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Gillibrand announces critical funding for historic preservation in Jamestown

PRESS RELEASE


JAMESTOWN --  U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today visited the National Comedy Center in Jamestown to announce her successful push to include $88.91 million in the Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Interior Appropriations bill for the Department of Interior's Historic Preservation Fund. This funding amount is $56.2 million more than President Trump's budget request for the program. This funding supports historic preservation and economic development projects around the state, including the National Comedy Center, which uses Jamestown's old train station as one of its buildings. The new center is a major part of downtown Jamestown's revitalization and is expected to greatly increase tourism in the area. The National Comedy Center will open its doors to the public next month and will be the nation's first museum devoted to the history of comedy in America.

"Federal historic preservation investment helped make the National Comedy Center a reality, and because of exciting projects like this, I was proud to lead the Senate's bipartisan effort to support the federal Historic Preservation Fund," said Senator Gillibrand. "When the Trump Administration's budget request for this important program was millions of dollars lower than it had been before, I led a bipartisan push with my colleagues to keep this critical funding in place, and ended up securing $56 million more than what the President requested. This federal funding will help bring tourists and families to historic sites and museums in every corner of our state, including the National Comedy Center right here in Jamestown. I will always fight in the Senate to bring jobs back to our communities throughout New York."

"The National Comedy Center is dedicated to telling the vital story of comedy in America. In doing so, we draw connections that make the past relevant to the present. I can't imagine a better space in which to bridge generations of artists than the 1932 historic train station, now filled with more than 50 immersive exhibits on comedy and some of the most cutting edge technology in museums today.  What you see here now the weaving of together old and new, the design itself having a very literal reverence for the past, which couldn't more appropriately mirror the stories within.  We thank Senator Gillibrand for her help securing funding to keep important structures like this one active and relevant, preserving our culture," said Journey Gunderson, Executive Director, National Comedy Center.

"We would also like to thank Senator Gillibrand for helping us to secure a $1.7 million grant from US Department of Commerce and for spearheading the passing of the National Comedy Center Recognition Act in the US Senate," said Thomas P. Benson, Chairman, National Comedy Center.

Federal funding for historic districts and investment in historic sites encourages and supports economic development that is critically important to the preservation and revitalization of communities throughout New York. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires all states to have a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to preserve historic sites in the United States. SHPOs have an annual funding agreement with the National Park Service that requires a non-federal matching share equal to at least 40 percent of the federal allocation. After 10 percent of the federal share is reserved for grants to participating communities, funding is allocated for administration of programs required by federal statute. These programs include historic resource survey work, the National Register Program administration, compliance review of federally funded and permitted projects, federal historic tax credit program implementation, and the Certified Local Government program.

In April, Gillibrand led a bipartisan letter calling on Senate Appropriators to provide $110.5 million in funding for the federal Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) for Fiscal Year 2019. This request rejected President Trump's proposed cut of over $64 million in funding for this important program. The bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

April 27, 2018

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski                                           
Chairman
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on   
Interior, Environment and
Related Agencies
131 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Tom Udall
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on   
Interior, Environment and
Related Agencies
101 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:

We write requesting that you support economic development, job creation, and our national heritage by appropriating $110.5 million in funding for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019). Of the total request, $55 million is for State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), $15 million is for Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs), $500,000 is for grants to underserved communities, and $15 million is for the Save America's Treasures grant program. This request also includes $5 million is for preservation grants to revitalize historic properties of national, State, and local significance, $15 million for the Civil Rights competitive grants initiative and $5 million for competitive grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

SHPOs and THPOs tie our nation's historic preservation programs together. SHPOs carry out the National Historic Preservation Act, which provides citizens the tools they need to revitalize, rehabilitate, and protect American heritage. Annually, SHPOs also review more than 100,000 federal undertakings for their impact on historic resources and survey more than 16.5 million acres for cultural resources. SHPOs also administer the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit which, over the life of the program, has created more than 2.4 million jobs and leveraged more than $131 billion in private investment.

THPOs carry out many of the same functions as SHPOs for tribal governments. Just as the SHPOs review federal undertakings on state lands, the THPOs review federal undertakings on tribal government lands. There were only 12 THPOs when they first received funding in 1996. Today, there nearly 190 THPOs and funding has not kept pace with the growing number of THPOs; in FY2017, 180 tribes received an average of $58,000 in funding, more than $20,000 fewer than when the program first started.

Additionally, we support $15 million for competitive grants to fund the continuation of a Civil Rights initiative that preserves, documents, and interprets the sites and stories of the Civil Rights movement and the African-American experience, and $15 million for the Save America's Treasure competitive grant program.

Funding these historic preservation programs is vital for ensuring that the unvarnished story of America is told. It is an investment in towns and cities throughout the country that benefit from tourists visiting historic sites and the public and private investment in restoring historic buildings. This funding is both an economic and historical imperative that creates construction jobs and protects historic resources that might otherwise be lost forever.

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact our staff.