Columbia Co. Historic & Cultural Resources named to Seven to Save List

Preservation League to make Announcement at Art Omi at 2 p.m. 2/24

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Proposed power lines threaten agricultural land, family farms and land under conservation easement.

ALBANY, NY (02/23/2014)(readMedia)-- The Preservation League of New York State has named the historic and cultural resources of Columbia County to its list of the Empire State's most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

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 would be constructed through a National Register-eligible historic district and within a mile of over 100 additional National Register-eligible properties.

"Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened," said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. "A Seven to Save designation from the League delivers invaluable technical assistance, fosters increased media coverage and public awareness, and opens the door to grant assistance for endangered properties."

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. 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.

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 utility planning processes, as these resources are key elements of robust regional economies, job creation and quality of life.

"Through the Seven to Save program, we provide targeted support to seven of New York's most important and endangered historic resources," said Erin Tobin, the Preservation League's regional director for technical and grant programs for eastern New York State. "Whether sites are threatened by insensitive, ineffective or insufficient public policies, general neglect, or, in some cases, outright demolition, we have a proven record of working with community advocates to save a number of significant properties."

"I would like to thank the Preservation League of New York State for recognizing the incredible value of our scenic and historic resources in Columbia County," said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). "The hills between the Berkshires and the Hudson River are home to some of the most amazing scenery in the country, so it's vital that we make improvements to our infrastructure with tremendous care and maximum input from local residents. I'm grateful to the Protect Ghent organization and its partners for bringing awareness to this issue."

"The Preservation League's recognition of Columbia County's historic, cultural and agricultural treasures as a threatened resource is both timely and critical," said Assemblymember Didi Barrett. "The things we love about this region – our beautiful farms, historic communities, stunning viewsheds – must be protected. They are the attractions that have lured young families to the region and the economic engines for a sustainable economy."

"Columbia County is a wonderful place to live, visit, work, raise a family and start a business. I welcome today's Seven to Save designation because it will help safeguard Columbia County's special quality of life. I support efforts by the Preservation League and Protect Ghent to advocate for the preservation and protection of Columbia County's many historic, cultural and scenic treasures as part of any planning process regarding the proposed power line project. I remain committed to ensuring that Columbia County has a strong voice throughout the power line project process. We can't let Columbia County be treated like a speed bump on New York's energy highway – local needs and local concerns –physical, economical and practical – about the proposed power line project must be addressed. Being named to the Seven to Save list supports this effort and will help save local historic, cultural and scenic treasures," said New York State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione (R, C-Halfmoon).

"The future of our communities and our economy depends on the continued health and vitality of our rich and fragile natural lands and resources, our exceptionally scenic landscapes and our strong agricultural sector," said Peter Paden, Executive Director of the Columbia County Land Conservancy. "The Preservation League's decision to include Columbia County's historic and cultural resources in its Seven to Save Program highlights yet another of many qualities that make this county such a special place. It is imperative that these qualities be taken into account and protected to the maximum possible extent in making decisions about the need for and placement of above ground utility infrastructure."

"It is time that our utilities realize that they are here to serve our communities and complement our way of life, not downgrade it. Our natural beauty and cultural resources are integral to why people choose to live in Columbia County. If the utilities are allowed to scar our landscape with ill-conceived power lines and pathways, they will serve no one and destroy our way of life," said Francis Greenberger, founder of Art Omi.

"The Town of Ghent is pleased to have the Preservation League recognize with this designation that our area's historical and cultural resources deserve protection. The proposed power line would drive right through the middle of Ghent, bisecting private properties and public spaces alike, without regard to the people of this town. The Seven to Save designation will bring attention to the fact that there are better solutions for utility siting that will minimize the impacts to local communities such as ours," said Mike Benvenuto, Supervisor, Town of Ghent.

"Protect Ghent is grateful for this Seven to Save designation and for the Preservation League's advice and guidance throughout our fight. We believe there are smart, innovative ways to meet the State's energy needs while protecting and preserving its vibrant communities. For example, in our case, we support the low-voltage alternative that will prevent the creation of what would effectively be a new utility corridor through the middle of active farmland, residential backyards, and an internationally renowned sculpture park. By partnering with the Preservation League, we hope to stop the unnecessary destruction of the lands, view sheds and economic opportunities of Columbia County and the Hudson River Valley by insisting on utility siting that is respectful of our communities."

Since 1999, publicity and advocacy resulting from Seven to Save designation has led to the rehabilitation and reopening of the Oswego City Public Library, the rebirth of Montauk Manor on Long Island, and the rededication of the once-abandoned George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton along with successes at several other locations.

The Preservation League of New York State is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1974. The League invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of New York's historic buildings and landscapes. It leads advocacy, economic development, and education programs all across the state.



Koethi Zan, Protect Ghent