Preservation Buffalo Niagara Is Born
After voting Thursday night to consolidate their organizations, representatives of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier and the Preservation Coalition of Erie Countyâ€”now operating jointly as Preservation Buffalo Niagaraâ€”met with the press and public Friday morning along with representatives of state and national preservation organizations. Everyone came offering congratulations, cooperation, and substantial financial support.
Catherine Schweitzer, Executive Director of the Baird Foundation, officiated. She called the consolidation a â€ślogical evolutionâ€ť for preservation in the Niagara Frontier region. She especially acknowledged her board of directors for their support of her almost exclusive devotion to the consolidation efforts this year. Everyone involved acknowledged Catherineâ€™s central contribution, as well, and affirmed that in the process she has become a dynamic preservation expert and devotee. Catherine has been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of its two state contacts for New York. The Baird Foundation will be providing $50,000 over three years to assist the new organization.
Blythe Merrill of the Oishei Foundation, a longtime preservationist, said that she and her foundation have been so impressed with this yearâ€™s organizational activity that that they will be providing $230,000 of funding over three years to assist with strategic planning and the hiring of an executive director. The new organization plans to immediately launch a nationwide search for a director with strong professional preservation credentials.
Doug Swift, a member of the joint transition committee, and board member of the new organization, announced (speaking Thursday night) that his family foundation, set up by his parents, and administered by him and his siblings, will provide a grant of $50,000â€”its largest ever. Doug mentioned his brotherâ€™s personal connection to preservation, having served on the Buffalo Common Council at the time that the Buffalo preservation board began operatingâ€”having succeeded Councilmember William Hoyt, who was involved with the establishment of the preservation board.
Ruth Pierpont, of the State Historic Preservation Office said that preservation is about partnerships, and pledged close cooperation with the new organization to help in the goal of regional revitalization.
Tom Yots, City Historian of Niagara Falls, and a board member of the new organization, spoke on behalf of Mayor Paul Dyster, who expressed his support for the consolidation and his belief that it will result in bringing preservation â€śto a new level of efficiency never before realized in Western New York.â€ť
Buffalo Commissioner of Economic Development Brian Reilly (speaking Thursday), said that Mayor Brown has expressed his strongest support for the consolidation and the new organization. He read a proclamation declaring Thursday â€śPreservation Buffalo Niagara Dayâ€ť in Buffalo.
Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State, said that the wide and deep support for the consolidation effort reflected the regionâ€™s recognition of the importance of preserving its heritage as a way to build a sense of pride and place. He said that a region facing such challenging times might have been tempted to dismiss preservation as an exercise in nostalgia it could ill afford, but instead is embracing preservation as a way to turn neighborhoods around and spark reinvestment. He said that the new organization will provide a unified local voice for preservation of the regionâ€™s buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods. Jay also announced a $7,500 Preserve NY grant to carefully document the historic and cultural resources of the Prospect Hill Neighborhood, which the League designated a statewide â€śSeven to Saveâ€ť earlier this year.
Roberta Lane, Northeast Regional Attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and New York point person, said that the Trust was extremely impressed with the dinner jointly organized by local preservation groups in 2007, at which Trust Director Richard Moe was the keynote speaker. She said that the Trust has been especially impressed with the level of local cooperation with the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the local bid for the 2011 National Trust conference, which the region won despite being up against stiff competition from cities such as Hartford and Philadelphia. She said the Trust will provide assistance with capacity building to build a strong regional organization equipped to take advantage of preservation tools offered by the Trust, such as revolving funds for preservation-based revitalization.
Thursday night, the board of directors of Preservation Buffalo Niagara met to elect officers. Catherine Schweitzer will serve as Chair, Attorney Steven Weiss as Vice Chair, Greg Lodinsky as Secretary, and CPA Lynn Stievater as Treasurer.
The Buffalo Rising November print edition will include in-depth interviews with Jay DiLorenzo and Roberta Lane.