Author Archive

Betting on Saratoga's Future

Posted on: September 20th, 2007 by Preservation magazine


Saratoga Springs FoundationThe racehorses may be finished for the season at Saratoga Race Course, but the ordeal regarding the future of the famous racetrack is far from over.

The Saratoga Race Course, which opened in the city of Saratoga Springs in 1863, is the oldest organized sporting venue in the United States, and track attendance and profits increase each season. Will its good fortune last?

Although the state owns the buildings and tracks, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) currently owns the franchise to run thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course. Because that contract ends in December, many wonder what will happen to the 350-acre racing complex. With talk of possible renovation and modernization, Saratoga residents fear the racecourse is in danger of losing its historical charm.

For the past two years, an extensive proposal and bidding process has gone on between NYRA and other contenders in anticipation of NYRA's soon-to-expire contract, and after reviewing all proposals, Gov. Spitzer decided to recommend that NYRA receive the franchise for the next 30 years. The final decision, expected in December, is in the hands of state legislators, who must determine whether to take the governor's recommendation or choose a different company.

Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Supervisor Joanne Yepsen thinks the state and its legislators should consider residents during the decision-making process, as the upcoming year could mean big changes.

"We don't want to see the relationship between the residents and NYRA deteriorate due to lack of zoning or planning. There needs to be a partnership, as opposed to the residents just taking what they can get."

- Jeesoo Park

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.


Brooklyn’s view (Municipal Art Society of New York)"To get a true feeling of New York's industrial, 19th-century waterfront, you really have to go out to Brooklyn —specifically, Red Hook. … One is privileged to see the little canal, the fishing boats, the warehouses, all as it must have been forever, or at least the past hundred years. The factories and warehouses on the canal have that brilliantly additive, piece-by-piece, higgledy-piggledy look of tropical green stucco alongside corrugated aluminum that Frank Gehry works so hard to achieve." —Phillip Lopate, Waterfront


It wasn't long ago that Brooklyn's East River coastline, from the Newtown Creek on the Queens border to Red Hook, was considered no-man's land, with aging infrastructure and unsightly power stations marring its shores. After their heyday during the early 20th century as the nucleus of the manufacturing and shipping industries in New York City, these riverside areas were largely ignored by developers and city officials. The seven-mile sliver, just a stone's throw from Manhattan, became home to artists and a handful of intrepid, out-of-the-box thinkers.


Then, in the 1990s, real-estate prices in the borough climbed to mesmerizing heights and a debate ensued, no longer over whether the area had potential, but how to extract the most bang for the buck. All along the waterfront, it now feels as if a ship is setting sail and no one wants to be left behind.


"We're headed toward a rapid takeover by everyone who wants a piece [of land] for themselves," says David Sharps, owner of the Waterfront Museum since 1994, housed on a historic barge docked in Red Hook.


Should the historic warehouses and docks, many of which date back to the Civil War, make way for big-box stores (a relatively new trend in Brooklyn), high-rise housing or parks? Should they be repurposed or preserved? The city's answer is a complicated balancing act between the needs for jobs, housing, and preservation.


"There has been a failure to protect the maritime infrastructure," says Lisa Kersavage, historic preservation fellow at the Municipal Art Society of New York. "So much development is happening; historic resources need to be considered." Because of these changes, the National Trust for Historic Preservation in June named Brooklyn's industrial waterfront one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Winging It in Buffalo: The city unveils a plan to take down its white elephants

Posted on: September 7th, 2007 by Preservation magazine


Downtown Buffalo’s gemsThere is no denying that Buffalo has seen better days. In the past 50 years, the city has lost some of its key industries, and, consequently, nearly half of its population. The result: tens of thousands of abandoned buildings.

Last July, Barbara Reed, the mother of a firefighter who was seriously injured while putting out an arson fire, wrote a letter to the Buffalo News offering a "mother's cure" for the problem: Take Down a House. She challenged the citizens of Buffalo to donate their own money to tear down the houses that the city could not afford to demolish. "I'm angry as to why this had to happen," she writes. "The equation is simple. Old houses plus fire (arson) equals potential danger and tragedy."

Reed's letter gives a voice to some residents' overwhelming sense of frustration as the city has grappled to find a solution to the problem. Since 1995, the city has demolished nearly 5,000 abandoned structures in an effort to curb blight and arson, but it estimates that there are as many as 10,000 more that need to be demolished.

Last month, the city announced a "Five by Five" program it hopes will bring its vacancy rate closer to five percent within five years by demolishing 1,000 buildings a year, a rate close to three demolitions a day.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

"Hawaii's Westminster Abbey" To Add New Building

Posted on: September 5th, 2007 by Preservation magazine 1 Comment


Kawaiaha’o ChurchAt the 1842 church known as the Westminster Abbey of Hawaii last month, workers broke ground for a new building beside the National Register-listed church in Oahu.

Kawaiaha'o Church, the first Christian church in Hawaii, will use the new facility in part to expand its homeless outreach program.

"Our membership is largely Hawaiian, and we recognize the needs [for greater homeless services] in some Hawaiian communities," Valerie Lota Trotter, Kawaiaha'o Church treasurer, told the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

Established by New England Protestant missionairies, Kawaiaha'o Church's "bricks" are actually giant slabs of coral hewn from Hawaii's reefs. The church is famous for hosting many Hawaiian alii, or royalty, throughout the 19th century and for holding services in the Hawaiian language.

The $12.7 million project won a $500,000 grant from Save America's Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust. is scheduled to be completed in October 2008. The two-story building will serve as a  house a bookstore, church archives, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and a mini-museum for the church's historical artifacts.

- Krista Walton

(Updated April 16, 2008 to delete incorrect Save America's Treasures grant information, remove Save America's Treasures tag, and revise planned site use details.)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.