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Parks & Trails New York, the statewide advocacy organization that works to expand, protect and promote a network of parks, trails and open spaces throughout New York State has issued the following press release regarding the closing of 55 state parks and historic sites:
At a meeting of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation today, Parks Commissioner Carol Ash told Committee members her agency is going ahead with plans to close 55 parks and historic sites, and curtail programming and services at an additional 22, unless sufficient funding is restored to the budget of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in the final state budget.
Commissioner Ash said, “Given that there is no final state budget at this time, our agency has neither funding nor authorization to open the 55 State Parks and Historic Sites that were identified for closing.”
State Parks needs $6.3 million to keep open the 55 parks. The fate of an additional 52 parks and historic sites, 34 tagged for closing and 18 for service reductions, is tied to a $5 million Environmental Protection Fund appropriation in the executive budget.
In total, State Parks needs $11.3 million to prevent any park or historic site from closing. In their budget proposals, the Senate and Assembly have committed to keeping all NYS parks and historic sites open this season.
“We’re deeply grateful to the Senate and Assembly for their commitment to restore $11.3 million in park operating funds, which will allow all state parks and historic sites to remain open,” said Robin Dropkin, Parks & Trails New York Executive Director. “Legislators, and hopefully now the Governor, understand how critically important parks are to New Yorkers and how cutting parks makes no sense in terms of the economy, quality of life or citizen morale.”
“We’re alarmed that the late budget is putting parks in limbo. Will the 55 parks and historic sites slated to close ever be able to open this year? By the time the budget is passed will there be enough time for the parks agency to get the facilities ready for the season? What if the budget doesn’t pass until June?” questioned Dropkin.
“Should agreement on the final state budget continue to be delayed, the Governor and Legislature need to come up with an immediate solution to keep state parks open and accessible to the public,” said Dropkin.
Every dollar invested in state parks and historic sites generates $5 in economic activity for the surrounding communities. In 2008, state parks and historic sites generated $1.9 billion in annual economic activity, including supporting 20,000 long-term sustainable non-parks jobs that generate tax revenues far above the amount of the proposed cuts.
The system’s 178 state parks and 35 historic sites, encompassing 325,000 acres of land and water from Montauk to the Thousand Islands and Niagara Falls, collectively draw more than 56 million visitors a year, 40 percent of whom come from outside the immediate area.
In the 125 years since Niagara Falls State Park became the first state park in the nation, New York State has never closed a park, not even in the depths of the Great Depression. Parks and historic sites on the governor’s hit list for closure affect every region of the state, from Orient Beach State Park at the tip of Long Island’s North Fork to Wilson-Tuscarora State Park in Niagara County.
Patronage of parks and historic sites has been increasing each year, especially as the current recession leads financially strapped New Yorkers to seek recreational opportunities closer to home.
“It is incumbent upon legislators and the Governor during budget negotiations to restore $11.3 million, a mere four-thousandths of one percent of the state budget, to the parks budget to keep our unparalleled system of parks and historic sites open and accessible to the people of New York,” said Dropkin.
Ed. – New York History reported on the potential for these closings in February.
The Hyde Collection Executive Director David F. Setford has announced that Erin B. Coe has been promoted to deputy director, curatorial affairs and programming, which went into effect January 1, 2010.
Coe, who has served The Hyde as chief curator since 1999, was also appointed deputy director in 2007. In her new capacity, she will continue to serve as the Museum’s chief curator and take on additional responsibilities including overseeing the education department. In her expanded role, she works closely with The Hyde’s director of education on developing and growing the Museum’s offerings of adult programs and outreach initiatives. [Read more…] about Hyde Collection Promotes Erin Coe to Deputy Director
The State Archives has announced its twentieth annual Student Research Award contest which encourages grade 4-12 students to explore the wealth of historical records found in archives, libraries, and other historical community organizations throughout New York State. A total of three awards will be given, one each for students in grades 4-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. Each award consists of a certificate and cash prize. Certificates of Merit will be awarded to those entries, other than the winners, that show a heavy reliance on historical records to support their research.
Recipients will be selected by September 15, and winners will be announced during Archives Month in October, 2010. Entries submitted for competition must be researched and developed during the July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010 school year. Entries are due July 1, 2010; details can be found at the NYS Archives website.
