**Become a member of The Art Deco Society of New York at www.artdeco.org. With over 25 events per year, ADSNY is an active cultural and social non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating architecture, decorative arts, fashion, and music from the 1920s and 30s! I look forward to seeing you at the next event!**

08 April 2011

On the brink of a shut-down

Hi fellow preservationists!

Welcome to my blog about preservation and the built environment in NYC.
Although I do not foresee this blog taking a firm political stance, it is inevitable when dealing with preservation issues. This brings us to the current state of our government.

As many of you know, the Democrats and Republicans are once again torn over the budget. This means that spending and taxes and cuts are being mulled over by politicians who believe their degrees and certifications legitimize their ability to run red ink across numbers pertaining to our youth's after-school programs, Medicaid spending, or public work projects. As this week's newsreels suggest, it also affords them the opportunity to debate late into the night about whether or not spending billions of dollars on these programs is what is good for 'the people.' These long nights have lead many political analysts to believe that a government shut-down might occur tomorrow if no agreement is made this evening.

The point of my introduction is to present the issues that affect the preservation field, and every other sector for that matter, when the United States government chooses to take a nap. Although only 60% of the government shuts its doors, this figure includes almost all entities deemed 'unnecessary' to function the country leaving us with a slimmer workforce and fewer services in the interim. No one would argue that our military, postal service or Social Security Administration are  UNessential. But I'm afraid this is not my point. What is more disconcerting is the fact that ideological issues (abortion spending and green energy) are taking center stage over the greater whole. Those in D.C. are more concerned about sounding like hypocrites that they opt for a budgetary stalemate over coming to terms with hard facts which reveal themselves in the numbers. Did you know the estimated cost to shut the government down and then restart it is approximately $1.7 billion based off figures from the last shutdown in 1995?

To make matters worse, the proposed budget for historic preservation has been cut by almost 30%. Instead of $80 million, its budget was decreased to $55 million. Think about the math for a minute. The proposed historic preservation budget for 2011 fits the cost of a shut down almost 31 times. It's insane! I'm in complete shock at their lack of sensitivity. Two entire programs, Save America's Treasures and Preserve America, have been completely removed from the roster. In case you are not familiar with these federally funded programs, I have outlined what we will be missing below:

Save America's Treasures: Created as a public-private partnership, SAT has awarded $300 million in funding for preservation and restoration projects of all types since 1998. This includes preserving the bus Rosa Parks was arrested on to local art collections. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, SAT has created approximately 16,000 jobs since its inception.

Preserve America: A White-House initiative to stimulate the local and regional preservation efforts of our communities. Small grants are awarded to historical and cultural sites that have proposed sustainable uses of their resources.

More disturbing is the proposed increase in funding by nearly 50% for the Historic Preservation Fund's sister program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. At first, this appears to be a victory for preservationists, but look at LWC's source of revenue and you will find that it is primarily supported by offshore drilling and gas leases. Do you see a hidden agenda here?

The decreased budget proposal for the Historic Preservation Fund means an increase in the number of structures that are in danger of being demolished for lack of available funding, both locally and nationally. In addition, funds are being cut from local preservation groups hindering their ability to rally against real estate development corporations and big business in order to save your neighborhoods like Greenwich Village from overdevelopment by New York University's 2030 Plan. 

The sad reality is that the historic preservation field is not a priority in Washington. Although I consider myself a 'building hugger,' I completely understand the need to decrease the budget for preservation in order to increase the budget for health care. However, this is not what is happening today in D.C. The fate of one of the most successful preservation initiatives, Save America's Treasures, will soon be a paragraph in U.S. history books while health care costs are not being subsidized by the government; instead, costs for health care are increasing again this year. You would think the political parties would come to an agreement today in order to avoid the $1.7 billion shut-down expense--money they could be spending on after-school youth programs. Oh, and lest I forget, maybe add back the meager $25 million to the Historic Preservation Fund.in order to keep SAT.

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