 billion in historic property redevelopment projects pending statewide.
By listing the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, the League is alerting municipal leaders and developers of historic properties across New York of the threat to this program. The designation makes the protection and expansion of this essential economic and community redevelopment tool a statewide priority for the League’s public policy program advocacy.
The League is urging elected officials to support the “Creating American Prosperity through Preservation” (CAPP) Act to preserve this important credit and to ensure that efforts to revitalize our communities are not jeopardized. United States Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are co-sponsors of the CAPP Act legislation, which is awaiting introduction in the House.