Photo: October 7, 1921 – School in Session, Sunset School, Marey, WV, Lewis Hine
Professor Joseph Diamond, head of the summer Archeological Field School sponsored by the State University of New York at New Paltz, will be the featured speaker at Historic Huguenot Street’s Second Saturday talk on Saturday, April 10th.
The Archeological Field School, which is administered by the Department of Anthropology, has been based at Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz for the past several summers. Students working under the direction of Professor Diamond conduct archaeological digs on the six-acre site where a small group of French-speaking Huguenots founded New Paltz in 1678.
The project is an excellent example of “town-gown” collaboration. Students receive credit for their participation in the field school and Historic Huguenot Street gains valuable and new information about the community’s earliest years.
Work conducted most recently on the lawn opposite the DuBois Fort Visitor Center is revealing an interesting variety of European and Native American artifacts along with what may the foundation of at least one early home and a protective stockade fence. Nothing of these two features remains above ground. “While we are fortunate to have some very early documents in our archives,” says Eric Roth, executive director of Historic Huguenot Street, “These alone do not explain what this settlement looked like in the years before the stone houses were built. Professor Diamond’s work has dramatically expanded our understanding of these years and of Native American presence before the Huguenots arrived.”
The talk will be held on Saturday, April 10th at 7pm at Deyo Hall, located at 6 Broadhead Avenue between North Chestnut and Huguenot Streets in downtown New Paltz. Because street work on Broadhead Avenue may be underway during this time, those attending are advised to enter on North Front Street and following the signs to Deyo Hall. More information or directions can be found by visiting www.huguenotstreet.org or by calling (845) 255-1889
Photo: Pit Showing Possible Stockade Fence Post Holes (Courtesy HHS).
Vermont’s tallest building is opening for business again, as the Bennington Battle Monument begins its season on Saturday, April 17. Built to commemorate the August 16th, 1777 Battle of Bennington – which actually took place in nearby Walloomsac, New York – this Vermont State Historic Site opened to the public in 1891, some four years after construction began in 1887, at a cost of $112,000.
The monument, a 306-foot stone obelisk, was constructed on the site of a Continental military storehouse that was the objective of the British attack. With his army short of ammunition, food and arms, British General John Burgoyne decided to attack the town of Bennington and capture the storehouse and its supplies, sending about 800 men into battle against what he thought was a militia force about half that size. [Read more…] about Bennington Battle Monument Opens for 2010
The Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands (FSHSHH) will gather for their Annual Meeting at the Temple Building at New Windsor Cantonment on Saturday, April 17th at 2pm. Following the brief meeting, this year’s program will include a presentation on “The Highland Adventures of William Thompson Howell.”
FSHSHH, a group of local supporters, meet year-round to benefit the activities of three Revolutionary War historic sites: New Windsor Cantonment, Knox’s Headquarters, and Washington’s Headquarters. FSHSHH works to supplement the educational, public event, and collections needs, and to increase public awareness of each sites’ historical significance. This year’s presentation on “The Highland Adventures of William Thompson Howell,” highlights the author, naturalist, photographer, outdoorsman and preservationist.
New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is where the Continental Army under General George Washington spent the last winter and spring of the Revolutionary War. In October 1782, General Washington moved his northern army to New Windsor to establish winter quarters. Some 7,500 soldiers and 500 women and children civilian refugees encamped here. By late December 1782, they had erected nearly 600 log huts into a “cantonment,” a military enclave.
Nearby, John Ellison’s Georgian-style house in Vails Gate served at the military headquarters of Major General Henry Knox, Commander of the American artillery in 1780-81, and then as headquarters for General Horatio Gates, commandant of the New Windsor Cantonment in 1782-83. And in Newburgh, during those critical last months of the war, General Washington made some of his most important contributions to shaping the American republic at his headquarters in the Jonathon Hasbrouck House, the first publically owned historic site in the nation.
In addition to the special programs and activities, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and the New Windsor Cantonment Visitor Center are open. These buildings feature the history of the New Windsor Cantonment; Behind Every Great Man: The Continental Army in Winter, 1782-83, Revolutionary War artifacts, the exhibit The Last Argument of Kings, Revolutionary War Artillery and the story of the Purple Heart. A picnic grove is available and there is plenty of free parking. The site is open to the public Saturday April 17 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Also be sure to visit Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, a short drive from the New Windsor Cantonment.
New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission administers 27 park, parkways and historic sites for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in New York as well as the Palisades Interstate Park and parkway in New Jersey. For more information about New York State parks and historic sites, please visit our website at www.nysparks.com and follow the links for historic sites.
Here is an update from Roger Joslyn a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, regarding the recent news about the National Archives – Northeast Region, Manhattan Branch. You’ll recall that I ran Joslyn’s first letter of concern that the NYC National Archives was under threat on February 17th. I ran more news of the Archives move on March 15th. Here is the latest from Joslyn:
Thank you for the many responses to my letter concerning the possibility of losing our National Archives–Northeast Region as an important research facility. The response was overwhelming and I regret I could not answer all the many e-mails. I understand my letter was circulated pretty far and wide and some persons wrote me from other countries. Many of you conveyed good thoughts about the issue, telling of similar experiences, and several wrote to offer, “What can I do?”
My apologies if I missed sending first my letter to a few people who are receiving this one, and if so, please let me know and I shall send the earlier one if you want to see it.
The main purpose of my first letter was to let you know what I knew and had heard about the planned move of NARA’s New York regional facility. At the time of my first letter, NARA had put nothing out to the pubic about the intended move, about any reduction in space and on-site research materials, and so forth. As I then wrote, some of the plans were told to Stuart Stahl by NARA’s Diane LeBlanc for him to pass the word. So, “officially,” that is the best information there was at the time, but one might also still consider any of those details to be “rumor” at that point.
Since the first letter, NARA has responded, and I have been told or led to believe that a positive result of my letter was that it put things in action sooner than later. I have had telephone conversations with Diane LeBlanc and other NARA personnel about the move of the New York regional facility and I refer you (below) to NARA’s official word about the move and also to some NARA-prepared FAQs. As you will see, some of information is different and/or a little more detailed than what had been said and circulated earlier.
Also since sending my first letter, I have been able to visit what will be NARA-NYC’s new home in the Customs House in lower Manhattan. There is no question the building is a lovely place and, when the space is renovated, will provide pleasing accommodations for researchers, staff, and programs. NARA’s Public Programs Specialists Dorothy Doughty is quite excited about the possibilities for the latter, not only for large and small presentations and workshops, but also because there is room for (for example) genealogical/historical fairs and so forth, using space NARA will share with other agencies in the building. (And without a lockup in the building as there is at 201 Varick Street, the security staff in the Customs House is more welcoming to visitors.)
While there is no question the new location will be a nicer home for NARA-NYC for the above reasons, the amount of storage space for textual records and microfilm will be greatly reduced.
I would like to add from my conversations with Diane LeBlanc some additional points that are of interest and/or concern to us as researchers.
Ms. LeBlanc said that NARA-NYC is “going through a process” in preparation for the move, which will likely take place eighteen to twenty-four months from now. She sees the Customs House as having “enormous potential” for NARA. One example is that being near the Circle Line terminal for Ellis and Liberty Island visits, there is increased possibility to attract tourists to the Customs House and thus to NARA.
According to Ms. LeBlanc, NARA-NYC currently has about 40,000 cubic feet of textual records at Varick Street, but with limited space in the Customs House, only about 5300 cubit feet of records can be housed there. (The 5000 square feet reported earlier as being the total of the new space was a misunderstanding about room for the textual records; NARA will actually have about 20,000 total square feet that includes public and office space, storage room, and so forth.)
Apparently, NARA looked at a number of possible new locations and chose the Customs House as the best of the bunch. The main argument for settling for the much-reduced storage space is that patron usage is down. What cannot fit in the new space will go to a new storage facility in Philadelphia. Ms. LeBlanc says the off-site material will have the “same access” by shuttle to New York City that is now provided for other off-site materials. The frequency of the shuttle service is still under discussion.
Similarly, because of less storage space, NARA will also not be able to take all its current microfilm collection to the Customs House. Ms. LeBlanc says there is room for only about twenty percent of the film. What becomes of the other eighty percent of the microfilm has not been determined, but Ms. LeBlanc said there may be some possibilities for keeping it in New York City, if some other repository can take it. She thought New York Public Library’s microfilm collection nearly duplicated that at NARA-NYC. I told her this is not the case.
In order to determine what textual records and microfilm will likely be moved to the Customs House, NARA staff and volunteers will be “assessing” customer usage—what material, textual and microform, gets the most on-site use. (A large amount of NARA-NYC’s collection, mostly voluminous court records, is already stored off-site in Lee Summit, Missouri.) I reminded Ms. LeBlanc that much of the more-used microfilm is self-serve, that patrons take and replace microfilms themselves. This limits what staff and volunteers may be able to determine about usage. They are more aware of the usage of specific microfilms they must retrieve for patrons from the back “stacks.”
Ms. LeBlanc clarified that certification of copies of records at NARA-NYC will still be possible. Certifications needed from microfilm that will no longer be at NARA-NYC can be requested to be done at NARA-Pittsfield, or the microfilm can be brought in from Pittsfield to be certified at NARA-NYC.
She also said that over time, what textual records are actually kept on-site in the new facility could change, based on patron usage. For example, if there was increased call for ships’ original passenger lists, they might be brought in from off-site storage and less-requested material sent off site.
Two other things need clarification. First, volunteers will continue to be needed and they, in addition to helping patrons, will be involved with projects. There will be designated space for projects in the new facility, with textual records brought in from off-site for such projects as needed.
Second, the expansion at NARA-Waltham mentioned in my first letter is for public programming space. Some of this new space was formerly used to store microfilm, a large amount of which was given to the library in Plano, Texas, because, as Ms. LeBlanc explained, “no one else wanted it.”
I wrote my first letter in reaction to the response a colleague received who suggested to NARA that some of the more frequent patrons might be consulted for input about the upcoming move, records use, and so forth. The person was told that no one was going to tell NARA what to do. NARA staff has told me that, following former Archivist John Carlin’s attempt to move large amounts of material out of the regional facilities, that NARA has became more sensitive to public wants, needs, and so forth. So the response to my colleague was out of line and certainly was not good business. We expect better from an agency that has long been one of our primary repositories for the research we do.
Ms. LeBlanc agreed. In acknowledging that my first letter got NARA’s attention, she stated, “We will do this better than we did in the past.” The move to the Customs House seems set, and while my opinion is that user involvement before that decision would have been helpful and should have been sought, NARA-NYC is holding two public meetings about the move (see the announcement). I hope those of you who are interested in the move and have concerns and questions will attend. It is not clear if whatever is voiced at these meetings will change any of NARA’s plans at this point, but those of us who are concerned should go and speak up.
Here are just two of the many concerns about which some of you have written to me.
“It’s all online.” And many of us doubt it ever will be. But even with all that is available on the Internet, we have all experienced problems that take us back to the original sources, or at least back to the microfilm, for a variety of reasons, including legibility, printing, missed material, even speed. Can we be content with loosing easy access to what we now have so readily available?
Out of sight, out of mind, or never in mind at all. Ms. LeBlanc agreed that this is one area where NARA can use a lot of improvement. Many patrons have no idea what else there is beyond the Federal censuses, passenger lists, and a few other microfilmed records. With less microfilm in the public space for users to actually see some examples of what resources there are, there need to be ways of letting researchers know about the wealth of other records that might help them—microfilm and textual.
If NARA is willing to let its users work with them to do better and not just be informed of what others have decided, is that not a positive thing?
P.S. I realize that most people who learn “what we do” usually react with, “That’s very interesting!” or “My aunt was the family historian,” and so forth. But we also frequently encounter those who cannot fathom such an interest in the past. In these instances, I am always reminded of what is carved on the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., as you all know so well: “The Past is Prologue.”
This was brought home the other night as Leslie and I viewed (from Netflix) Masterpiece Theatre’s Shooting the Past, about a photo archives doomed to the trash and the staff’s struggle to save it. We were deeply moved and saw parallels with what has happened and will likely continue to happen in our field. For those of you who have not seen this wonderful BBC drama, I strongly recommend it. In the meantime, you can read a little bit about it at
and in this New York Times review
The history of baseball is rife with colorful characters. But for sheer cantankerousness, fighting moxie, and will to win, very few have come close to Leo “the Lip” Durocher. Following a five-decade career as a player and manager for baseball’s most storied franchises, Durocher teamed up with veteran sportswriter Ed Linn to tell the story of his life in the game.
The resulting book, Nice Guys Finish Last (University of Chicago Press, 2009), is baseball at its best, brimming with personality and full of all the fights and feuds, triumphs and tricks that made Durocher such a success—and an outsized celebrity. [Read more…] about Nice Guys Finish Last: The Baseball Classic by Leo Durocher